- Mk 10:1-12
- Marriage and Divorce
I came across this story, from a written homily (May 15, Bible Diary 2008), of a young couple who went to Hong Kong for their honeymoon. Weeks before the trip, the couple started to make a list of the things they needed to bring along and the things to be done before leaving to make sure they won’t miss anything. On the day of the trip, they boarded the plane confident that everything was accounted for. When they were already in their seats the woman felt uncomfortable and suddenly said: “We have forgotten something!” The man confidently replied: “No, it is impossible. We have prepared everything weeks before this trip. I even made a list of them.” But the woman insisted they have forgotten something very important. So the man said: “Okay, what is it?” The woman replied: “We have forgotten to get married!”
In today’s gospel, the Pharisees confront Jesus about the Mosaic Law on marriage and divorce. And of course Jesus knows the spirit of this law. He said that Moses had permitted them to get divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. He says that it is God’s intention that marriage be sacred and binding union.
The Law gives the man permission for divorce if he finds in his wife “something indecent,” (Deut 24:1). What does this “something indecent” mean? During the time of Jesus there were two schools of thought regarding “something indecent.” There was the conservative school of Shammai that favored a narrow and strict interpretation. For this school, indecency is adultery and adultery alone.
On the other hand there was this liberal school of Hillel. For this school indecency is if a wife spoiled a dish of food, if she spun in the streets, if she spoke disrespectfully of her husband’s relations in his hearing, if she was a brawling woman or if she talked to a strange man. This school had prevailed and divorce for trivial reasons was tragically common in Jesus’ time.
The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a vocation. But I heard somebody who said: “If one is married, everything should just be happy all the time and I should get whatever I want.” Well, marriage is not about “getting what I want.” It is about giving; it is two persons giving to one another and two persons receiving from one another. It needs two to tango. It is not about two selfish persons taking from one another. It is not about two persons who hate to be used because it is a violation of their dignity and when they know they are being used they want out. The goal of Holy Matrimony is to make married people saints, and we do not become saints by using one another. Married people become saints by loving one another which they vowed on the day of their marriage. A marriage vow is something which is sacred. Married people did not make a vow to love one another for a few weeks or a few years or for a trial period “to see if we like it.” But this is a vow that is made to love one another unconditionally every single day, every single moment of every single day for the rest of their lives. And love is a virtue. It is giving, it is seeking always the good of the other, and so it is to serve one another.
Married people should not say: “For better or for worse but not for long!”