Jesus then left that place and went to the province of Judea, beyond the Jordan River. Once more, crowds gathered around him and, once more, he taught them, as he always did. Some (Pharisees came and) put him to the test with this question: “Is it right for a husband to divorce his wife?” He replied, “What law did Moses give you?” They answered, “Moses allowed us to write a certificate of dismissal in order to divorce.”
Then Jesus said to them, “Moses wrote this law for you, because you have hearts of stone. But in the beginning of creation God made them male and female; and because of this, man has to leave father and mother and be joined to his wife; and the two shall become one body. So, they are no longer two, but one body. Therefore, let no one separate what God has joined.”
When they were indoors at home, the disciples again asked him about this, and he told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against his wife; and the woman who divorces her husband and marries another, also commits adultery.”
In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce. It is a crystal clear teaching: marriage is a divine institution and no human power can dissolve it. For many Christians who are “stuck,” as they say, in a bad marriage, this teaching is hard indeed. And here we must admire the courage of the Catholic Church which, despite immense pressures in the course of the centuries, has never questioned or mitigated this teaching, whereas many Protestant denominations have, who maintain that Jesus’ teaching, is only formulating an ideal (unreachable for most sinners), not a law.
This law is indeed harsh for some unhappily married people. But it has the immense advantage of wonderfully strengthening the Christian institution of marriage by setting it up as a lifelong commitment. Because of this, genuine Christians, once married, will never be tempted to renege on their commitment. On the contrary, knowing that they are in it for the long haul (until one of the couple dies), they will invest all their energies in making their marriage work. With that kind of determination, a marriage always works, even though it might often have to go through rough times.
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