Grace to you!
Let me begin this reflection by congratulating those who are married and are keeping to the bond of this most holy human union. You are indeed blessed to be the heroic sign and symbol of the triune mystery. Heroic because your life is a vivid expression of the courage of faith in a society where many marriages could be termed disposable. Congratulations and “thanks be to God.”
I pray for you constantly, asking the Good Lord to sustain your love through the storms of life and enrich you through the grace of the bond of love Christ has for his bride, the Church. Amen.
God is love and to be in love is to be in God (cf.1John 4:8; 16). Thus, for two people, a man and a woman, to unite in the bond of marriage, an eternal love between them is established which could only be severed by death.
What about the frequency of divorce, one may ask. It’s been asked before, a long time ago, even to the Messiah, Jesus Christ himself.
In response, Jesus repeats the words from the Book of Creation, showing his approval of the divine mandate about the human bond of love in marriage: “What God has joined together let no man separate.”
A brief analysis of the context of this endorsement is crucial. “Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” (Matthew 19:3; see also Mark 10:2).
The background to this question is a long time controversy between two camps during the time of Jesus, a time (like ours) with loose morality or should I say, a time of sexual revolution. Nothing is new under the sun.
During that time, there were two schools of thought on the divorce question: the Shammai School (conservatives) and the Hillel School (liberals). These schools tilted the all-important divine law to become a matter of political debate and whichever side one chose was made a matter of political opinion.
The Pharisees, therefore, thought they could entrap and discredit Jesus by presenting to him a red button political question. Whichever side Jesus took on the divorce controversy, a great number of people would differ and, therefore, stop supporting his ministry.
Do you see any similarities between these schools and Christianity today?
[By the way, the use of these concepts – conservative Catholic/Christian or liberal Catholic/Christian is a colossal misnomer. You are either a Catholic or not. G.K. Chesterton saw the dangers of these concepts and warned years before now. Be wary of adapting political concepts in Church dialogues. It’s misleading and dangerous.]
Jesus’ response underscores five key points and establishes what the true nature of Christian marriage is:
1. Moses allowed divorce as a concession, which is not in line with the will of God.
2. People want divorce because of hardness of heart. Marriage is a covenant of love not a contract.
3. Valid Marriage is not just a natural law, but divine law, and cannot be dissolved without a violation of the right that belongs to God. No person, not even a religious leader, could dissolve a valid marriage.
The Church annuls invalid marriages; the church does not divorce. Annulment means that the marriage was, from the start, invalid and the Church frees the spouses from that burden of invalidity. There are many factors that can constitute invalid marriage which I wouldn’t go into now.
4. Marriage was ordained in the beginning, right from creation. Absolutely, God’s plan and gift for society.
5. God made them male and female (not male and females, male and male or female and female, etc.) to show the singularity of the union. It is a union deeper than any other on earth for which a man can leave (sign of permanent departure) his biological family and be joined to his wife (a symbol of perpetual union), so much so that by the very act of God they become one and no longer two. This is possible because of the power of God, not humans; and could not be remade without a violation of this power. Venerable Archbishop Sheen was spot on when he said, it takes three to marry, the man, the woman and God (Love) bonding them.
As we reflect on these words of our Savior, let us ask for the grace to keep faithful to the plan of God in the marital union. To do so is a blessing for us and for society.
God bless our families. God bless married couples. God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.