marriage and divorce

Marriage And Divorce

marriage and divorce

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.

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The Catholic Faith Video Series: Your Tough Questions Answered [Video #5]

Question: My daughter’s boyfriend is Christian, he is not catholic, can they still marry in the Catholic Church?
Please watch video below for answer:
If you prefer to read, below is Fr. Mark’s Answer:

This question clearly came from a parent who is concerned about their child.  Parents are concerned about the happiness and future life of their children.  In this question we see two of those desires parents have for their children.  First, they want them to be in a healthy and happy marriage.  Secondly,  they hope that they will maintain their faith and relationship with God.

For the Catholic Church, we speak of marriage as a covenant.  This is rooted in the Scriptural concept of covenant, referring to the relationship of God with the people of God.  The best definition of covenant I have ever heard is very short and simple.  Covenant is the “promise to remain.”  The unconditional love of God ultimately revealed in the self-giving love of God shown by Jesus on the Cross.  In marriage, two people are committing to enter into a covenant.  In fact, St. Paul uses marriage as a symbol for the covenant relationship between Jesus and the Church.  The Church as the bride of Christ.  For this reason, two Christians who enter into marriage, enter into a Sacrament in which they are to reflect the unity of Christ and the Church.

But, marriage is a natural reality, rooted in creation itself.  Every marriage is a human and good reality.  So, a Catholic is able to enter into marriage with someone who is not baptized and obviously with someone who is a baptized Christian but not Catholic.

In the case of a Catholic marrying someone who is not baptized, when they meet with the parish to prepare for the wedding ceremony, a dispensation will be arranged for them to be validly married in the church.  The church sees this marriage as having a natural goodness and they make that same commitment in their vows, “I promise to be faithful to you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honour you all the days of my life.”

When a Catholic is marrying a baptized Christian from another church, then the parish will arrange for permission and this marriage is considered to be sacramental.  When it is desired and possible, the minister of the other spouse’s church may participate in the marriage ceremony.  A Catholic may also obtain a special dispensation to have the marriage ceremony celebrated in the church of their spouse if that is required.  In fact, I have assisted with weddings in a few cases in other Christian churches for the sake of one of my parishioners.

When a Catholic is marrying someone who is not Catholic, we will normally open up discussion to be sure that they have thought about the implications.  It is important of course that the couple honestly discuss future plans around practicing their faith and about how they plan to raise any future children.  The Catholic partner is asked to do all in their power to have their children baptized and raised in the faith.  This, of course, requires the agreement of both partners.  So, it is important that this issue be addressed openly before they marry.

So, back to the original question, yes, any Catholic is encouraged and invited to celebrate their marriage within the church.  As a parish we welcome each Catholic planning to enter into marriage.  We will welcome them and assist them in entering into marriage in a good and healthy way.  Our goal, like the goal of parents, is that they will make a good and lasting commitment and that this marriage will be nurtured by their faith.  During the wedding celebration, the priest or deacon will offer a special Nuptial Blessing over the couple.  One optional Nuptial Blessing concludes with these words, “… and after a happy old age, together with the circle of friends that surrounds them, may they come to the Kingdom of Heaven.”  This is what parents surely desire for their children and it is ultimately the desire of the church for the couple as well.

Thank you for listening in to this Question and Answer series.  If you have follow up questions to this answer or have other questions send them in to us.

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Be Like A Little Child – Fr. Mark


27th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year B

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: October 7, 2018

One possible definition of adults could be, “ruined children.”  As we grow up, we deal with hurts, betrayals, failures and other difficulties of life and people.  Result is that we can become very serious, bitter, skeptical, distrustful.  So we become focused on success, power.  End up with addictions, become workaholics.

Children, until they are ruined, want to play, have a sense of wonder. Jesus says that we adults must receive the Kingdom of God like a little child. Not by being childish, but by seeing again with the eyes of wonder and surprise and gratitude.

Jesus was really upset when the disciples tried to stop the children from coming to him.  They did not want the children to bother their very serious, very important time with Jesus!

Children are weak, powerless, vulnerable.  Jesus’ concern for them reveals God’s concern for the smallest, the weakest, the least powerful among us.  Our parish should also always show such concern for the smallest, the weakest, the most vulnerable among us.  This is why I am always clear that children are welcome here, they do not bother our very serious time with Jesus.  In fact, a parish that does not welcome children will be one that really upsets Jesus.

In this context we can look at what Jesus says about Marriage and divorce.  He speaks very strongly against divorce, about two becoming one flesh, “therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.”  This concern for marriage is connected to concern for children and for the most vulnerable among us.

Marriage and family that is faithful, committed, united provides a place where children are cared for and protected and nurtured.  God’s will for marriage is faithfulness and unity and harmony.  For this reason any couple preparing to enter into marriage need to be ready and capable of real commitment, to take serious those vows, “I promise to be faithful to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health…”

Someone once said that it is not love that will keep a marriage alive, but commitment to marriage vows that will keep love alive. Another saying is that the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.

So, what does this mean for the many among us who face the reality of divorce?  First, in my experience most people enter into marriage really expecting it to last.  It is a painful experience when faced with divorce.  Often people who have experienced divorce have an even deeper appreciation of the importance of the Sacrament of Marriage.  Often people who are faced with divorce feel they have failed, and experience that something is broken.

As a Church we need to proclaim healing and hope.  For God can take even our failings, broken aspects of our lives, and bring something new.  God does not want us to remain stuck in our sins or failings or brokenness.  As a parish we should always show a special concern for all children and all families and that includes families who have experienced divorce.  For Jesus would be upset if we ever stood in the way of them from going to Jesus.

God has a special concern for the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable among us, including children.  Marriage and family that is faithful, committed, lasting provides a great place for the care of children.  As a church we should do all we can to support marriage and family life that is healthy and harmonious.  We should also do all we can to support persons and families who face the reality of divorce.

We adults might be ruined children, but Jesus receives us, desires to heal us, so that we can once again see with eyes of wonder, surprise, gratitude.  Then we can receive the Kingdom of God like a little child.

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