Gen 2:18-24; Heb 2:9-11; Mk 10:2-16 (10:2-12)
There was once a story about teacher in English who asked her sophomore class what’s the word denoting a marriage with many wives. A student answered, “Ma’am, polygamy.” “Correct,” she said. “How about a marriage with two spouses,” another student replied, “Ma’am, it is bigamy.” “Correct,” the teacher said, “And how about a marriage with only one wife?”
A student raised his hand and blurted out, “Ma’am, monotony!” Actually what the student meant was “monogamy,” of course. However, unwittingly his answer touched on a problem in marriage, that is, monotony.
Today’s gospel of this Twenty Seventh Sunday, the Pharisees point out that that the Mosaic law allows an Israelite man to divorce his wife. There was verse in the Book of Deuteronomy that when a man finds in his wife ‘something indecent,’ he writes out a bill of divorce, hands it to her and dismisses her from his house (24:1). It is like throwing garbage into the garbage can. How about if the wife finds something indecent in her husband, can she also write a bill of divorce and hand it to her husband? It is not stated.
However, Jesus does not deny this Mosaic law which recognizes divorce. But instead of giving His interpretation of what ‘something indecent,’ He points out that it is their “hardness of hearts,” which forced Moses to write the commandment about divorce. “hardness of hearts” is an Old Testament term which indicates hardened conscience, a tendency to sin and willful disobedience to God.
When I heard this phrase, ‘hardness of heart,’ I remember some facts about what is happening now with married couples even here in the Philippines: marital infidelities, incestuous acts and parents abandoning children. There are fathers who are frequently absent, apparent neglect of family, engaging in vices and quarreling with their wives. A quite large number of young people, according to a survey made in the past, are open to pre-marital sex (40%) because of lack of guidance, understanding and affection from their parents.
According to a CBCP Pastoral Statement on the 20th Anniversary of Familiaris Consortio, it says that many couples are living together without the benefit of marriage. Pre-marital pregnancy and elopement are common. Economic factors threaten the unity of marriage like our Overseas Filipino Workers situation. Break up of families. The existence of eroticism in our society in the form of various levels of pornography is weakening the marriage band. Drug trafficking and the use of illegal drugs, contribute to the destruction of peace and unity in the family and many more. Disunity, violence, injustice, eroticism, pre-marital sex and many other societal problems are but a reflection of what is happening in the family today and particularly with couples. All the societal problems I mentioned are but products of the hardness of our hearts.
But our Lord takes a strong stand and teaches that marriage should be monogamous, permanent and indissoluble. He says this by quoting the Book of Genesis: “But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason, a man must 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,” (Mk 10:6-9).
Jesus’ teaching about the indissolubility and permanence of marriage seems out of place in our society today. Our society, especially in Europe and the United States of America, accepts divorce as a normal way of life. There are only two countries, I think, do not have divorce law, the Philippines and Ireland, considered as catholic countries. That is why some of those in the upper bracket of the society, some of our actors and actresses, get married in those places because if they feel that they are incompatible, they can easily and immediately file divorce.
But all of us that marriage is an eternal covenant between husband and wife made before God Himself. The couple makes this together with a promise that they freely give themselves, one hundred percent and not just fifty-fifty, to each other. This covenant is different from an ordinary contract that covers property and others. like for example if we want to rent an apartment, we sign in the contract stating if how months or years, let’s say five years, we are going to rent this apartment. Marriage is different. It is because this is not for how many years but a contract with a permanent union.
And so, how to make marriage work? There are many ways on how to make marriage work and last forever. I like the suggestions of Fr. Joseph Galdon, SJ. He suggested four things or ways: First is good communication. Communication, both verbal and non-verbal, is the most important element in marriage. It is because, as Fr. Larry Tan SDB had said, successful people owe a lot of their success to good communication. In the same manner people with problems are generally persons who lack communication skills. It is said that we spend 70% of our waking hours in communication like speaking or listening, reading or writing. And 30% of this time is devoted to talking. And so therefore this element of our time becomes very important, for talks bring people together in a relationship.
Communication means ‘union with’ or to be united with one another. Husband and wife have to talk about things they are interested in. they also have to talk honestly about what is bothering them and not bottle it up and wait ‘til the bottle bursts. It is also important to talk about hopes and dreams. We all have dreams but if we truly love our husband or wife we ought to share our dreams with them too.
Second is genuine understanding. It is also very important to make sure that we understand our spouses. We have to understand each other’s thoughts, moods and emotions. We all have different thoughts, moods and emotions. One of the jobs in marriage is to know, support and understand the intellectual and emotional make up which God has given your partner. The goal is not to make your partner conform to your thoughts, emotions and moods but to help each other handle those individual feelings in healthy and positive ways. We also have to share the important values in life, the virtues and moral principles.
Third is to handle marriage problems well. Good husbands and wives handle their problems very well together. Since we love each other, it is very important to accept each other’s faults as well as weaknesses as we wait for them to change. It is because the wife did not only marry the handsomeness of her husband but also his body odor and everything. Nagging your partner doesn’t bring change. It only brings tension. A good marriage does not get just 50% from you and 50% from your spouse. It needs 100% from each of you! Remember what Joseph Sugarman said: “Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity.”
Fourth is with God’s help, handle your marriage with care. God clearly puts his joyful approval on the marriage at the wedding ceremony in front of the altar. With God’s help husband and wife always find it easier to love, to accept, to enjoy, to forgive and to trust.
At the end let us reflect these words: “A marriage maybe made in heaven but the maintenance must be done on earth.”
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B