Marriage is the focus of the readings today. Genesis tells the story of God creating a suitable partner for the man and Jesus reminds the Pharisees of the design His Father created and His original intent for marriage; the union of man and woman as one flesh. We see that even His disciples questioned Jesus about this as it seemed too much to grasp. We may be a bit surprised by the reaction of Jesus’ disciples; why would they question Jesus about His teaching? If we look at what marriage was at that time perhaps we can gain a better understanding.
Women were viewed as property in those days and women had no legal rights. It may be hard for many of us to look on this without passing judgment upon our ancestors for this view. It’s not that marriage was not valued; chastity was considered a great virtue. People were raised with a great respect for chastity. However, we hear that Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. Rather than have women killed, Moses allowed for divorce to protect them from physical harm. There was a debate among the rabbis of the time on what justified “putting your wife aside.” Some rabbis were quite rigid in their teaching, only allowing divorce for being unfaithful to the spouse, while others were very liberal, allowing divorce for almost any reason.
We hear that Jesus was put into the middle of this argument with this question by the Pharisees. We don’t know their motives, though the passage does indicate they were trying to test Him. Jesus’ response is the basis of our Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce; that we are called to live out our marriage vows until they are fulfilled at death. This is a beautiful calling and at the same time a challenge. It is beautiful because a Catholic marriage is blessed by God and we receive sacramental grace to live out our vocation. It is a challenge because we each have a fallen nature which makes living with another hard at times. We see in our society that 40% of marriages fail. This is a tragic thing; hearts are broken, lives are disrupted, children are fearful. Marriage is said to be under attack in our world. Yet we see wonderful examples all around us of successful marriages; loving couples, who if blessed with children, nurture them & raise them to the best of their ability, instilling in them the faith and the knowledge that God loves them.
I ask you to pray for all engaged couples and all married couples. Pray for families who face a lot of pressure today to conform to society. This pressure makes it very hard for them to remain faithful to God. Through our prayers, we will see even more wonderful examples of successful and faithful marriages.