WelCom October 2018:
Mark 10: 2-16
2 Some Pharisees approached him and asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were putting him to the test. 3 He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ 4 They replied, ‘Moses allowed us to draw up a writ of dismissal in cases of divorce.’ 5 Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard hearted that he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation he made them male and female. 7 This is why a man leaves his father and mother, 8 and the two become one flesh. They are no longer two, therefore, but one flesh. 9 So then, what God has united, human beings must not divide.’ 10 Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, 11 and he said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’ 13 People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples scolded them, 14 but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 In truth I tell you, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ 16 Then he embraced them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.
Divorce and Remarriage
Today’s gospel is in three parts all inter-related. It commences by telling us that Jesus had set out from Capernaum in the north, across the River Jordan through a different area to Judea. Here, He met some Pharisees who, using the history of the beheading of John the Baptist, and wanting Herod Antipas to treat Jesus in a similar manner, tested Jesus by asking a loaded question, ‘Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?’ In those days a woman’s sexuality was the property of her father until her marriage when she became the property of her husband. Hence, this was really a question of the legality of divorce, ‘and who owned who’ not of the grounds for divorce. Jesus, with His usual reference to the Old Testament replied – ‘What did Moses command you?’ The Pharisees replied quoting Deuteronomy where Moses permitted a man to issue his wife a writ of dismissal (Dt 24:1-4). Divorce was practised during the time of Jesus, when it had become as common as it is today.
However, Jesus in response, said Moses had written this commandment due to the hardness of their hearts. In those days there were two schools of thought on Deuteronomic writing; the first from a scribe Hillel, who took divorce to being allowable in any circumstances, while his son, another teacher, Shammai, allowed divorce only for cases of adultery. Jesus had no part of either debate, strongly reminding them marriage was an institution proclaimed by God (Gen 1:27 and 2:24), and concluding by saying that what God has joined together, no-one must separate.
Later, when the disciples sought to confirm what Jesus had taught, He said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’ This is a God created union, there is no reference by Jesus to today’s Marriage Equality legislation. Jesus describes marriage as a most serious business, stating marriage cannot be construed as a contract of convenience, casually formed and casually broken. Sensibly this is true for all relationships founded on Christian love. Churches are to promote and foster healthy marriages. In the case of divorce and remarriage, the Church must extend compassion and facilitate healing.
This is Jesus’ teaching before He died on the cross. But from the cross comes our Redemption. Jesus died, for the salvation of all our souls. Our own efforts would never suffice. So, in a sense we are all owned by God, and are required to live by His principles, which have love as their foundation.
Reading today’s gospel may give the impression all irregular marriages see their participants condemned. This was never the intention of an all loving God. As God loves us despite our imperfections, we are empowered to love our partners in difficult times.
No-one is as helpless as a child. They are the responsibility of parents. Today, children are encouraged by Jesus to come to Him for a Blessing, after all they are His. Jesus asks us to let Him share in their education, which begins at home and in the Church. Children are ours for such a short time and all we have to offer is love and example. At 12 years of age, when found in the Temple, Jesus said, “Did you not know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 3:49). Even Our Lady learned that children grow up quicker than parents realise.