Grace to you!
On many occasions, I’ve been privileged to conduct marriage preparation classes. I’ve heard some candidates for marriage say things such as: “Let’s give it a try.” Or, “We decided to see if it will work for us.”
When I hear such, it lets me know that there is much work to do to teach the life-commitment— “for better for worse”—which the Lord establishes for marriage in the Church.
We read the conversation between some Pharisees and the Lord concerning the question of marriage and divorce.
The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" (Mark 10:2)
To me, many ask the same or similar questions today. Nothing is new under the sun.
To this Jesus replies by repeating the words from the Book of Creation (Gen 2:24). By so doing, he shows his approval of the divine mandate about the human bond of love in marriage. “What God has joined together let no one separate” (Mk 10:9).
A brief analysis of the context of this approval is crucial. The background to the question is a long-time controversy between two camps during the time of Jesus, a time (like ours) with loose morality. There were two schools of thought on the divorce question: the Shammai School (regarded as conservatives) and the Hillel School (regarded as liberals). These schools tilted the all-important divine law to become a matter of political debate. Whichever side one chose became a matter of partisan debate.
The Pharisees, therefore, thought they could entrap and discredit Jesus if they inserted him in this hot button political debate. Whichever side the Lord took on the divorce controversy, a great number of people would differ and therefore stop following him.
Do you see any similarities between these schools and Christianity today? By the way, the use of these words—conservative Catholic or liberal Catholic—is a misnomer. You are either a Catholic or not. We should be careful of bringing political arguments into Church matters. It is wise to know the lines between the two. When we allow political matters to determine what is binding or not binding in our faith, we have sold our soul on the altar of worldly religion. We have built for ourselves the golden calf and created for ourselves the god who worships us rather than worship the God who created us.
The Lord’s response in Mark 10:2-16, underscores five key points which a believer has to take seriously. His response addresses marriage in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
1. Moses allowed divorce as a concession which is not in line with the will of God.
2. Divorce is due to the hardness of heart. Recall that the kind of heart needed to follow the Lord is a heart of flesh, not a heart of stone (Ez 36:26).
3. Marriage is not just a civil affair. It is a natural law. More importantly, it is a 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, under certain conditions which are meticulously examined by the proper ecclesiastical juridical authority, could declare an invalid marriage null, but does not dissolve a valid marriage. A null marriage means that from the start, the marriage was not a valid sacramental union. To read the Churches teaching on this issue, you may want to consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1629. Read also 1983 Code of Canon Lawchapters five and six, covering canon 1108-1129 for norms on what constitutes validity and non-validity of the sacrament of matrimony. But every marriage in the church is presumed valid until proven otherwise (Code of Canon Law, #1060).
4. Marriage was ordained in the beginning, right from creation (Gen 1and 2).
5. God made them male and female (not males and females) to show the singularity of the union. It is a union deeper than any other on earth which can make a man 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.
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 marriage union. To do so is blessing for us and for society.
God bless our families. God bless married couples. God bless those seeking to find their best half.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[27thSunday Ordinary Time B: Gen 2:18-24; Heb 2:9-11; Mk 10:2-16 or 10:2-12]
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.