Not two, but one
A reflection on the family
The readings of today (Catholic Church) has an interesting phrase, “This is why a man leaves his father and mother, and the two become one flesh. They are no longer two, therefore, but one flesh.” (Mark 10, 7–8). A clear reading would say its one flesh, not just one as in my title. A certain aspect of sexual reunion, making them One, is implictly echoed here. The book of Genesis also speaks of husband and wife becoming one flesh (Gen 2, 24). But if you look at the context of Jesus’ times, the pharisees interpreted certain laws of Moses in a manner that is favourable to them, and thus a man had certain liberties to divorce his wife even for a minor reason. So this statement of Jesus should also be seen as a response against such a wrong interpretation, which was making the life miserable for some woman.
Coming to our time and period, how we should interpret it? Does it mean that they become one person? Although some may interpret it that way, I don’t think many will agree to it. They remain two persons with their own lives. Many a times, we say they are no longer two, but one. How can I interpret that one for our times? In some patriarchal mindset, the male represents the one (in a few cases, it may be the female too), which doesn’t make any sense for most of the people. Some images that came to my mind to represent “the one” are polyphony (polyphonic music have different melodies, but a unity and harmony), rainbow (where different colours exist in a harmony) or the polyphonic image below etc. Another inspirational Christian image is that of Holy Trinity, where there are three persons and One God. Trinitarian oneness can be an ideal (or a horizon where we never reach) for a couple, but it is also important to be rooted and grounded, understanding our human struggles.
Now what is the greatest struggle against becoming One or remaining as One? I don’t have done a scientific study to come up with a response. But One word that repeatedly appeared in few of the Church discourses can be a help to give one response. You can surely find more responses.
- That word is the theme of 56th world communication day as announced by Pope Francis.
- That word also denotes the greatest difficulty in the journey of the hierarchical Church in becoming a synodal Church.
The word is “Listen” or listening. If we believe Holy Spirit accompanies the church and the creation, there is an implicit invitation to listen. I was just thinking of two examples of listening I do. When there is a wonderful course given by the professor, I listen to understand. When I talk with people, I listen (or better hear him or her) to respond (and much less to understand). So for me, one of the best means in the journey of couples in becoming One is “Listening”…. Yes, a listening to understand and know the other, not a hearing to react/respond.
When we speak of listening, it is also an invitation to the Church that more opportunities should be given to families to speak about their struggles, joys etc. If I look from an Indian context, the only time, couples get a chance to listen to other couples (in an official setting) is during the marriage preparation courses. There are some couples who are part of some groups/associations for couples, but this is very small minority. So creating opportunities for the couples to listen to each other, and to support each other is a very important need.