[Jesus said:] “At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” “Why then,” [the Pharisees] asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
We live in a world where everything is disposable from coffee cups and napkins to gadgets and electronics. Little wonder then that people have become disposable too, and relationships mean little more than the satisfaction of certain needs, or the fulfillment of some agenda. Love is, consequently, little more than a coin used to accomplish a transaction. Once the needs are met, the agenda fulfilled, the transaction completed, it’s over; promises, vows, and commitments be damned, even if they are made with God as the witness.
Given this, how can marriages survive? They can’t, which explains the crisis in marriages today. Unless a person changes from being a selfish, self-centered individual to somebody who is willing to die to himself for the sake of the other person, no relationship can survive much beyond the romantic phase. One cannot die to oneself, however, unless one has a deep relationship with God, because it is only God who teaches us the value of self-denial that comes with true love, and provides the grace to enable it.
This December will make 35 years since my wife and I have been married. That is a very long time, especially today where marriages don’t survive 35 weeks, sometimes not even 35 days! How did we do it? I wish I could take the credit, but most of it goes to my wife. How did she do it? Perhaps there are a few things we can learn from her. Before my conversion, I was an alcoholic, abusive, and philandering husband. I was a nightmare to live with. Yet she lived with me for fifteen years. How? Why did she not leave?
Two reasons. One reason was that her faith in God was unwavering. She believed that nothing was impossible for God and if anybody could change me, he could. Part of this faith also included her faithfulness to the vows she took when we got married (“till death do us part”, remember?) as well as what Jesus said in today’s reading (“therefore, what God has put together, let no-one put asunder”). Please consider this now, especially if you are planning on getting married (or planning on getting divorced). We can’t pick and choose what we want to obey. If we say we believe in God, we do it all.
And the second reason was her love for me expressed in constant forgiveness. We read about this in yesterdays gospel. Peter asked Jesus if forgiving somebody seven times was enough; Jesus said not seven times but seventy-seven times - as often as was necessary. My wife did that, yet again living the gospel she professed to believe in. What is the result? The man who stands before you today. I’m still far from being the person God created me to be, but thanks to my wife (to whom I dedicate today’s reflection), I am getting there sooner than I might have otherwise.
Isn’t this difficult to do what she did? Yes, but with God everything is possible, no? So, if you plan on getting married, or getting divorced, please get God involved. And keep him involved.
May the Spirit be with you.