27th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Gen 2:18-24; Heb 2:9-11: Mk 10:2-16
The Two shall Become One
Questioning the children before Confirmation, the Bishop asked one nervous little girl, "What is matrimony?" She answered, "Matrimony is the place where souls suffer for a time for their sins" "No, no," said the parish priest, "that is purgatory". The Bishop said, "Please let her alone, what do you and I know about it? She might be right," he concluded.
The little girl's answer speaks volumes about the reality of marriages today. You see, couples whose marriages have failed for some reason may look at young people preparing for marriage as if they are paving their way into a kind of purgatory. Despite what we make it to be, marriage is one of the most beautiful gifts to humanity. The problem is not with marriage per se, but with the people who enter into marriage. In fact, St Thomas Aquinas rightly calls marriage the "highest good". Though it is the seventh on the list of sacraments, marriage is not the least! Through marriage, couples become co-creators (with God) in the procreative act. What a marvel!
Our first reading from the book of Genesis presents the origin and the meaning of marriage. First, it is evident that marriage is God's idea. After having created the heavens, the earth, and the animals, the creation story was far from complete until God created man in his own image and likeness; and blessed him with the gift of marriage and procreation. "God said it was not good for man to be alone. I will make him a suitable partner…when he brought a woman to the man, the man said, at last this is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two of them become one flesh (Cf. Gen2:18ff).
Since God is the Author of marriage, the Bible is the only “user’s guide” for a successful marriage. Can we ever operate a gadget without the user’s guide? So how can we have a successful marriage without abiding by the Biblical precepts on marriage? The Church didn't invent marriage laws; but she has the mandate to safeguard such a divine treasure bestowed upon mere mortals, by proclaiming the truth about marriage at all times.
The definition of marriage as revealed in Scripture is an exclusive union between one man and one woman. This definition is not subject to revision or modification by humans because it is not within our competence. When a man is attracted to another man, or a woman to another woman, to the extent of advocating a legal union, it can’t be of God; because God cannot contradict himself. Thus, homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law, and they are not open to the gift of life.
Divorce is not part of God's original plan for marriage. In today's gospel, the Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" Jesus throws back the question at them, "what did Moses command you?" Indeed, Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce because of their hardness of heart.
By the way, according to Jewish customs, women were treated shabbily; husbands divorced their wives for flimsy reasons. For example, a man could divorce his wife in the evening if he returns home and feels disgusted about dinner. Sad to say if the divorced woman ever found another man, she was accused of adultery and, she was stoned to death. So Moses permitted a bill of divorce to free women from this kind of oppression.
Despite this uncouth practice, Christ reiterates the point on marriage when he says, “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined, no human being must separate. He goes on to say," Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery”(Cf Mk 10:2ff).
Therefore, marriage is the one and ONLY sacrament that is administered from above, by the power of the Holy Spirit- these words need no farther interpretation-"what God has joined together let no man separate." Whenever I officiate at marriage ceremonies, I am only playing the role of an official witness of the Church; I am not the Minister! The couples are! God binds!
Before getting into marriage, the couple must seriously consider what they are about to undertake. Someone has rightly said, "A wedding ring is the smallest handcuffs ever to have been made, so think deeply, choose your prison mate carefully and sentence yourself wisely to avoid a prison break." With this in mind, we can meaningfully declare: "N, I take thee to be my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, in sickness and in the health, for richer, for poorer till death do us part."
As we can see, the rate of divorce is steadily on the rise. No matter how we look at it, divorce can be like an amputation-you survive, but there is less of you; it can also be like death without burial. There is the misleading perception that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. But keep in mind that it has to be mowed!
What are the causes of divorce? There are as many as we are in this church. However, I would like to highlight three: Intolerance or impatience, selfishness, and infidelity (adultery).
Patience is a necessary virtue for a lasting marriage. Let us be patient with each other because there is no perfect man or woman on earth. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth”(1Cor 13:4-8). I found this inscription meaningful in this regard: "I marry her because we have so many faults in common".
There is a story of a young lady who visited a computer dating service. She said,” I am looking for a spouse, can you help find me a suitable one?” The matchmaker said, “What exactly are you looking for?” She said, “he needs to be good looking, polite, humorous, and knowledgeable, willing to accompany me the whole day at home during my leisure, good at singing and dancing and so on.” The matchmaker entered the information and in a few moments, handed the result to the woman. It read, Buy a television!
Selfishness is about being egoistic. Selfish persons hardly ever make sacrifices for others. When couples enter marriage with a 50-50 mentality, it is selfishness! We are couples, not business partners! Marriage has to be 100-100. It isn't dividing everything that you have, but giving everything you have got. You can only get back what you put in. If you put in ‘half-things,’ don't expect a multiplication miracle from your partner. Only Jesus did that. The measure you give is the measure you will receive. St Paul urges, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself ;…"(Eph 5:25,28).
Lastly, adultery. This is a very grave sin against the marriage vows. It is a sin against the sixth commandment. When one commits adultery, he/she breaks the marriage bond, de jure. It doesn't matter whether someone found out or not. This is a betrayal. We can overcome the sin of adultery by daily renewing our marriage vows, keeping in mind that infidelity destroys family life.
Let no one incur the curse of having an affair with another man's wife or husband. Marriages are "No go zones." If you marry a man who cheats on his wife, you will be married to a man who cheats on his wife! On the other hand, if another woman steals your man, there is no better revenge than letting her keep him. Real men can't be stolen.
My dear people, marriage doesn't guarantee you will be together forever, its only paper. It takes love, respect, trust, understanding, friendship and faith in your relationship to make it last. “A woman is like a rose; if you treat her well, she will bloom. If you don't, she will wilt.
Marriage is a lifelong journey where we learn about each other. If you wish to succeed on this journey, you must pray God every day to make you a good husband or a good wife. May God bless and keep you.