Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16
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Fr Galadima Bitrus (OSA)
MALE AND FEMALE, HE CREATED THEM
The Sacred Origin of Marriage and the Danger of Divorce in Jesus’ Teaching
The family is often rightly described as the cradle of life and love into which we are born and grow, hence, the nucleus of society, its “beginning and basis”, its “first and vital cell” (cf. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, no. 42). Today, probably more than ever, the foundation of the family itself, marriage, is under unrelenting threats.
We are experiencing the solidification of ideologies that deny the fundamental diversity of the human being created male and female for a complementarity and companionship that rescued man from a sense of individual isolation of his sameness, which could not be resolved neither by his being surrounded by animals and birds nor by his authority over them, until he was fundamentally remade into man and woman or male and female, as the first pages of Sacred Scripture teach us (cf. Gen 1-2).
But we also have the menace of divorce, which have reduced the institutions of marriage and family into commodities to be tried and thrown away if they don’t satisfy our immediate pleasure. The readings today remind us as Christians what Jesus thought and taught about marriage and divorce.
The 1st Reading (Gen 2:18-24) is from the second creation narrative in the Hebrew Bible, which presents God’s actions of creation in a very human and material way (anthropomorphically), the first (Gen 1:1-2:4) being transcendental (God creating in a way that transcends anything human and material). While in the first account (the transcendental) God is presented as creating out of nothing (bārā’) and calling things into existence by merely speaking, “let there be” (yehî), in this second account, God is making (‘āśâ) and forming or fashioning (yāṣar) things and humans, out of pre-existent matter.
The reading traces the origin of marriage to God’s evaluation that being alone is not good for the human being he had created, hence, he decided to give him literally an “assistance” (’ēzer) that is comparable, like, or similar to his opposite (kenegdô; Gen 2:18), one who reflects him, so to speak, by essentially remaking the human being: he made a deep sleep fall upon him and took one of his sides (ṣl’), closed it with flesh and used the taken side to construct or build (bānâ) a woman and brought her to the human being (Gen 2:21-22) who, seeing his other side, exclaimed with satisfaction: “This is at last, bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She shall be called a woman since from a man she was taken” (Gen 2:23).
Thus God made the human being into a complement of two equal halves, no longer just a human whole: ādām (Gen 2:184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.22; cf. also Gen 1:26.27a) but a man and a woman: ’îš and išša (Gen 2:23.24) or male and female: zākār and neqēbâ (Gen 1:27b), after he had experimented and seen that the human being he had formed would not find this kind of assistance that reflects him (’ēzer kenegdô) in the animals and birds God had formed and brought to the human to name and therefore exercise authority over (Gen 2:19-20).
Thus, we are made to understand that the companionship and complementarity of the man and the woman which is realized in marriage, is not a human or social fabrication but has deep theological roots: it reflects God’s will and sense of satisfaction in seeing that the human being he created in his image and likeness (Gen 1:26-27), or through whose nostrils he transmitted his breath of life (Gen 2:7), is not threatened by the solitude of having everything to accompany his existence except his equal half.
In this light, marriage becomes an act of redemption or salvation of the human being from the state of individual isolation to form part of an immensely richer reality of deep communion or companionship that makes him ready to give up all else to unite with his opposite half in a way that only death can truly separate or force to let go and nothing else. As the author of Genesis concluded, “Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and clings (dābaq) to his woman and the two shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).
The 2nd Reading (Hebrews 2:9-11) celebrates the humanity of Jesus, a theme that is not so common in the letter to the Hebrews whose main theological development reflects a high Christology: as Son of God, Jesus is elevated above all other beings, including angels (cf. 1:4-14) and biblical heroes such as Moses and Abraham (cf. 3:1-6); as heavenly high priest (cf. 5:5-10; 7:18-28; 8:1-13) and perfect sacrifice (cf. 10:1-18), he supersedes the Jewish sacrificial system and institutions such as the Levitical priesthood.
Here, however, Jesus is presented as fully human, described as one who “for a little while was made lower than the angels [but] now crowned with glory and honour” (2:9) on account of his obedience even unto death (cf. Phil 2:6) for the salvation of all. In this way, he sanctified us and made it possible for us to be God’s adopted children, for which he is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (2:11-12). The 2nd reading, therefore, emphasizes our restoration to God’s original plan for humanity to be holy and so be truly like unto God’s children, through the mediation of his Son Jesus, being lowered to become like us in all effects except sin, in order to raise us up unto God.
The Gospel Reading (Mk 10:2-16) takes up the theme of divorce, a threat to Marriage whose sacred origins and dignity we saw in the 1st Reading. Mark presents Jesus as essentially a teacher or Rabbi, who went about with his disciples and from the earliest days of his teaching ministry, astonished his listeners with his peculiar way of teaching, “for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mk 1:22).
Now, Jesus had just left the region of Galilee and as soon as he had arrived the region of Judea beyond the Jordan where Jerusalem is located, he was surrounded by crowds and as was his habit, began to teach them. In the course of his teaching, some Pharisees arrived and wanted to test him, as if to see his teaching skills, if he knew his material and how to deliver it (10:1-2a).
The notion of the Rabbi then seems to correspond to our modern notion of a professor of law: one who knows the letter and spirit of the law and its correct application in the banality of everyday practical life. So, the Pharisees asked him a question on divorce, whether it was lawful at all for a man to divorce his wife (10:2b).
Clearly, divorce was a complex issue then as it is now. Hence, the Pharisees saw it as a test case for Jesus’ famous teaching skills and acumen, that is, whether he had the ability not only to explain but also to make good judgement. As any responsible researcher would do, Jesus investigated what the present position of the law was: “What did Moses command you?” (10:3).
The name Moses had become synonymous with the law. It was like asking, “what does the constitution say about this issue?” Not that Jesus did not know but he seemed to want to establish a common point of departure, at least on the letter of the law. And rightly, they indicated, the law allowed for a man to divorce by writing a certificate of dismissal (10:4). Now they could proceed to the spirit of the law, that is, what inspired that law in the first place and what it was designed to ultimately address.
According to Jesus, the law that permitted divorce was not a divine law, that is, it was not an expression of the divine will but a practical guide in the case of the hardening of the human heart which did not and still does not always conform to the divine will (10:5). But the will of God is to be seen in his act of creating male and female from the very beginning, therefore expressing God’s desire for a man to be joined to his wife and with her form one flesh, such that they are no longer two, that is separable, but one flesh (10:6-8), the separation of which cannot be done without injuries to one and to the other (cf. 10:10-12).
This divinely ordained union, according to Jesus, is not to be tampered with. Hence, his conclusion, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate” (10:9). Clearly, therefore, Jesus teaches that divorce is not God’s will for couples. The law provides only a dignified means of going about the situation if the human heart proves to be too hardened to conform to God’s plan for marriage.
In Deut 24:1-4, the Jewish Mosaic law considered writing a certificate of dismissal as that dignified way of taking this hard option. While at the basis it does not reflect or conform to God’s original plan, it seems to have served as a damage control measure, where the heart, the seat of love which is the foundation of marriage, has become hardened and incapable of carrying out its primary function of showing love.
In the Catholic Church, such damage control measure consists in physical separation for legitimate reasons outlined in Cann. 1151-1155. But the union of a baptized man and woman in marriage, if validly entered into and consummated, is considered sealed by God and no man can dismantle or dissolve the marriage bond except death (see Can. 1141).
May couples enjoy the peace necessary to joyfully conform to God’s original plan for marriage as an indissoluble union of a man and a woman mysteriously made into one flesh, impossible to tear apart without creating grave injuries to the family, especially to the children who are born as a blessing of that union but are sometimes forced to grow outside that blessed union, because of what Jesus considers a result of the hardening of the human heart and not God’s original plan for couples.
FR. DANIEL EVBOTOKHAI
GOD’S ORIGINAL PLAN FOR MARRIAGE
The readings today present us with God’s original plan in creation as far as marriage is concerned. We have the themes of marriage in the first reading and divorce in the Gospel. Marriage is a holy union between a man and a woman. Gen 1:27 says; ‘…male and female he created them’. In today’s gospel; Mark 10:6 says “At the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female” The first reading adds “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Gen.2:24). Therefore, marriage is between a male and a female. Say no to modern perversions, say no to polygamy, bestiality, gay marriage and lesbianism.
God wants us to love the way he loves. He wants us to align with his original plan for creation. Therefore, we must rise and say no to incest (union with one’s parents, child, sibling, or grandchild), transvestism (cross-dressing), trans-sexualism (change of one’s anatomical gender), necrophilia (sexual intercourse with or attraction towards corpses), sadism (the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others), and masochism (the tendency to derive sexual gratification from one’s own pain or humiliation).
Marriage is a divine institution not a human invention. God instituted marriage without divorce. Moses issued a certificate of divorce because the people were stubborn. Divorce was invented based on stubbornness it was not so from the beginning. Thus Jesus said to them in the Gospel reading “for your hardness of heart Moses wrote you this commandment. 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. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
Beloved, divorce is not part of the marriage God instituted. The Catholic Church continues to respect this law and so she does not allow divorce. Let us respect what God has instituted let us not invent our own. Precisely because of this the disciples exclaimed in Matthew 19 :10 “If that is the condition of a married man, it is better not to marry.” Beloved it is better not to marry than to marry and engage in divorce.
Divorce contradicts marital vows. Both parties at their wedding vow to be together for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health till death do them part. If that vow is correct then why should a spouse move for divorce when things are worse? Beloved, we must learn to keep the vow we make. Don’t make a vow with a mindset of not keeping it. If you do that, foundationally, the vow is invalid. Vow is not for babies it is for adults; it is a serious business. Eccl.5:4 says “Any man who makes a vow and delays in fulfilling it is a fool.”
Divorce is an offense against children. In today’s gospel, when Jesus had finished speaking, they brought children to him so that he can touch their heads. To touch is to care and love. Perhaps these were children from divorced homes. Children with divorced background lack parental love, care and trust. It goes further to affect the way they see morality, marriage, love, fidelity and life in general.
In marriage, children are gifts from the Lord. If you have children, care for them and show them love. Many families abuse their children either by given birth to too many of them without adequate care; others abuse them either physically, morally, emotionally and sexually. Jesus wants us to care for children. He welcomes the children that came to him in the Gospel. He even told the disciples not to stop them from coming. We too must learn not to stop children from coming to Jesus. Abortion is one of the prevalent ways we stop children from coming to Jesus. Say no to abortion and all its features.
Today’s psalm calls us to have the fear of God. “Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways!” Fear the Lord and your wife will be like a fruitful vine. Fear the Lord and your children will shine around your table, fear the Lord and you will not contemplate divorce; fear the Lord and you shall see your children’s children (Ps.128). Where there is no fear of God; evil prevails.
Lastly, let us learn to persevere. The second reading makes us to understand that Jesus is a man like us; he understands our difficulties in regard to sexuality. We must continue to teach what is right and show understanding for couples who are in difficulty. You may want to ask; what happens when there is danger or threat to life, violence, and insecurity? The Church allows temporal separation not divorce. What happens when one party finds the spouse by inciting fear, force or deceit? The Church says such marriage is invalid. A valid marriage only exists when the consent is free. Such union in accordance with God’s original plan does not allow divorce. May God help us. Amen
LET US PRAY
Almighty ever-living God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you, pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. AMEN!
FR. PAUL OREDIPE
God’s faithful love in marriage, given and shared with us all
The central theme in today’s first reading and the gospel is marriage. Marriage is the foundation of human development, the basis of the family and the cornerstone of Judeo and Christian life. It is very familiar and relevant to all of us.
We live in a time when marriage seems to be in crisis and under attack from many directions. It seems that people have completely lost sight of the significance of the institution of marriage and have cast it aside for more selfish interests.
In the Gospel, the Pharisees pose a question to Jesus.
Approach to Jesus today: – intention (not to learn, but trying to test Jesus, trying to catch Him).
In His reply, Jesus went above the law as given in Deuteronomy to the mind of God as revealed in Genesis. He went from the Mosaic law to the Divine plan in creation. From the beginning of creation, He said, God ordained husband and wife to live in unity. “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9).
Jesus’ reply underlines two important points.
First point, Jesus treats the woman as a person. Earlier Jewish law treated her as property of the man to be disposed of at will. In fact, here for the first time in Hebrew literature (verse 12) we hear not just of the man divorcing the woman but also of the woman taking the initiative to divorce the man. Jesus treats the woman as a legal person equal to the man.
Second point, Jesus is interested in teaching not legal statements but moral principles. They asked Him whether divorce was lawful. His reply was that the mind of God is for husband and wife never to separate.
They asked Him about what was lawful. He told them what was best for them, what they should always strive for. For in Christ “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up” (1 Corinthians 10:23).
With this ideal in mind, Jesus reinterprets the Mosaic provision that a man could divorce his wife by giving her a letter of divorce. It was not a permission to divorce. It was rather Moses making allowance for the people’s “hardness of heart.” This implies that Moses knew the divine ideal for husband and wife and still did not enforce it but rather made room for the shortcomings of his people. In fact, viewed against its cultural background, the provision to divorce with a letter was not to facilitate separation of husband and wife but to protect the unity of marriage.
Jesus shows that what Moses taught about divorce was permitted only because man was so hard-hearted. What Christ offers instead is a more perfect way, a new heart, a new life of grace and holiness, a life that is able to share in God’s love, and reflect it to others.
In all of these examples, Jesus calls His followers to “go beyond” the Old Law, and put on a new attitude, a new and challenging goal: to live and love as He Himself did. In the same way, He calls His people to put on a new attitude toward marriage and family. He wants to take marriage to a new and better level. To assist His followers, Jesus raises natural human marriage to the level of a sacrament, giving it an eternal and supernatural dimension, and the permanence God intended from the start.
Quoting from the book of Genesis, the Lord teaches that God’s will is unchanging. From the very beginning, it was always God’s will that man and wife should be together in a perfect union. This union of man and wife has two aspects.
Firstly, the two spouses can only achieve this life-long union if they give themselves to each other totally. In this way, they will discover themselves more fully, and lead each other further into love.
Secondly, this union will be indissoluble, something which is required for the good of the children. Married love is a sign of the faithful and indissoluble love which God has for mankind, the love which the Lord Jesus has for His Church.
In Christian marriage, the partners show God’s love to each other, and they also become witnesses to others of the power of that love. The unity and indissolubility of marriage is not something invented by the Church. It is part of what is called ‘the natural law’. It corresponds to something implanted by God deep within our human nature. The human instinct for a lifelong partnership of love reflects an inbuilt need, a natural capacity, put within us by the Creator.
Marriage is forever: Jesus has said so, and today the Church says the same thing and will continue repeating it until the end of time. Indissoluble marriage is a reality which encompasses all of human history, from the creation to the Parousia, to that ultimate moment when the Husband – Christ – will return to eternally unite himself with all the elect of God, resurrected in body and soul. It will be thus and not otherwise, for love is the strongest thing of all, even stronger that death.
The love and grace of God are almighty and nothing can stop them. The man and woman who sincerely believe in the power of the grace of God will always remain firm in the love they have for one another. Nothing is impossible for God.
In a truly Christian marriage, the spouses take care and support each other. Sometimes a kind word with a smile is all it takes to cheer up those who surround us. Marital happiness does not consist in having a lot of money but in having a lot of mutual respect and love. Christian marriage is a sign of the love and the unity of Jesus Christ with us and with His Church. Christ’s faithfulness, confirmed in His death for us on the Cross, should be the model for spouses who remain united, “until death separates them.”
This is why Christ is the model for a successful marriage even though He, Himself, never married. His life was dedicated to guiding us to eternal salvation. He made sacrifices willingly, even though at times He admitted He did not look forward to fulfilling the requirements His Father had chosen for Him. Jesus Christ was willing to be crucified for love of the Church, His people. Because of the intensity and sacredness of this union, it is not difficult for us to understand the teaching of Jesus about divorce.
With this understanding, we see why it is that Jesus speaks against divorce and adultery in the Gospel reading today. He will not be set up or trapped by the Pharisees’ question about divorce and the law. What God has joined together, no man must divide.
In the second reading, Jesus, the bridegroom of the Church, gives Himself to her to the point of dying to purify and sanctify her with His blood. This way, He becomes the true prototype of spousal love.
The words “who for a little while was made lower than the angels” refer to Jesus in the crisis of His Passion and Death, when He freely humbled Himself and lowered Himself to suffer punishment and death – sufferings to which angels are not subject.
It was Saint Paul who said that Christ’s love for His Church is reflected in the married love of two Christian believers. Just as Christ gave Himself – by giving up even His life for each one of us, and for all of us, – so, too, married persons in our community are called to reflect that same selfless, Christ-like gift to each other.
When the Catholic Church speaks out about these things, as she is obliged to do, the general response is to attack the Church for being inflexible and out of touch with reality.
Jesus, in taking the defense of fidelity in marriage, is only giving us a means towards greater happiness. Jesus offers a very different picture of what love is. For Him, the true notion of love lies, not in feelings, but in commitment.
A commitment, which entails a separation from one’s family and a lifelong companionship through joy and sorrow, “for better or for worse.” Only such a commitment, maintained despite the high and low of feelings, can enable two persons to grow toward real maturity.
A marriage relationship between a man and a woman before and during marriage do not happen easily. They are built on living with each other and coming to know each other, on trust, on faith, on honesty, and openness. It takes time to build sound relationship. It is a relationship that is based not so much on “What pleasure or joy the other person can give me.” It is rather “What can I offer and give for the welfare and happiness of the other person?”
As God has said to us, and as a married couple says to each other and as all of us say to the world, we take each other for the rest of our lives, to have and to hold, from this day forward until death do us part. For richer and for poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. Have we been faithful to each other as we ask married persons to be to each other?
Love implies self-sacrifice for the wellbeing and happiness of the other person. It is cultivated from within, before it is given out to others. Therefore, we cannot fully love others if we do not participate in love. Since love implies sacrifice, we must embrace all its facets in order to fully participate in its total cause. Failure to see and appreciate all the facets of love will jeopardize our experiencing it, let alone sharing it with one another.
God’s faithfulness as the bedrock of our faithfulness.
As we pray for our families, let us pray to the Lord so that He will shower His grace on all of us, married or not, so that we may always be feel the joy of His constant and faithful love.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit abide with us all. Amen
Fr. Evaristus Okeke
MARRIAGE ACCORDING TO GOD’S PLAN
“ What God has joined, let no one separate ” (Mark 10:10)
The liturgy of today teaches us that marriage is instituted by God, and not by those who enter into it. So, when people marry, they, in a special way, share in the life of God. In the gospel reading of today, a challenge about marital union was presented to Jesus. The challenge was about divorce. The Jews had it that divorce is permissible under certain conditions. The Jewish law as stated in Deut.24:1-4, clearly authorizes a man to divorce the wife. What the Jews were not clear about is the number and nature of issues that are valid enough for man to divorce his wife. So when the Jewish Lawyers asked Jesus “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife”, they hoped that Jesus will say NO; and then quoting Deut.24:1-4, they would have found a case against him.
Jesus did not simply teach that divorce is not permissible but that divorce is not possible. To divorce means to separate and live separately; but there are certain things that you cannot separate without destroying them. You cannot separate an egg without breaking it. You cannot separate the components of a car and drive each component as a complete car. Jesus’ position is that marriage falls under the category of things that you cannot successfully separate; attempted separation is tantamount to destruction.
The basis of this teaching of Jesus is found in the first reading of today. After creation, man was found to be lonely. It is true that everything God created was good, yet it was not good that man should be alone. At this time, God had created everything except animals and woman. Which means that every other thing God had created did not have the capacity to keep Man Company. Next God created every living creature. These creatures, unlike what God had created before now, had life. They could communicate and relate with their environment. But the level of relation they were capable of, was not sufficient enough to cure the loneliness of man. Mind you, man was given dominion over both the living and non-living creatures. He had the whole world to himself. Yet the possession and exercise of power was not sufficient to give man happiness.
This is so interesting to note, because today, man is destroying human relations in order to acquire material possessions and power as if these were the hallmarks of man’s happiness. The first reading of today is like the manual with which God the creator created man. It teaches man how to live and what can truly give him happiness. True happiness comes from sacrifice. If you want to happy, do not focus on what you should acquire but on what you should give. Happiness comes as a recompense for being sacrificial. Hence, you notice that man had to give out one of his ribs before he could find happiness. The ribs of man constitutes something that essentially belongs to him and was also important to him too. Therefore, genuine charity is key to true happiness.
With the ribs of man, God made woman; one who was just like man but of a different gender. At the sight of the woman, without being told, man saw his completeness in her. The fact that woman was made out of man does not suggest that the dignity of man is higher than that of woman. Man did not create woman; in fact, man was asleep when woman was created. But then, the process of woman’s creation teaches her to be submissive to the man in the marital union. This submissiveness should not elicit in the man a sense of power consciousness. The man must remember that his power could not cure his loneliness before woman was created. The manner in which Adam received Eve, teaches man that he is to love his wife.
This our manual (the first reading of today) further teaches us that it is only for the purpose of marriage that a man will leave his father and mother and cling to another woman. By this very fact, the Word of God condemned every act or form of concubinage. In the name of dating, many young boys and girls have left home and are living together, yet they are not one; sadly, the society seem to be home with such practice. The recent upsurge about DNA tests has revealed some bitter truth of people’s past while casting fear in the minds of those whose spouses are yet to suggest that they take the test. The Word of God allows a man and woman to cling together on the basis that they are one flesh; not even that they will become one flesh. Clinging without the intention of becoming one is an abuse to the dignity of marriage. You cannot abuse that which God instituted without some consequences. Today, the challenges of marriage and the desire not to love another, is making some young people opt for single parenthood while calling marriage a scam. If marriage is a scam, then creation itself is not left out of the scam and God is the scammer. This is obviously not true.
No doubt, marriage is not without challenges. To survive the challenges of marriage, we must learn the humility and sacrificial nature of Christ as demonstrated in the second reading. Jesus, through whom all things exist, allowed himself to be made lower than the angels for a little while that he may bring many to glory through his suffering and sacrificial death at man. This is called functional subordination. Similarly, the man and the woman must be ready to make sacrifices for marriage to work. It is not easy for two persons to live together especially when they have different backgrounds and upbringing. But with love, married people can conquer. Thus, the gospel acclamation tells us that if we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us. God Bless You!