A Living Commitment to Companionship
“Love consists of a commitment which limits one’s freedom – it is a giving of the self, and to give oneself means just that: to limit one’s freedom on behalf of another” (John Paul II, Love and Responsibility). The above words of John Paul II can help us understand better the anthropological and theological meaning of today’s scripture readings. In effect, in light of such papal statement, we can say that God’s life-giving plan of creation and salvation is all about living a mutual commitment to companionship. That is why today’s gospel alludes to the Book of Genesis by telling us, in Jesus’ words, that: “From the beginning the Creator ‘made [humankind] male and female’ . . . [so that] ‘a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'” in order to populate the earth and be God’s stewards of creation.
For the above theological and anthropological reasons, Jesus reminds us of the gospel words that are central to the Rite of the Sacrament of Matrimony, that is, “what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Therefore, a married couple is to be “one flesh” living, under God’s grace-giving blessing, a mutual commitment to companionship. For the purpose of marriage is that the couple gives each other their selves by mutually limiting their freedom on behalf of each other.
In a similar way, we see God being faithfully married to the people of Israel, whom Joshua summons at Shechem just to remind them that their living God has limited his own freedom on behalf of them. In other words, because God is good and “his mercy endures forever,” as the Psalmist prays, we find in the first reading a saving God who is fully committed to accompanying his chosen people, from Terah’s to the Patriarchs’ to Joshua’s to our times. For God reminds Israel that, “it was not your sword and your bow,” but I who “gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities that you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.” Likewise, we are reminded that it is not by our merits that we have what we possess, especially the most valuable nonmaterial things, such as faith, hope, love, unity in diversity, and peace, but by God who is just and merciful.
In conclusion, today’s readings, especially the gospel, tell us that any God-given Christian vocation is to be lived in communion with God and one another, as well as in service to God and one another. We are to live a living commitment to mutual companionship, a sacramental communion in and through Jesus Christ, who is true man and true God. Out of love, we are to live, as John Paul II suggests, a commitment which limits our own freedom on behalf of others. For Jesus states, “whoever can accept this ought to accept it . . . for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.” We should therefore reflect on and evaluate our own Christian commitment to love and serve God and one another.
Fr. Alfredo Ocampo, C.P., is a member of St. Vincent Strambi Community in Chicago, Illinois.