Gospel – Mark 10: 2-16
The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
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.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”
And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
“Let the children come to me;
do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to
such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it.”
Then he embraced them and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.
Reflection on the Gospel
Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.
The foundation of marriage is Christ’s marriage. The foundation of married love is the love of Jesus’ Sacred Heart for His Bride, the Church. The love of Christ is given to spouses when they receive the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. This is the only thing strong enough to save marriage: not just marriage in general, but also each particular marriage.
The goal of any particular marriage is to mirror the love that Christ and His Church have for each other. Of course, this goal is demanding even when a marriage is at its best. At its worst, a marriage can only be saved by Christ’s love.
So when is a marriage at its worst? A marriage is at its worst not when life throws poverty, or sickness, or any other serious blow against a couple, but when the blow comes from within: when a marriage is torn by infidelity. When the unity that God brings into being on the wedding day is violated, the husband and wife—each of them—become alone as was the man was “in the beginning”.
“Fidelity”—“faithfulness”—is one of the four essential qualities of a sacramental marriage. A marriage which mirrors Christ’s love for His Church is a love that has those four qualities that we see in Jesus on the Cross: a love that is free, full, faithful, and fruitful. Of these four, living out faithfulness is the greatest struggle for many couples.
However, there are many different types of infidelity. There are unfaithful thoughts, unfaithful words, and unfaithful actions. Of course, some types of infidelity are worse than others. But there is no marriage that is not affected by one form of infidelity or another. Even when infidelity occurs only in a spouse’s thoughts, and even if those thoughts are kept to oneself, the married love of that couple is truly weakened, which makes daily self-sacrifice—the bread and butter of marriage—more difficult.
But at its worst, infidelity tears married love completely inside out. It’s then that a spouse has to answer again the question that the priest asked at the beginning of the wedding ritual on the day the spouses got married: “have you come here to enter into Marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?” That word “wholeheartedly” reflects the Church’s clear statement—founded on Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel Reading—that a marriage in which love is not given “wholeheartedly” is not a Christian marriage at all.
When a priest prepares a couple for marriage, he asks each of them the question, “Do you intend to accept the obligation to be faithful to your spouse?” How many young engaged persons understand that this “obligation to be faithful” entails the obligation to offer forgiveness to the spouse who has been unfaithful?
In other words, a spouse who says, “If you’re ever unfaithful to me, I’m out the door,” is saying that there are limits to his or her married love. But Christ on the Cross says that that’s a lie, because that sort of “limited love” doesn’t mirror the wholehearted love of Christ that poured forth from His Sacred Heart on Calvary. If Jesus said to you, “I’ll continue to love you as long as you’re faithful to me,” you would have no hope whatsoever of getting to Heaven.
Take this statement, and imagine one spouse saying it to the other: “I will love you, as long as you do not … BLANK.” Fill in the blank. If there’s anything that a spouse can fill in that blank with to make that statement true, then that spouse needs to look at Jesus on the Cross.
Consider the moment at a wedding when the priest asks, “have you come here to enter into Marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?” If the man or the woman says “Yes” out loud, but in his or her mind finishes that sentence by saying, “Yes… as long as my spouse is faithful to me first,” then no marriage comes into existence in God’s eyes. Nonetheless, as difficult as it is to give one’s whole heart to another sinful human being, through God’s grace, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony not only comes into existence, but can endure in the face of human infidelity. Upon the Cross, Christ shows us that with God, all forgiveness is possible.
Fr. Thomas Hoisington
Catholic Diocese of Wichita
Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.