All married people should read this homily and really take it in…especially if you missed mass yesterday.
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Have you noticed that some of the teachings of Jesus look to be extremely difficult to live by? Today’s example is especially poignant: “What God has joined together, no human being must separate." Let’s look at what Jesus teaches about marriage.
Remember that in today’s Gospel the Pharisees were trying to test Jesus in order to make him fail the test. Actually, it was their custom to use one topic after another so as to trap him and therefore discredit him in the eyes of the throngs who were going after Jesus. It’s important to recognize that this dynamic is still at work today. Efforts are constantly made to take the teachings of Jesus and make them look ludicrous so as to discredit this faith in Christ in the eyes of the world. Today’s teaching on divorce and remarriage is especially a thorn in the paw of many people. What exactly does the Church, and Jesus, teach? We cannot understand this teaching on divorce if we do not understand the teaching on marriage. According to Jesus, we must reclaim the original meaning of marriage as designed by God at the very beginning. In that time before the fall, before original sin, marriage was a union of love between the man and the woman who maintain their individuality and yet are of one body. They form a unit, a bond of love and caring in which children can be raised in such a way that the whole family can come to know love and in doing so, can come to know “God who is love.” In this original design the husband and wife realize that the spouse is not the guarantor and fulfill-er of expectations. God is. The husband and wife are partners in discovering the disappointment that the other is not God, the god of their expectations. Only God is God. In the process of a maturing marital relationship, each partner in the marriage comes to realize that the spouse is the God-given companion in the journey to God, the God whose love is experienced sometimes beautifully and sometimes quite imperfectly in their marital relationship. When divorce happens, it is an admission that the journey to God has been thwarted, perhaps because the god they were searching for remained merely a false god, an idol of expecting the spouse to be more than he or she ever could be. The aim, or target, or purpose of the marriage was ill conceived, based on a falsehood: you can make me happy, or you can give my life meaning, or you can change, or you can live up to my expectations of being more than you are. Marriage in God’s design, as taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is this: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.” Divorce is the acceptance that the sacredness of their union was put aside. Either that sacredness was never engaged from the very get-go (in which case an annulment can be sought) or the search for God in their marriage was abandoned along the way.
Every life, from the fall of Adam and Eve on, is faced with disappointments and sin. The same is true for every marriage. But the grace of the sacrament, the divinely grace-infused relationship that is the sacrament of marriage, enables a couple to face the disappointments, let them go, and move on together for the love of the other and for the sake of the life of their marital union.
So, when looking on the Church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage, look beyond the issue of failure, and put far more attention on appreciating the high call and graced inheritance the Lord offers to every sacramental marriage. By the frequent use of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, couples will discover more and more the meaning of love as detailed in First Corinthians, Chapter 13: Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.