This Sunday we are invited to reflect on the significance and importance of the institutions of marriage and family. Both are essential institutions founded on genuine love for the sustenance of humanity.
Unfortunately, in our time these essential institutions are under serious threat. So, it is important to note that whatever threatens marriage and family life threatens love, unity and the entire human existence. Marriage plays the dual role. First, it serves the affection between couples and the sustenance of humanity through procreation.
Today, both our first Reading and the Gospel strongly call us to uphold the sanctity of marriage and family life. They both remind us that marriage is instituted by God. So, it must be cherished and protected. However, it is important to note that it has its challenges. These can be overcome through the grace of God and good Christian virtues.
The first Reading, taken from Genesis explains God’s original plan concerning sex and marriage. It teaches us that God made man and woman for each other. Hence, in marriage they are no longer two but one, united by an unbreakable bond. The Reading also describes the institution of marriage and shows that monogamy was God’s intention from the very beginning.
The second Reading, taken from the Letter to the Hebrews, reminds us that Jesus became one of us, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. As one of us, Jesus “tasted death for everyone.” He was not only the Sacrifice, but also the High Priest. We are now Jesus’ brothers and sisters, bonded with him, and through him bonded with God. Thus, Christ became the Savior of all people – the good, the bad, the divorced – everyone, and received all of us as brothers and sisters. Jesus’ prohibition of divorce can be a source of suffering for those who face difficult married lives. Paul suggests that we have to accept pain as Jesus did, as the suffering we should endure on the way to glory.
Today’s Gospel gives Christ’s explicit teaching on marriage and divorce: the Divine origin of marriage, the sacredness of family life, and the indissolubility of marriage. These are difficult messages to preach in a society that embraces co-habitation and ignores both the escalating divorce statistics and the dangerous consequences of divorce. The Gospel teaches that family life is sacred, that husband and wife are partners with equal rights and that the destruction of the family by divorce is producing the destruction of society.
These Readings challenge spouses to practise the fidelity of their ever-faithful God, honoring their holy covenant commitment before him. It reminds them that marital problems should be resolved mutually, and with godly intent to make amends. Often times we think that the best way to resolve the problems associated with marriage is divorce. This might seem a good and fast solution, however, it is not always the case.
Today’s Readings remind us that that it is not the will of God for any sacramental marriage to be broken: “This is why a man must leave his father and mother, and join himself to his wife, and they become one body… So what God had united, man must not divide.”
Unfortunately, even a quick divorce does not guarantee peace of mind. Also, it does not guarantee the success of the next marriage. This is why some get married many times and divorce many times. This simply proves that divorce is not always the best solution to the problems of marriage.
So, at the base of divorce is the inability to reach out to a compromise and understanding about how best to live the marital life together. This simply translates to lack of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and mutual respect for each other.
Also, there is selfishness and greed which often comes with the sole intent to exploit the other. When the foundation of marriage is not built on honesty, truthfulness, mutual love and prayer, there is little chance that it will survive the great storm.
There is also lack of maturity on the part of the intending couples. By maturity, one means spiritual, physical, social and psychological maturity that is required to enter into this sacred union. It is important to realize that the marriage relationship is quite different from a ‘boy and girl friend’ relationship.
However, it is important to note that the increasing rate of divorce today is due to the little value attached to marriage. When marriage is treated as a commodity, or an article rather than a Sacrament and sacred institution, it is bound to fall apart. Of course, this consequently affects both the family and society at large.
Finally, I sincerely sympathize with all those going through difficult times in their marriages. I pray that God will give them the grace, strength and wisdom to move forward and find peace in their homes. For those intending to be united in this Holy Sacrament, through the grace of God may they find fulfillment in the love they profess.
Fr. Jude CSSp