Divorce: the Worst Option

Matthew 19: 3-12
Ez 16:1-15,60,63 / Isa 12

What God has joined together, no human being must separate.
(Matthew 19:6)

God blessed you with a loving wife,
Give your love to her alone,
And you will have a blissful life
With Jesus for your cornerstone.

Some Pharisees came to Jesus to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” Jesus replied, “Haven’t you read that 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. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Still, they asked, “Why then 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 marital unfaithfulness, 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 some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” (Matthew 19:3-12)

Reflection

While sharing my reflection on forgiveness in yesterday’s Gospel message, one of our female employees was moved to tears when I said, “There is no sin on earth that is not worthy of our forgiveness, because Christ’s own death on the cross was meant to forgive all sins.” I learned later on from her officemates that she cried because it was impossible for her to forgive the continuing infidelities of her policeman husband, who was destroying their marriage with impunity. Perhaps the calvary of this woman would make a strong case for legalizing divorce in this country. Exceptional cases aside, however, we thank God that our predominantly Catholic tradition has kept the call to legalize divorce at bay, and our laws still uphold the sanctity of marriage. Our Lord made it clear in today’s Gospel passage: divorce is never an option, because it contravenes the will of God. The bond of marriage is a reflection of God’s close relationship and love for mankind. God never divorced His people just because mankind had sinned and was no longer pleasing to Him. He chose to forgive and reconcile wayward Israel to Himself (Hosea 1:2-3,8-9,3:1-5). In fact, in all the episodes that we read in the Old Testament, we have seen that whenever God made a covenant with His people, He never broke the union – it was always His Chosen People who committed the adulterous sin of idolatry. Marriage is not just a contract between a man and a woman; it is a covenant between the couple and God. In the Final Judgment, all couples will be answerable to God for the failure of their marriage.

If only for this reason, we can see why God never allowed divorce. Jesus said, ‘For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives’ – if only to protect the rights of women who are abused by their husbands (as in the case of that policeman). But for Jesus, marriage must be for life or there must be no marriage at all. Divorce or separation is never the logical option when a marriage doesn’t seem to be working out. Working harder in making it work is. With God’s help, love will prevail. Whatever the differences a husband and wife may have, no matter if their personalities are poles apart, if they have decided to put Jesus Christ in the center of their lives, their marriage will work, and their union will most assuredly last.

Lord Jesus, you instituted the sacrament of marriage as a manifestation of God’s love for mankind. Grant that we whom You have blessed with its joys may be Your worthy heralds in sharing its Good News of love to other couples. Amen.

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