Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, 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. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”(Matthew 19: 3-12)
The Pharisees heard Jesus’ teaching against divorce at the Sermon on the Mount, a teaching which contradicted the practice of the Jews. And so they sought to trap him in this instance into putting his teaching in opposition to Moses. They were hoping to discredit him. But Jesus knew their twisted intentions and grounded his teaching on God’s original plan for man and woman.
The disciples seem to be discouraged at first, because the new teaching of Jesus is difficult to live: “then it is better not to marry.” They are seeing things through their own narrow experience and through the lens of popular opinion. Yet they must make the transforming encounter with the grace of Christ. We, too, need to believe in that grace and to communicate it to others, since it enables us to love others “as he loved us.” It is what brings the vitality and freshness to our Christian lives, and makes us able to offer something new and hopeful to the world around us.
And that brings us to why, in this case, 1+1 does not equal 2. Why? Christian marriage is not a union of just two parties. It is a couple’s union with a third party—God.
If we believe that ,then the marital relationship takes on a totally different perspective. Instead of a discourse on indissolubility, the discourse is constructive and about building, not tearing down. If Christ is truly a part of a marriage, doesn’t the dynamic of a marriage change? The call of Jesus Christ is to each of us, in all of what we do and in all of what we say. We need to be truly more disciplined about believing and acting on that. The ideal is that all that we do and say in a relationship reflects Jesus Christ. Can we do that? That may be a daunting task.
But Jesus knew the reality of people’s lives. He was a keen observer of life around him and engaged with people just as they were, “warts and all”. He knows all of us in the concrete situation of our lives. Yet, he also had a vision, God’s vision, of how human life should be, including married life. He proclaimed his ideal vision while continuing to relate in a loving way to people who could not reach it, for whatever reason. That includes us all, for none of us lives up fully to the values Jesus proclaimed and lived. There will always be that two-fold aspect to his relationship with us; he loves us where we are, but keeps calling us beyond where we are.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus Christ, your call to holiness extends to all in every state of life. Sanctify our lives–as married couples and as singles–that we may live as men and women who are consecrated to you. Make us leaven in a society that disdains life-long marriage fidelity, chastity, and living single for the Lord.”
Jesus sets the high ideal of the married state before those who are willing to accept his commands. Jesus, likewise sets the high ideal for those who freely renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Both marriage and celibacy are calls from God to live a consecrated life, that is to live as married couples or as singles who belong not to themselves but to God. Our lives are not our own, but they belong to God. He gives the grace and power to those who seek to follow his way of holiness in their state of life.