Grace to you!
Let me begin this reflection by congratulating those who are married and are keeping to the bond of this holiest 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 always, 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 the sacrament of marriage in our faith tradition, eternal love between them is established. It 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.
There were two schools of thought on the divorce question during that time: the Shammai School (conservatives) and the Hillel School (liberals). These schools tilted the all-important divine Law to become a matter of political debate. 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, many people would differ and, therefore, stop supporting his ministry.
Do you see any similarities between these schools and Christianity today?
As a side comment, 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 adopting political concepts in Church dialogues. It's misleading and dangerous.
Let’s return to our story. 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 a divorce because of the hardness of the heart. Marriage is a covenant of love, not a contract.
3. Valid Marriage is not just a natural law, but divine law. It 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. An annulment means that the marriage was, from the start, invalid, and the Church frees the spouses from that burden of invalidity. Many factors can constitute invalid marriage, which I wouldn't go into now. The Church’s Canon Law, drawing from Scripture, stipulates those factors.
4. Marriage was ordained in the beginning, right from creation: God's plan and gift for society.
5. God made them male and female to show the singularity of the union. It is a union deeper than any other on earth for which a man can leave (a sign of permanent departure) his biological family and be joined to his wife (a symbol of a perpetual union). Thus, by the very act of God, they become one and no longer two. This is possible because of God's power, 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 God's plan in the marital union. To do so is a blessing for us and society.
God bless our families. God bless married couples. God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Friday Week 19. Mt 19:3-12]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.