Not just another Sunday Gospel reflection…
Last Sunday’s Gospel reading was about hell, but it wasn’t all about hell. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about divorce, but his message is not all about divorce.
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
Is it lawful… how awful!
Pharisees have a problem with asking good questions. After pointing out that they already knew the answer to their question, Jesus answers the question they should have asked: “WHY is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” His answer, basically… Because you people are stupid. That’s evidenced by the stupid questions you ask.
You see, Jesus reminds them, at the core of the matter it’s really not about the law. It’s about you, what you were made for, and what marriage is intended for in the first place. It is not a coincidence that the discussion that immediately follows this one on divorce is about children.
Marriage has its legal embroilments — that could be considered as a necessary evil. First and foremost, however, marriage is a sacrament and a sacred bond between two people — a man and a woman — for life, for the sake of nurturing a family. To understand the “one flesh union” aspect of marriage better, one could study Theology of the Body. Or perhaps, better (and this does not rule out studying TOB) one should take it to prayer.
I believe that is what Jesus suggests to the Pharisees in this passage, when he refers back to the book of Genesis: Put the law down for a little while; Go back to the Scripture, read it, reflect on it and pray about it.
The family that prays together stays together. When married couples pray together:
- They seek God’s will for one another and with one accord
- They internalize each other’s intentions as they open them up before God
- They strengthen their marriage bond by spiritualizing it
- They exercise the sacramental character of their marriage by practicing their faith together
- They commit more deeply to their marriage
There are many threats to marriage nowadays, evidenced by the ridiculously high divorce rate. There are also many questions posed to question not just the legal status of marriage, but also its very nature. For instance, people ask, “You say that marriage is intended for the sake of raising children; well, what about couples that are steril?”
I have answered that question elsewhere, but when you think about it, that is a legal question. It is as if the answer should be either homosexual marriage should be legal or else people who are steril should not allowed to be married. If you want to reduce everything to the law, then I suppose that makes you a Pharisee. Sorry about that… but it’s true.
Marriage is not all about the law. It should be about mutual love. Yet it is more than just a matter of two people loving one another (there are plenty of people I love who I don’t think I should marry).
I have yet to meet someone, who objects to the one flesh understanding of marriage that Jesus explains in the Gospel, who shows that they have made any attempt to understand just what that means. What I normally hear from these people is legalistic objection after legalistic objection, which sometimes leads me to believe that the two main threats to marriage today are the same as always: not enough prayer, and too much legality.
To end this post, I would like to share this video of Matt Birk, All American center for the Baltimore Ravens, speaking out in defense of traditional Christian marriage.