"But today, Father, it is difficult… Of course it is difficult! That is why we need the grace, the grace that comes from the sacrament! The sacraments are not decorations in life – what a beautiful marriage, what a beautiful ceremony, what a beautiful banquet…But that is not the sacrament of marriage. That is a decoration! Grace is not given to decorate life but rather to make us strong in life, giving us courage to go forwards! And without isolating oneself but always staying together. Christians celebrate the sacrament of marriage because they know they need it! They need it to stay together and to carry out their mission as parents. “In joy and in sadness, in sickness and in health”. This is what the spouses say to one another during the celebration of the sacrament and in their marriage they pray with one another and with the community. Why? Because it is helpful to do so? No! They do so because they need to, for the long journey they are making together: it is a long journey, not for a brief spell but for an entire life!" – 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?"
"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."
When I hear people say things about the Church’s teaching on the family and marriage such, “The Church must modernize itself”, “The Church must bring itself up to date”, “The Church must keep up with society” I cannot but remember that at Jesus’ time the Jews were also discussing “modernizing” family life and Jesus told them they had wandered from God’s plan. He reminded them of God’s plan for the family. The mission of the Church is not to keep up with society; the mission of the Church is to do like Jesus, to remind people of God’s plan. And even if 10% or 20% or 90% of people wander away from God’s plan, we have compassion on them and want to help them in any way we can, but the Church cannot be unfaithful to God’s plan simply to be popular. The Church teaches that those who remarry civilly without having had their first marriage annulled or those who are in any sinful relationship may not receive Holy Communion as long as they are in that situation. This is because their lifestyle is a direct contradiction to the unity signified by the Eucharist, and people would be led into error and confusion about the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Everyone recognizes the difficulty and cross that exists in the lives of those in irregular situations and we want to lighten that burden in any way we can and show them compassion.
There are three people in the Sacrament of Marriage, the couple and Jesus. That is why the Sacrament of Marriage is for life, and not just for a time. So when people say that the Church must modernize I ask them to reflect on what the Sacrament of Marriage really is. Could it be that now, as at the time of Jesus, society has wandered from God’s plan and the Church like Jesus must remind society of God’s plan for marriage and the family?