“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9)
Dear friends, to refresh our minds, we concluded last Sunday that every sin is both a suicide and a murder. Sin destroys us primarily and destroys others through bad example. Jesus was particularly concerned about the little ones and warned that whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better if a millstone were hung around his neck and he is thrown into the sea.
By asking us to cut off our hands or our feet or pull out our eyes, Jesus is saying we must do everything possible to avoid sin even it is most inconvenient to us. If my right hand causes me to sin, I must cut it off not only to avoid sin but to avoid being a source of scandal to someone when my hand causes me to sin. The question is: To what extent am I willing to cut off those things that lead to sin? What if by cutting my hand or leg, Jesus was referring to repairing a marriage rather than seeking for divorce?
Dear friends, the only way we can understand Jesus’ stand on the topic of divorce is to see divorce for what it really is: A GRAVE SCANDAL and a CAUSE OF SIN for the little ones. To draw a line between last Sunday and this Sunday, Jesus is saying that it would be better for a millstone to be tied around one’s neck and be thrown into the sea than to divorce one’s spouse.
Lesson One: Do I share the same opinion with Jesus on the issue of divorce?
According to the dictionary, “divorce is simply the process of terminating a marriage or a marital union.” (Wikipedia.com). In fact, according to Psychology Today website, divorce “serves an important function in legally and emotionally freeing people to form a more stable relationship.” In all honesty, these statements capture what most of us including strong Christians think about divorce. We basically admire divorce as “freedom”: an exit door which allows us to breathe some fresh air and legally find another man or woman who is “better” than our former husband or wife.
However, if we listen carefully to Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel passage, we would see how wrong our thinking about divorce is. Jesus says us that no human being has the power to terminate a union which God himself has established. This means what we call “divorce” is not really a break of the marriage bond, it is just the name our society uses to give licence for married couples to commit sin!
Lesson Two: How is divorce a grave scandal?
On the day of marriage, a man and woman promise to love and cherish themselves for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, till death do them part. Divorce basically announces that they lied to each other and to all those who witnessed the wedding. As such divorce indirectly proclaims it is okay to lie to one another, that there is nothing wrong with making a promise and retracting that promise later on. It has reached a stage that even on the wedding day, people can afford to bet that a marriage would break.
Even our young people no longer believe couples mean what they say on their wedding day. Some enter marriage with divorce clearly in mind and some just don’t see any reason why they should make such “impossible promises” anymore when they can simply become a “baby mama” or a “baby daddy.” Divorce has produced a generation of children who will never appreciate marriage as a life-long commitment. According to Archbishop Fulton Sheen: “The moral health of peoples is closely tied to the condition of matrimony. When matrimony is corrupted, then the society itself is sick, perhaps gravely ill.”
Divorce has produced a generation of children who do not know how to forgive and forget; a generation of children who grew up with hatred for either the absent daddy or the absent mummy; a generation of children who were literally forced into becoming house helps for their second daddy or second mummy; a generation of children who simply do not understand marriage because they were raised in broken homes. Simply put, divorce affects children the most subjecting them to moral, spiritual, psychological and oftentimes financial suffering. Our Gospel passage ends with Jesus cuddling the children who were brought to him. It is as if the children came to Jesus to thank Him for taking such a stance on the issue of divorce.
Lesson Three: How can we avoid Divorce?
This brings us back to last Sunday’s readings. We can avoid divorce if only we see it as evil and are willing to make sacrifices to prevent it. Knowing that divorce leads to adultery and it affects the little ones, I must do everything possible to make my marriage work even if it means cutting off my hands or my feet or pulling out my eyes. Amongst the top reasons for divorce today is abusive relationships (couples fighting each other, quarrelling, calling names, lack of trust, lack of respect etc.) And what is the cure for abuse in marriage? Sacrifice and Respect.
Marriage is not for fun, that is to say, marriage is not for one’s personal convenience but the wellbeing of the spouse. This is what the book of Genesis teaches us. Marriage demands selflessness; both the husband and the wife must be willing to die for each other as Christ tasted death for us. This is what our second reading today explains.
The opposite of sacrifice is selfishness. We live in a very selfish world – so selfish that we are only friends with people to the extent that we stand to benefit something from them. Most people marry not out of love but out of selfishness. Love is concerned about the good of the person but selfishness is concerned about the good that the other person brings. Love is able to forgive because it treats the person as a human being who can be better but selfishness never forgives as it objectifies (condemns) the person. Sadly, most married couples are not in love with each other as persons, rather, they are in love with what they benefit from each other. Should it happen that either one is no longer benefitting from the other, the marriage comes under threat.
The second cure for divorce is respect. To respect a person is to treat that person as completely equal to you having all the rights and privileges you have. Women did not enjoy this respect in Jesus’ time and it was even worse in the time of Moses. Does it surprise you that those who asked Jesus about divorce said: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Could they have asked if it was lawful for a woman to divorce her husband? A society that stoned a woman to death when caught in adultery but never even mentions the man she was caught with? Jesus had to remind them that God made them male and female. The woman is not a property of the man, she is not less than the man. Even today, the percentage of men who abuse their wives far outweighs that of women who abuse their husbands. Men, please respect your wives! That you paid the bride price does not mean you bought her or that you can easily change her like a car.
Are you currently thinking of divorce? Has love vanished completely in your marriage? Maybe, it wasn’t even there in the first place. Maybe it is time to start loving again; time to start sacrificing rather than benefiting. Marriage begins the day you decide to love this person no matter what. Marriage is not for fun; it is a life of endless giving.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, bless our marriages and teach us to love one another just as you did on the cross for us. Amen.
Bible Study: Genesis 2:18-24, Ps.128, Hebrews 2:9-11& Mark 10:2-16)