Readings: Gen 2:18-24; Heb 2:9-11; Mk 10:2-16
Marriage as a permanent union sum up best the message of this Sunday readings. But first a story. There is a story about a couple who had just gone through a marriage ceremony in the Church after a long process of legal annulment for their previous marriages. The following day the wife went and took out the marriage license and sat in the living room examining it very carefully back and forth. So the husband finally said to his wife, "Honey, why do you keep reading our marriage license?" The wife responded,” I'm looking for a loophole!" I tell this funny story because today we face a serious crisis in marriages. Being Respect Life Sunday today, it is important that we pose and think about the bigger picture of what is at stake. Divorce rates in the world are around 40% while in the US divorce among Catholics is around 20%. These statistics speak volumes on the factors that have led marriage to be a fragile institution. The rapture of humanity’s conscience due to the Original Sin gave birth to a battle between two cultures: a culture of life and a culture of death. In July 1968, Pope Paul VI issued the Encyclical Humanae Viate (On Human Life), whose prediction on marriage and family life have been vindicated. There were four predictions in that Encyclical, and I just want to cite one of them. The Encyclical noted that the widespread use of contraception would "lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality." Today we face the very destruction of marriage as a permanent union; and still shocking is the attempt to redefine of marriage.
In the Gospel of today, the Pharisees test Jesus by asking whether it is lawful for a husband to divorce his wife. Jesus responds by asking them what the law said, and they quote Deuteronomy 4:1, which allowed a husband to divorce his wife by simply writing a bill of divorce. Then Jesus quotes two verses from two creation accounts of Genesis: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27), and “the two of them become one flesh” (in today’s first reading). In this passage, the first century Jewish law seems to have favoured divorce, but in actual practice divorce was not that common. The point Jesus makes in the Gospel is an affirmation of the permanent nature of marriage as God intended it. Jesus teaches that under the new Law of love, divorce destroys the original purpose of God in creation: “the two become one flesh”. Marriage as a permanent union is founded on the value of unity that continually offers support to its permanence. This teaching on the permanent character of Christian marriage is an inspiration to some, while painful for others in today’s society. There is no marriage without moments of tears. At the end of the day what preserves the permanence of marriage is the determination to stay together, “for better for worse” – no matter what happens. The very fact that some marriages manage to weather the storms of marriage rough seas is a miracle only brought about by prayer and the willingness to forgive and to be forgiven. The message is threefold. 1) Jesus teaches that marriage is a permanent union in God's original purpose. 2) The permanent character of marriage is founded on the value of unity: “the two become one flesh”. 3) In rocky moments of married life, what saves marriage is prayer, mutual self-giving, forgiveness and reconciliation. I am Msgr. John Mbinda. God bless you.
©2015 John S. Mbinda