Gen 2:18-24; Heb 2:9-11; Mk 10:2-16
“WHAT GOD HAS JOINED TOGETHER, NO HUMAN BEING MUST SEPARATE.”
Today, Jesus teaches solemnly about the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage.
- THE LAW OF MOSES ON DIVORCE
In Jesus’ time, there was no question as to whether someone COULD DIVORCE his wife or not. The possibility of divorce was taken for granted. It depended solely on the initiative of the man/husband. The scribes and the Pharisees knew this perfectly well. They were experts of the Law as found in the book of Deuteronomy: “A man enters into marriage with a woman but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand and send her out of his house…” (Deut. 24:1). Now, the question put before Jesus is “HOW SERIOUSLY OBJECTIONABLE WOULD A WIFE’S BEHAVIOUR be in order to merit a divorce?”
Again, in the time of Jesus, there were two interpretations to the text of Deuteronomy 24:1, coming from two schools of thought. One was from the school of Rabbi Shammai, giving a very strict interpretation “Unless the wife was guilty of adultery, there could be no divorce”. But the school of Rabbi Hillel gave a more liberal interpretation: “A man could divorce his wife: a) If she spoilt a dish of food; b) If she spoke to a strange man; c) If she spoke disrespectfully of her husband’s relatives in his hearing and d) If she was a brawling woman.
Naturally people are inclined to opt for the liberal reasons. Thus it turned out that divorce for flimsy or no reason at all was tragically common. Jesus did not take sides with any of the interpretations. Instead, Jesus tactfully asks: “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” Clearly, they know the answer to the question that they were posing, but they sought to catch Jesus.
Jesus replies that it was not the original plan of God. It is because they were unteachable that Moses permitted divorce on those terms: “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment”. Jesus, therefore, reinstates the original vision of the creator in which marriage means an INDIVISIBLE union of mutual companionship, between a man and a woman, as set forth in the book of Genesis. For Jesus, the situation that prevailed from the beginning of creation reflects God’s will. This is the full ideal of marriage; this is God’s plan in all its grandeur.
- WHOEVER DIVORCES AND REMARRIES COMMITS ADULTERY AGAINST THE PARTNER
Jesus is very emphatic about the indissolubility of marriage. “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Even if a man decides to send away the wife or vice versa, the old union endures. Even if he/she remarries, he/she lives in a situation of sin – adultery. ONE cannot be said to have committed adultery if the new union is legitimate.
In today’s Gospel, Mark tells us that God forbade divorce when he was instituting Marriage. That is God’s stipulation, but the reality of today is different. Divorce is ever on the rise. We have all witnessed too often in marriage: “hopes not fulfilled, prayers not heard, efforts in vain, promises unrealized, frustration, disaster, a curse instead of a blessing, death instead of life.” Therefore, we ask the following questions: Is God suffering from short-sightedness? Is the marriage institution unworkable in itself? Or are the people who marry not willing to cooperate with God, the creator and institutor of marriage?
- GOD INSTITUTED MARRIAGE TO BE A GOOD AND HAPPY INSTITUTION
The answer is: God instituted marriage because, like everything he created, “He saw that marriage is good.” If we, human beings, knowing that God is always good, do let scripture to teach us, we can learn without doubt that God could not create an institution that was meant fail. If marriages fail, it is often because the persons who enter to marriage do not understand and play their roles as God intended for married couples.
- a) God says that “it is not good for the man to be alone.”
b). God creates Eve out of Adam—they are inseparable. They are intimately connected. They are not commanded to oppress each other, but to love and cherish each other. They are meant for companionship (even if they do not have children).
c). In today’s gospel, Jesus says: “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female.” Marriage is for one man and one woman.
- LEAVE, CLING (CLEAVE) and BECOME ONE
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.” For a marriage to be successful, the marriage partners must do three things: LEAVE, CLING (CLEAVE) and BECOME ONE. If they fail to do these, they risk breaking up what God has put together. What does this mean?
- a) To LEAVE means “to depart from” or “to quit”. The leaving, must, therefore, be physical, financial, moral and psychological. A man or a woman who, after marriage still clings to his or her own family (parents, brothers and sister), makes him/herself an emotional dwarf. He/she remains a baby, refusing to grow up. Such a person does not cease referring to how it used to be in the parents’ home, wanting the partner to recreate the same situation in their marital home. LEAVING, however, does not mean abandoning or not recognizing one’s family. It is rather an independence which flows from maturity and makes the couple more disposed to relate to their families, not as individuals anymore, but as a couple.
- b) “To CLING to his wife”, in the literal sense of the Hebrew word is to stick to or to be glued together. On this, Walter Trobish, a renowned marriage counsellor, says: “The husband and wife are glued together like two pieces of paper. If you try to separate two pieces of paper which are glued together, you tear them both”.
- c) Scripture also says, “The two must BECOME ONE BODY”. This means much more than just a physical union. It means that two persons share everything they have, not only their bodies, not only their material possessions, but also their thinking and their feelings, their joy and their suffering, their hopes and their fears, their successes and their failures. To become one flesh means that two persons become completely one with body, soul, and spirit, and yet they remain two different person
In this sense, the husband and the wife should be closer to each other more than to anybody else or anything. The two are now glued together by the bond of marriage. Marriage is not a COMPETITION between husband and wife (My husband/wife has done this, I must also do it!). Instead it is a COMPLEMENTALITY. Each of the partners in marriage seeks to complete the other where he/she is lacking.
- THE CHURCH’S AGENCIES FOR HELPING COUPLES IN MARRIAGE
In order to put engaged and married couples on the way to ideal marriage, the Catholic Church has established pre-marriage agencies from whom to get expert advice from experienced couples and counsellors. She has set up a number of organizations such as the Christian Family Movement, Marriage Encounter, Marriage Enrichment, Marriage Counseling, etc., which are often instruments of pastoral healing. They bring greater vitality into already happy marriages, and fresh hope into new one. Indeed, God made marriage to be a happy institution.
In order to experiences true happiness, marriage partners are called to do their best to spend time together, in quantity and quality. They should know how to express their affection for each other. They should show commitment to family life. They should learn how to discuss in a constructive way; they should share spiritual values. In concrete terms, when married partners do not see each other or spend time together, they gradually slip into self-destrustion.
- MARRIAGE ANNULMENT IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (This section could be simply mentioned or excluded completely)
Although divorce in not permitted in the Catholic Church, there is what the Church calls ANNULMENT. It is a judgment on the part of an ecclesiastical tribunal determining that a marriage was invalidly contracted. There are very well defined canonical grounds for Marriage Annulment, spelt out by the CANON LAW. The following are grounds for annulment:
- a) Insufficient use of reason (Canon 1095, 10): A spouse did not know what was happening during the marriage ceremony because of insanity, mental illness, or a lack of consciousness.
- b) Grave lack of discretionary judgment concerning essential matrimonial rights and duties (Canon 1095, 20): A spouse was affected by some serious circumstances or factors that made him/her unable to judge or evaluate either the decision to marry or the ability to create a true marital relationship.
- c) Psychic-natured incapacity to assume marital obligations (Canon 1095, 30): A spouse, at the time of consent, was unable to fulfill the obligations of marriage because of a serious psychological disorder or other condition.
- d) Ignorance about the nature of marriage (Canon 1096, sec. 1): A spouse did not know that marriage is a permanent relationship between a man and a woman ordered toward the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation.
- e) Error of person (Canon 1097, sec. 1): A spouse intended to marry a specific individual who was not the individual with whom marriage was celebrated. (For example, mail order brides).
- f) Error about a quality of a person (Canon 1097, sec. 2): A spouse intended to marry someone who either possessed or did not possess a certain quality, e.g., social status, marital status, education, religious conviction, freedom from disease, or arrest record. That quality must have been directly and principally intended.
- g) Fraud (Canon 1098): A spouse was intentionally deceived about the presence or absence of a quality in the other. The reason for this deception was to obtain consent to marriage.
- h) Total willful exclusion of marriage (Canon 1101, sec. 2): A spouse did not intend to contract marriage as the law of the Catholic Church understands marriage. Rather, the ceremony was observed solely as a means of obtaining something other than marriage itself, e.g., to obtain legal status in the country or to legitimize a child.
- i) Willful exclusion of children (Canon 1101, sec. 2): A spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, to deny the other’s right to sexual acts open to procreation.
- j) Willful exclusion of marital fidelity (Canon 1101, 12): A spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, not to remain faithful.
- k) Willful exclusion of marital permanence (Canon 1101, sec. 2): A spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, not to create a permanent relationship, retaining an option to divorce.
- l) Future condition (Canon 1102, sec. 2): A spouse attached a future condition to his/her decision to marry, e.g., you will complete your education; your income will be at a certain level; you will remain in this or that area.
- m) Past condition (Canon 1102, sec. 2): A spouse attached a past condition so his/her decision to marry and that condition did not exist; e.g., I will marry you provided that you have never been married before; I will marry you provided that you have graduated from college.
- n) Present condition (Canon 1102, sec. 2): A spouse attached a present condition to his/her decision to marry and that condition did not exist, e.g., I will marry you provided you don’t have any debt.
- o) Force (Canon 1103): A spouse married because of an external physical or moral force that he/she could not resist.
- p) Fear (1103): A spouse chose to marry because of fear that was grave and inescapable and was caused by an outside source.
- q) Error regarding marital indissolubility that determined the will (Canon 1099):
A spouse married believing that civil law had the power to dissolve marriage and that remarriage was acceptable after civil divorce.
- r) Error regarding marital sacramental dignity that determined the will (Canon 1099): A spouse married believing that marriage is not a religious or sacred relationship but merely a civil contract or arrangement.
- NO ONE SHOULD SEPARATE WHAT GOD HAS PUT TOGETHER
Who can dare break up what God has put together? In fact, who are those who do not fear God? We are all potential breakers of marriages! The so-called invitees, friends, in-laws, well-wishers and all, can help break up marriage through our gossips, through our misguided zeal to teach the marriage partners how to “handle each other with tough hands”, through their overbearing presence around the couple that denies them space to grow in their union with each other, etc. However, the couple themselves are the biggest destroyers of God’s will for them. This may happen if they allow OUTSIDERS to infiltrate their union. Indeed, no marriage can break up if the marriage partners do not permit it to happen.
We pray for married couples that they may understand and happily endure in their union.