Date: Sunday, October 07, 2018
In the Gospel according to St. Mark, Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee preaching. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mk 1:14) But soon Jesus attends a Synagogue service in Capernaum and teaches. “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” (Mk 1:22) As a good teacher, Jesus tells parables, simple stories, to illustrate the Kingdom of God. Peter calls Jesus “Rabbi” – a title of respect for a great teacher (Mk 9:5) and last week in the Gospel, John (the Apostle) addresses Jesus as “Teacher” (Mk 9:38).
Today pharisees, religious lay leaders, approach the teacher to test him. They ask Jesus is it is lawful for a husband to divorce his wife. They already know the answer. It is permitted in Mosaic law. Jesus acknowledges that divorce is permitted because of human brokenness and “hardness of heart” but Jesus asserts that this legality is not the intention of God. Referring to the 2nd creation story in Genesis, Jesus states: “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together no human being must separate.” (Mk 9:6-10)
The vowed commitment to each other “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death” is not only the teaching of Jesus but is the expectation of most couples when they marry! Sadly, divorce is common (although the rate of divorce is dropping) in our society. Jesus sets the bar high for the sanctity and permanence of marriage but Jesus is also an incredibly forgiving teacher when it comes to our human failings. Jesus is with married couples in their joys and sorrows. Jesus is with divorced couples and their families in their regret and pain. I’ll end with the closing paragraph from an Exhortation before Marriage that was used 50 years ago. “No greater blessing can come to your married life than pure conjugal love, loyal and true to the end. May, then this love with which you join your hands and hearts today never fail but grow deeper and stronger as the years go on. And if true love and unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness in this vale of tears. The rest is in the hands of God. Nor will God be wanting to your needs; he will pledge you the life-long support of his graces in the holy sacrament which you are now going to receive.”