My Dear People,
Today the Pharisees asked Jesus a question about divorce. They allowed divorce in their communities. They even referred to Moses who allowed divorce. To Moses’s tacit permission for divorce in Deuteronomy (24:1-4), Jesus explained it was a concession to the sinfulness of the people of Israel, but God’s intention was not so in the beginning. Lifelong monogamy and fidelity are God’s plan. The Pharisees had forgotten what Malachi the prophet said: “‘I hate divorce!’ says the Lord God” (Mal 2:16).
Jesus teaches the indissolubility of marriage; that is, what is a true marriage? In the Catholic Church, we have put so many conditions on what constitutes a true marriage that it has become relatively easy, should one who wishes to dissolve one’s marriage, to go to the Church and have one’s marriage declared null; that is, no true marriage ever existed.
The availability of easy annulments has conditioned the way people commit to marriage in the contemporary Church. People marrying today in the Church are well aware that if problems arise in the future, it will be possible to get a civil divorce and an annulment from the Church, so the marriage commitment doesn’t feel as serious and as binding as it should. Couples today don’t enter into the relationship with a mindset to commit to lifelong fidelity no matter what. And that, in turn, does not help the marriage thrive.
God wants the best for every marriage, that is, if we follow His plan. It takes work to have a good marriage. I have worked with Marriage Encounter and with those who have had troubled marriages through a program called Retrouvaille. The people there came to realize that God called them to a true relationship with their spouse, and when someone goes with another mate, then he or she establishes a counterfeit relationship. This relationship is not according to the plan of God, and it will not be blessed by God. The individuals going back to their original relationship have worked through the difficulties, and they have reestablished their relationship on good grounds and, through time, they are in better situations.
This indicates that having a good relationship with the spouse does not depend primarily on the spouse but on the individual. When the individual puts priority to follow the law of God, God is put first. Then the spouse is second, and oneself is third. Love consists of choices and decisions. The choice to love should not be based on what the other person does or thinks but on oneself. Secondly, one chooses to love his or her spouse no matter what. This is what God calls all of us to do. This means that the love is a sacrificial love. This is the love that will sustain any trial, no matter what they endure. Jesus showed us how to love. He suffered and died for us. He called himself the bridegroom, and we, the people, are called the bride. Jesus’ sacrifice for us is the model that Paul talks about when he wrote a letter to the Ephesians (5: 27). “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her.” When a husband loves his wife (this also refers to the wife loving her husband), as Christ loved his church, this means that he is willing to make any sacrifice for her. Sacrifice includes everything that will make the relationship better. All the actions of the spouses are actually acts of love. If these actions at times are difficult, that means they are sacrifices. These are the very actions that will make the marriage not only survive but thrive.
I want to congratulate all of you who have done many sacrifices through the years for your marriage and for your family. You have been an example of what God meant for couples when they marry and how to make the relationship thrive and grow. You have been a great example of the love of Christ in your relationships.
In Jesus Name,
Fr. Vincent Clemente