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Saturday, 6 October 2012

Reflection/Homily: Twenty-Seventh (27th) Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B (October 7 2012)

Theme: The Dignity of Marriage 
It was not quite long ago that a friend was narrating to me, the difficulties her sister was passing through in her matrimonial home. After revealing a lot of horrible experiences the sister had undergone, I asked her what she would do if she had been in her sister’s shoes. She said she will know what to do but never gave me a specific answer. I further asked her what advice she gave to the sister and she said “to divorce him”. It was an interesting chat but I was eager to know her sister’s disposition in the marriage. From what I learnt, the said sister accepted her condition in good faith and prefers to die in her matrimonial home to a divorce.

In our society today, it seems to me that most of the divorce cases are not championed by the spouses themselves but by relatives and friends of the spouses. A closer look at the present society will also reveal an increasing rate of divorce. As a matter of fact, the dignity and sacredness of marriage is fast washing away. This is because marriage is regarded as a social or business contract that could begin or end whenever and anyhow one pleases.

This was perhaps the concept of marriage in the minds of the Pharisees who came to question Jesus in the gospel reading (Mark 10:2-16). It was a test because they wanted to know Jesus’ concept of marriage and know if it was in opposition to popular tradition or the Mosaic tradition. The popular tradition held that a Jewish husband could divorce his wife by pronouncing a divorce formula three times in the presence of two male witnesses (called the triple express system). But the Mosaic tradition held that the husband could only divorce his wife with a letter of divorce (writ of dismissal). 

However, the Mosaic tradition was not in favour of divorce. The popular tradition permitted oral divorce which could be done hastily out of anger but the Mosaic tradition will require some time for the written letter to undergo some processes which will give the couple time to moderate their anger and reconsider their decision. It indeed saved a lot of marriages from divorce.

As a response to their test, Jesus went on to reinterpret the law of Moses concerning marriage by bringing them to the Father’s will at creation. Thus, in the first reading (2:18-24), we see God’s plan for humanity; “It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a helpmate”. He made Eve from Adam’s ribs and the reading adds: “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body Just as a body is not separated from its members, marriage should not also be separated from its members. It is not easy for the whole body to be united under one head. The legs had to carry the whole body, the eyes have to see for the whole body, the hands have to work for the whole body, etc. Each part of the body suffers for the good of the whole.

Likewise in marriage, the husband has to suffer for the good of the wife and vice versa. For this reason, the second reading (Hebrews 2:9-11) presents us with the image of Christ who was made perfect through suffering. Perfection here does not mean the Greek philosophical understanding of being the ideal or excellent but the Hebrew understanding of being suitable for a purpose – redemption. As Christ became suitable to redeem sufferers under the law by enduring suffering under the law, so should husband and wife become suitable for each other under the laws of marriage by enduring their differences.

Therefore beloved friends, today’s message is relevant for couples and non-couples. Couples should be convinced of the dignity, sacredness and indissolubility of marriage by living in love and tolerance garnished with prayer while non-couples (relatives and friends) should learn to assist couples get over their differences amicably instead of championing a divorce for  Christ says “What God has joined together let no man put asunder”. God loves you.

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