GOD’S IDEA OF MARRIAGE
(A biblical refection on THE 27th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 4 October 2015)
Gospel Reading: Mark 10:2-16
First Reading: Genesis 2:18-24; Psalms: Psalm 128:1-6; Second Reading: Hebrews 2:9-11
The Scripture Text
And Pharisees came up and in order to test Him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.” But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart 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. So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
And in the house the disciples asked Him again about this matter. And 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.”
And they were bringing children to Him, that He might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it He was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to Me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands upon them. (Mark 10:2-16 RSV)
There are quite many stories of marriages that strayed, drifted away and ended in the rocks. In today’s Gospel, Jesus takes a strong stand on the permanence and indissolubility of marriage. This is not based primarily on the harm done to innocent children and society by broken families but rather, on the fact that sex and its fulfilment in marriage are God’s idea, hence, sacred. God intended marriage to be a lasting relationship between one man and one woman (see Mark 10:7-8).
This is expressed in the book of Genesis which our Lord Jesus quotes: “…… 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. So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mark 10:6-9; see Genesis 1:27; 2:24; 5:2). There is no compromise on what Jesus holds out as the ultimate and ideal goal of marriage – two people should become one flesh; what God has joined let no man separate; whoever divorces and remarries commits adultery.
Thus, in mentioning Genesis, Jesus goes back to the original teaching which opposes divorce or whatever would divide a married couple. Adultery is wrong because it would harm the relationship of husbands and wives. Moreover, if men and women had sexual relations with anyone they wanted, jealousy, hatred and irresponsibility would destroy the very fabric that holds society together.
Ideally, then, a marriage should be marked by unity – a total sharing of body, mind and spirit; and it should be a permanent relationship – till death separate us. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a real world where too often selfishness overpowers love, taking dominates giving, and some marriages end in divorce. It will help to remember the fact that no marriage is perfect simply because there’s no perfect husband nor perfect wife. But marriage as envisioned by God is a high ideal and being thus, the way is strewn by numerous failures, conflicts, broken promises. What does Jesus have to say about that?
To answer this, recall how Jesus condemned adultery, but forgave the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11); how He showed compassion toward the Samaritan woman at the well who had live with five husbands and one male companion (John 4:1-42); and how He gave Peter a new start after Peter had denied Him and run away (John 21:15-19).
Do we continue to strive for ideal marriages? Yes, with all our resources. Do we condemn divorce but not the divorcee. We deal with the divorcee the way Jesus would – by balancing law with love, firmness with forgiveness and principles with practice.
Real deep love does not happen all of a sudden. It is something which must grow, even amid conflicts and personal shortcomings. When a wound or hurt has been inflicted, it is important that the wound be treated with real sorrow which goes with a resolve to reform; otherwise it leaves a permanent scar. Too many scars destroy the beauty of the relationship and lead to separation or to the marriage tribunal. But loving someone deeply, completely demands a bigness, a bigness that say “I’m sorry” – and really mean it.
On the flip side, “bigness” means the ability to forgive an erring spouse. And this is where the difficulty lies. “How can I forgive a husband who’s a traitor like Judas Iscariot? I am not crazy!” “How can I kiss and make up with an unfaithful wife?” These are valid grievances which make the Christian teaching on marriage a hard pill to swallow at times. However, there is value in fidelity. It outweighs the conflicts and difficulties of married life. And as the Lord promised: “He who is faithful until the end will receive the crown of glory.”
Short Prayer: We praise You, Lord, for Your teachings, for Your compassion and love of the weak, the broken, the sinner. Amen.
Jakarta, 1 October 2015
A Christian Pilgrim