A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying,
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”
He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning
the Creator made them male and female and said,
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, man must not separate.”
They said to him, “Then why did Moses command
that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?”
He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts
Moses allowed you to divorce your wives,
but from the beginning it was not so.
I say to you, whoever divorces his wife
(unless the marriage is unlawful)
and marries another commits adultery.”
His disciples said to him,
“If that is the case of a man with his wife,
it is better not to marry.”
He answered, “Not all can accept this word,
but only those to whom that is granted.
Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so;
some, because they were made so by others;
some, because they have renounced marriage
for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”
Good News Reflection:
What’s Jesus really saying in his tough stand against divorce? The Gospel reading for today can be hard to accept when a marriage is suffering from divisive troubles.
He also takes a tough stand on the value of celibacy when he refers to those who have “renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven” — in other words, for the sake of abiding by the laws of God, the mission of Christ, and the morality of the Holy Spirit as explained in the Bible and Church teachings. This covers celibacy for the sake of consecrated religious life, the ministerial priesthood, and purity in same-sex attractions.
“Not everyone can grasp this teaching”, Jesus said, and he explained why: We have to be given the understanding of it by the Holy Spirit. We should obey God even without understanding, but isn’t it better to ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand? To hear the Spirit’s voice, we have to be willing to humbly examine our own views and let go of whatever is not of God.
In his comments about divorce, Jesus says that unlawful marriages are not real marriages and therefore no adultery is committed when divorce and remarriage occurs. An example is when a spouse’s conduct is abusive and there is no ability or intention to love as Jesus loves; this fatal flaw probably existed from the start, and therefore the marriage was never valid.
A holy marriage permanently unites one man and one woman — physically, emotionally, and spiritually — as a representation of Christ’s love for his Bride. Who is Christ’s Bride? All Christians, as one holy, apostolic Church. Marriage is a vocation, a calling to prove to the unbelieving and confused world that God’s love and faithfulness are real.
A holy marriage is a testimony of God’s salvation plan. The entire salvation story in the Bible is the story of marriage, from Adam and Eve’s union and then the sin that damaged their unity with God, to the Israelites’ repeated unfaithfulness and recommitments to Yahweh, to Jesus’ unity with us and his sacrificial death to rescue us.
Human marriages go through the same struggles. Only by the grace of God, which is available to all who want it, can marriages survive the many temptations of division. This is why having a sacramental marriage is so very important. A sacrament is the active presence of Christ doing something supernatural in our lives.
A holy marriage exemplifies the Eucharist. God has gifted couples with a physical desire that binds their unity: “The two become one flesh.” At every Catholic Mass, we the Bride of Christ become “one flesh” with Jesus in the Eucharist.
In each of our vocations, married or celibate, we are all called to become fully united to our Eternal Spouse and show the world what a loving union really means.
What are you doing to promote holy marriage? We need — now more than ever — to stand strongas a unified Church to turn the tide of worldly influences back to what is healthy for children, couples, and society. If you agree, please sign our petition of support for God’s plan for marriage (marriagevocation.net/petition/). Visit and tell others about our website on the Vocation of Marriage (marriagevocation.net/). And subscribe to and recommend my Reflections for Couples (reflections-for-couples.org).
Thank you, Lord, because You conquer our hearts with loving patience, healing the things that harden it. Thank you, because You made marriage the special place for this task and for loving it with deep love, the same love You have for Your Church. Amen.
© 2017 by Terry A. Modica