27th Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: October 3, 2021
A few weeks ago I was away to celebrate the wedding of one of my nieces. The first of my nephews and nieces to be get married. It was nice for me to witness her wedding. As I was there my hope deep inside was that they will have a marriage that lasts, that they will be faithful to the vows they took and that they will not experience an unhealthy marriage or the brokenness of divorce. It is what I hope for each couple whose marriage I witness here in our parish as well.
I imagine that is the hope of every parent as they see their children getting married. That they will have a healthy marriage, faithful and lasting. I really believe that almost every person entering into marriage, certainly those entering into marriage within the church, also truly long for a lasting, faithful and healthy marriage. Children within a family also long for this.
In our Gospel we see that teaching of Jesus about marriage. “what God has joined together, let no one separate.” A difficult teaching at his time and in our time. The Pharisees challenged him since they knew that Moses had allowed a man to write a certificate and divorce his wife. Interesting to see that the Pharisees, all men, only ask if it is legitimate for a man to divorce his wife. In fact, for a woman of that time, divorce would have been very destructive since they were usually not financially independent. The early church’s position opposed to divorce was also a protection for women.
When we see the story of creation in the book of Genesis, we see that the man names all the creatures on the earth. A sign of control over them. But, the first woman, created from his very body, is not named by the man. This indicates that the man does not have control over the woman, does not have domination over the woman. In the original plan of God, there is a fundamental equality in the relationship between man and woman, a true communion. As Genesis says, they are partners. It is only after the Fall that sin entered relations between men and women, leading to domination, oppressive structures and inequality.
Jesus was expressing the original plan of God, the will of God that people entering marriage remain united as one. A relationship of equals called to a living communion. Divorce, division, separation was not the fundamental will of God for humanity in general, for the church, and for marriage.
Each couple entering into the Sacrament of Marriage is called to be a living sign of the unity found in God, the Holy Trinity. They are called to an intimate communion. We speak of marriage as a covenant. The best definition of covenant I have heard is, “the promise to remain.”
What does this teaching about marriage and divorce mean for us as the Church? We need to see how we can support couples preparing for marriage. We need to see how we as a parish can support couples who are married. We also need to see how we can support people and families who experience divorce. How can we support them and care for them? Jesus says, “let the little children come to me; do not stop them.” We need to examine ourselves to make sure that we do not stop anyone from coming to Jesus.
This teaching of Jesus concerning marriage is a challenge for all of us and for the whole church. We all need to support healthy, lasting, faithful marriages. We also need to be here to care for those whose marriages end in divorce, to support and assist them with the care of Jesus.