Grace to you!
“The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" (Mark 10:2)
Before I get to some analyses of the above bible verse and Jesus’ response to the question, I wish to congratulate those who are married and are faithfully keeping the bond of this most holy human union. You are indeed blessed to be the heroic sign and symbol of the Mystery of the Trinity. Heroic because your life is a vivid expression of the courage of faith in a society where many marriages could be termed disposable. Congratulations!
The background to the above bible reference is a long time controversy between two camps in the marriage debate during the time of Jesus. You may be surprised to discover their positions are quite similar to those of many in our contemporary society. The two schools were the Shammai School (regarded as conservatives) and the Hillel School (seen as liberals). Nothing is new under the sun.
These schools tilted the all-important divine law about marriage to become a matter of political debate, and whichever side one chooses is discreditable. The religionists (Pharisees), therefore, thought they could entrap and discredit Jesus by pitching him against the popular political debate of the time. Whichever side he took on the divorce controversy, a great number of people would differ and therefore stop supporting his ministry. They were all out to trap and discredit him.
Do you see any similarities between these schools and Christianity today? By the way, the use of these words – conservative or liberal Catholic (Christian), is a misnomer. We should be careful of branding the Church and God’s Word with political and ideological concepts. Unfortunately, the once glorious Church in the West has, for the most part, allowed politics to set the tone of theological debates even within the Church. In my opinion, this results in a lot of hate and nastiness, which shouldn’t be the case. God help us.
Jesus’ response underscores five key points and I would recommend we pay particular attention to them:
1. Moses allowed divorce as a concession, which is not in line with the will of God.
2. Many people want divorce because of hardness of heart.
3. Marriage is not just a natural law, but divine law; and a valid marriage cannot be divorced without a violation of the right that belongs to God alone. No person, not even a religious leader, could divorce a valid marriage. In some cases, separation could be encouraged. By the way, the Church has the power to annul some marriages, meaning that from the start, such marriages weren’t even valid. Annulment shouldn’t be confused with divorce.
4. Marriage was ordained in the beginning, right from creation.
5. In terms of marriage, God made them male and female (not male and females, female and males, male(s) and male(s) or female(s) and female (s), etc.) to show the singularity and gender complementarity of the union. It is a union deeper than any other on earth which can make a man leave his biological family (sign of exclusive self-giving) and be joined to his wife (a symbol of perpetual union), open for procreation; so much so, that by the very act of God they become one and no longer two.
As we reflect on these words of our Savior Jesus Christ, let us ask for the grace to keep faithful to the plan of God in the marital union. To do so is blessing for us and for society.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[2015 Friday May 20 2016 Week 7 Ordinary Time C]
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.