Ezechiel 16: 1-15, 60, 63
Matthew 19: 3-12
Commitment to do his Father’s will is the reason Jesus came into the world. Again and again he reiterated that truth. And the Pharisees were constantly “testing” him; on this occasion, trying to get him to state what were valid reasons for divorce. In response Jesus tells them that they ought to go back to the beginning, to creation, to the first male and female, made in the image and likeness of God – that all of Scripture is a love story, of God’s love for his people. He might have told them to read the 16th chapter of the prophet Ezekiel, which is the saga of God’s marriage with his Chosen People. Truly it is a stormy marriage, but for his part, God is ever faithful to his covenant, while his people are often wayward. Yet even then, God does not cast them off; he keeps on loving and forgiving.
And so, when Jesus teaches what marriage was “from the beginning”, he is saying that the marriage of every man and a woman is to be an image of that unbreakable covenant of God and his people. That is indeed a hard saying; even Jesus’ disciples are surprised. They as much as say ‘Then once you walk down the aisle, you’re stuck for life’! They hear only one side of it: the prohibition against divorce.
But there is another dimension to Jesus’ teaching. Marriage is a sacrament – a sign in which God’s love is not only signified, but is present. The consecrated love of a man and woman is an experience of what it means for God to love the human race. Jesus is saying that it is the vocation of married people to be God’s love in our midst. But that takes commitment, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. That same kind of love is manifested in those who renounce marriage “for the sake of the kingdom” – those who consecrate their lives by vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. Not everyone can accept this, as Jesus points out, but only those to whom it is granted. So let us pray also for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
- Fr. Damian Towey, CP is a member of the community at Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center,North Palm Beach,Florida.