Kathleen Giffin


27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 4, 2015
Genesis 2.7, 15, 8.18-24 | Psalm 128 | Hebrews 2.9-11 | Mark 10.2-16
September 28, 2015

Thirty years ago when I married, I don't think I considered that I was not only taking on a new role as a wife, I was also taking on the role of being a daughter-in-law.

In our culture, jokes about mother-in-laws abound: They are caricatured as being interfering, snoopy, critical and demanding.

That has not been my personal experience. My husband's mother has always been kind to me. Not once in 30 years have I heard her criticize me or the way we chose to raise our family. I've never felt scrutinized by her or that I was in competition with her for my husband's time or affection.

There is an old Irish saying, "A son is a son 'til he finds him a wife, but a daughter is a daughter all the days of her life."

I suspect this saying is more directed towards mothers. Our daughters will continue to look to us for support and practical help even while married. Our sons are to transfer their allegiance and attention to their wives. In some way they no longer belong to us.

A man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. - Genesis 2.24

'A man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.'

Genesis 2.24

This echoes the Scripture found twice in this Sunday's Gospel, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."

Scripture points to the marriage union as the fullest image of God, with its unitive and procreative love bond imaging the inner life of the Trinity.

This passage from Genesis, restated by Jesus, suggests that a kind of separation from one's parents is necessary for the two to become one. A man must leave his parents to be joined to his wife. Practically speaking, this could be restated that a man must leave his mother to be joined to his wife.

Over years of counselling couples who were having difficulty in their marriages, I have noted a pattern of problems that arise when a mother holds on to her son and does not release him to his wife.

It tends to create greater difficulties in the marriage than other extended family concerns. Mothers can use many strategies to maintain a closeness with their grown sons that interferes with the marriage relationship. Sons can be made to feel as though they must take the place of the father who has died, left or is relationally absent by providing companionship, emotional support and practical help to their mothers.

They can be made to feel they owe a debt for being given life. Guilt for the mother's sadness and isolation can cause them to remain always available to their mother's call.

Perhaps someday I will be the mother-in-law of a young woman who is herself entering into the mystery of God's love imaged in the union of marriage. I hope I will live that as generously and selflessly as my mother-in-law has done, releasing my son into the freedom to live his life and marriage well.

(Kathleen Giffin kgif@telus.net)