Friday, February 28, 2014

The family, whether we like it or not, is the foundation.”

Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion. Is it out of fashion? In a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘for ever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage ‘to swim against the tide’. And also have the courage to be happy.” – Pope Francis

Gospel Text: (MK 10:1-12)
Jesus came into the district of Judea and across the Jordan.
Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom,
he again taught them.
The Pharisees approached him and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
They replied,
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
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 together,
no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”

The sacrament of marriage is not a one-off event. It signifies an abiding grace at work in all the high points, low points, and routines of life—until “death do us part.” For every couple united in sacramental marriage, the ceremony itself takes place at a particular time and in a particular place, publicly, signifying in a way visually evident to the two receiving the sacrament and to all present, what is intended to be a relationship of love that will never end. The love formalized in the sacrament is meant by God, the Church, and the couple to be characterized by mutual loyalty, fidelity, and uncompromising commitment. Sacramental marriage bestows on the couple the abiding grace to live their lives in a relationship which is constant, unconditional, and unbreakable.

The Church holds on to the principle that Marriage is indissoluble because its ultimate meaning reflects, represents, and realizes in the flesh and in the spirit the indissolubility of God’s love for us all—a love which by its nature is constant, and unconditional. Throughout our lives and into eternity, the loyalty, fidelity, and uncompromising commitment of God’s love for us is everlasting. The ceremony of marriage gives us the occasion to affirm this publicly and in celebration. By living out the sacrament through their married life, the couple gives witness to the same everlasting love, no matter what the vagaries of life may serve up to them.

Theologian Ronald Rolheiser adds a wonderful thought to all this:

Beneath the sometimes chaotic divergences between male and female bodies, spirits, emotions, ways of thinking and of regarding themselves, beneath and entwined with all these dwells a sometimes quiet but always strong desire: to share a union with God, and in that, with others in the most complete, profound way possible. It is the urge to “be-with.” It is the hope for an openess to another person, to God, in peace.

The union in sacramental marriage, initiated with the couple’s marriage vows and lasting for a lifetime, is the paradigm of what Rolheiser observes. That is why in the Gospel Jesus puts such high stakes on it.

If we’ve been through a divorce or know someone who has, we might have a hard time accepting these words. We might find ourselves thinking, “Doesn’t Jesus understand why marriages break down? Why can’t he show a little more compassion?” If we know anything of the guilt, anger, and sadness that come with divorce, it might seem as if Jesus is being a legalist here or that he enjoys “arresting” us on the charge of a broken marriage.

But remember who Jesus was talking to: legalistic Pharisees. They were looking for loopholes, trying to trap him by getting him to spell out when it was acceptable to leave one’s spouse. In response, Jesus told the truth, as he always did. Yes, marriage is sacred to God, and it is a blessing for us. It’s a union between two people that is sealed by the Holy Spirit, and the last thing he wants is for us to go through the agony of having that union torn apart.

Notice, however, that while Jesus said that divorce should not happen, he never said a condemning word about people whose marriages end up failing. He knows that we are human beings who make mistakes; that’s why he came to earth!

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