October 4, 2009


What God has joined together, no human being must separate. – Mk 10: 9

Here is one area where Catholics stand out in glaring contrast to our contemporary society. It’s a complex & touchy topic, & all I can do in the short time allotted is try to put it into context to make some sense of it.

First of all, in our Lord’s time, women rarely, if ever, owned property & had no independent means of living. Marriage was a savior, for it meant a guarantee of support for the most vulnerable members of society, women & children. In His mandate against divorce, Jesus was putting Himself on the side of the weak & vulnerable. He was not so much condemning divorced people as defending the defenseless.

Notice, however, that He says “What God has joined….” Marriage is not a contract between 2 people that can be cancelled if one party does not live up to his or her part of the agreement, but a covenant involving God, whose love is steadfast & irrevocable. Marriage is meant to mirror in the love of 2 people the kind of love God has for His people. It is meant to be a tangible witness to the steadfast love of God, especially when things go horribly wrong. That is why matrimony is called a sacrament, making present that which it signifies.

There is no dispute that a lifelong committed marriage is good for the world, not to mention the children, who are still being wounded by divorce. But in the face of that ideal, there is the reality of a fallen humanity prone to making serious mistakes in life choices.

The causes of divorce in our day are easy to spot. Ours is a highly mobile society that seldom allows people, even married couples, to really know & communicate with each other. Next, ours is a highly pornographic society that not only mocks fidelity but encourages infidelity. Then there is consumerism which begins with a $30,000 wedding ceremony & puts a couple on a lifelong treadmill to possess more & more, & forces them to work apart more & more to acquire all the things they think they need, but only deadens their souls & their relationship. A subset of this group even has a name: DINKS [Double Income, No Kids].

Again, in a society where image is the be-all & end-all, there is the tendency to marry an attractive, surgically altered shadow over deeper substance. Finally, in a culture of rampant individualism, there is seldom the sense that the couple is committing themselves to anything greater than themselves, that they are connected to & responsible to others. A dedicated commitment to something or Someone greater than themselves is lacking & so is the glue that can help to keep them together & make them holy.

To hold fast to the ideal of a lifelong faithful marriage is both good for children & society. We cannot weaken that ideal simply because many do not live up to it. Still, it is our Christian duty to care tenderly for the wounds & nurture the hopes of those caught up in the less than ideal. This is what our Lord did on earth & continues to do through His Church, even though we do not always carry out our duty charitably or adequately. We all stand under God’s judgment in that respect. AMEN!