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Thoughts on Marriage and Divorce

Posted : Oct-01-2021

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Fr. Frank McDevitt is the pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Aurora, Ont.

Our first reading today, from Genesis, takes us to the very idea of God’s role in the creation of man and woman. The heart of the story is the immutability of the union of man and woman. That man and woman are flesh of their flesh.

This reading of course complements the Gospel teaching on divorce. Both readings centre their thought on the idea of a man leaving his parents and being one with his wife.

These are strong teachings that lead to an obvious question: Is it wrong to get divorced? Or is it wrong to get divorced without good reason? I think that Jesus is saying the second in this teaching.

What is a poor reason to divorce? I will suggest two: Lust and boredom.

To destroy your marriage because you and your ego are ready for a newer and younger model of what you have now is wrong.

It is also wrong to forgo your marriage commitment because you think life is not as much fun as it used to be and you want a change. If life is not as much fun as it used to be, it may very well be that you aren’t as much fun as you used to be.

There is nothing here to suggest that Jesus is saying one must not divorce a husband or wife whose sees their fist as a primary form of communication.

Jesus says we must forgive seventy times seventy, but He does not say that when infidelity starts to devalue a patient partner’s commitment, damaging their sense of self-worth, that they cannot rightfully say, “This is quite enough.”

Let me take it further: Jesus is not saying that you may separate if you must, but never, ever divorce because marriage is the choice you made, so tough luck – you are stuck with it.

If He was saying that it would be so out of character with everything else that He proclaims in the Gospel; the promise of the Kingdom of God and its transforming power in the world.

Jesus, however, is saying some important things about marriage in this teaching.

He is saying marriage is foundational to the very lives that we live.

He is saying it has to be understood as permanent. I can confidently say of all of the couples that I have married, none stood before me on their wedding day and said, “I’ll try.” It is always “I do.”

Marriage is the coming together of a man and a woman in a union that is a most perfect expression of human oneness. No other relationship can come close to the one that is at the heart of marriage: This relationship which creates new life.

The nature of marriage, as our reading recounts, is not just about the creation of new life, it is intimately intertwined with our whole understanding of being created by God. In the reading from Genesis, we see the creation of the wholeness of humanity that is at the heart of the story of man and woman being created. Man, as male alone, was incomplete; it is was in the creation of male and female that completeness was found.

The Church striving to respond to the Scripture and the wisdom of the sacraments calls us to meet the challenge of evaluating the meaning of a marriage. But also to come to a pastoral understanding of divorce. How are we as a Church to respond to this reality?

One of the areas where Pope Francis has had great influence is in the area of annulments. He has called on the Church to a greater sense of practicality and mercy in matters of annulment. The Holy Father insists that the process be sped up significantly, that the costs be minimal and that decisions in patently obvious cases be addressed by the local bishop without a long process.

In this painful part of human life, it is important that we be attentive to the teaching of the Book of Hebrews.

If we succeed or if we fail in the great undertakings of life, we are, as the Book of Hebrews tells us, all brothers and sisters with Christ and the one Father who made us all.

This homily is based on the readings for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B: Genesis 2.7ab, 15, 18-24; Hebrews 2.9-11; Mark 10.2-16 – Teaching about divorce and the little children.