Wednesday in the Twenty-First Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 19:1-9; Mark 10:1-12

What God Hath Joined Together…

In this passage, Jesus teaches us about the beauty of the one-flesh union known as marriage.  The problem is that man has robbed the institution of its beauty by behaving in ways entirely opposite its purpose.  Paul fleshes this out in Ephesians 5:22-33 – that the husband is to love his wife with the same sacrificial love with which his Lord loves his Church, while a wife is to submit to her husband’s godly leadership; that is, a marriage between a man and a woman is to model the marriage of Christ and his Church.

The Pharisees come to Jesus, testing him, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”  The very question itself derives from wicked intent.  Obviously, they were as ignorant about marriage as people are today.  Some rabbis actually said that a man could divorce his wife if she burned his dinner or if he found another woman prettier.  So Jesus answers a question these men should have known themselves.  Our Lord’s answer may be enumerated as follows: 1) Marriage is rooted in creation, for, “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female.”  And because God created them male and female, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  A man and a woman were made for one another such that the two become one flesh in the act of “knowing” one another, physically, mentally, emotionally, and, if each one knows the Lord, spiritually.  Marriage is God’s closest design for heaven on earth.  2) Upon quizzing Jesus on why Moses allowed for divorce, he answers the Pharisees that divorce was God’s concession only because of the hardness of men’s hearts.  Jesus draws one exception only and that is “sexual immorality” which is understood as adultery.  Adultery is the ultimate betrayal of a marriage, which again capitalizes on the biblical teaching that sexual expression is limited to marriage between a husband and a wife.  But I caution that this is a concession; God does not command divorce even for this reason, but it is allowed.  Marriages have survived adultery.

We should note that Jesus teaches us, as the creation account in Genesis 1-2 makes clear, that marriage was not ordained after the fall but before, again emphasizing its essential goodness and God’s original purpose that a man and a woman should experience this magnificent joy in the bond and covenant of a lifelong union.  Of course, we should express compassion for those who have failed, lest they become embittered.  But the standard God provides is the best possible means for human flourishing and societal well-being.  And as explained above, for Christians it’s all the better.

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