One-page Summary of OT XXVII (Oct 7) Homily on Mk 10:2-16 L/18
Introduction: Today’s Scripture readings are about the bond of love that marriage creates between a man and a woman, a bond that God intends to be permanent. These readings challenge the spouses to practice the fidelity of their ever-faithful God, honoring their holy covenant commitment before Him.
Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from Genesis explains God’s original plan concerning sex and marriage. It teaches us that God made man and woman for each other. Hence, in marriage they are no longer two but one, united by an unbreakable bond. The reading also describes the institution of marriage and shows that monogamy was God’s intention from the very beginning. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 128) expands the marital theme of the first reading and the Gospel to include the children born of the union. Since the children enrich the lives of their parents, the Psalmist prays: “May you see your children’s children.” The second reading, taken from the Letter to the Hebrews, reminds us that Jesus became one of us, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. As one of us, Jesus “tasted death for everyone.” He was not only the Sacrifice, but also the High Priest. We are now his brothers and sisters, bonded with him, and through him bonded with God. Thus, Christ became the brother and Savior of all people – the good and the bad, the divorced, gays, lesbians — everyone. Jesus’ prohibition of divorce can be a source of suffering for those who face difficult married lives. Paul suggests that we have to accept pain as Jesus did, as the suffering we should endure on the way to glory. Today’s Gospel gives Christ’s explicit teaching on marriage and divorce, the Divine origin of marriage, the sacredness of family life and the indissolubility of marriage. These are difficult messages to preach in a society that embraces co-habitation and ignores both the escalating divorce statistics and the dangerous consequences of divorce. The Gospel teaches that family life is sacred, that husband and wife are partners with equal rights and that the destruction of the family by divorce will result in the destruction of society.
Life messages: 1) The spouses need to work hard to create a good marriage: Marriage demands that they should become the right persons for each another. Marriage is a union based on committed sharing, and forgiving, sacrificial agape-love. It requires many mutual adjustments; much generosity and great good will to forgive and ask for forgiveness; sincere cooperation in training children and raising them as practising Catholic Christians; and daily strength from God obtained through personal and family prayers and punctual participation in the parish liturgy.
2) We need to reach out with Christian sympathy to the divorced and to troubled families. The parish community needs to accept them with respect, compassion, sensitivity, love and support, sharing the depth of their pain from a failed, or failing, marriage. The Church cannot sanction remarriage unless the previous marriage has been declared annulled by the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal. In the meantime, “…they should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to bring up their children in the Christian Faith” (CCC #1651).
OT XXVII [B] (Oct 7) Gn 2:18-24; Heb 2:9-11; Mk 10:2-16 [2-12]
Homily starter anecdote: # 1: The grim picture presented by divorce statistics. We are told that during the last three years the divorce rate in the U.S has gone above 43%, although it is still less than that in Russia (65%), Sweden (63%), U.K (49%) and Australia (49%). In 1998 there were 19.4 million divorced adults in the U.S.A. Each year 2.5 million more couples get divorced. A greater number of divorces occur within the Christian Churches than in marriages made outside the Church. An ABC broadcast reports that the divorce rate in the “Bible Belt” is 50% higher than in other areas of the country. This affects the lives of one million new children every year, 84% of whom live in single parent homes. Statistics for the U.S. predict the possibility of 40% to 50% of marriages ending in divorce if current trends continue. People between the ages of 25 and 39 account for 60% of all divorces. More people are in their 2nd marriage than 1st (www. dicorcenter.com). With divorce being so common today, nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. Hence the importance of today’s readings about the indissolubility of marriage which is a freely agreed holy covenant commitment before God.
#2: Guinness world record for the longest marriage: A British couple holds the Guinness world record for the longest marriage. Percy and Florence Arrowsmith married on June 1, 1925 and celebrated their 80th anniversary on June 1, 2005. “I think we’re very blessed,” Florence, 100, told the BBC. “We still love one another, that’s the most important part.” Asked for the secret of their long marriage, Florence said you must never be afraid to say “sorry.” “You must never go to sleep bad friends,” she said. Of course, she’s right. There are times in every marriage for forgiving and forgetting and saying, “I’m sorry” and going to sleep good friends. That’s positive sentiment override. By the way, Florence’s husband Percy, 105, said his secret to marital bliss was just two words: “Yes, dear.” (Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited) Are you able to overlook one another’s faults and forgive one another’s mistakes?
# 3: Divorce a curse on children: Today divorce is at an all-time high, and there are more lives shattered by it than can ever be documented or calculated. There is hardly a child or a family in the advanced countries that hasn’t been touched by the pain of divorce in one way or another. Judith S. Wallerstein, Sandra Blakeslee, & Julia M. Lewis state in their book: The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: a 25 Year Landmark Study: “… children of divorce have a very hard time growing up. They never recover from their parents’ breakups and have difficulty forming their own adult relationships.” In How Now Shall We Live? Chuck Colson (A Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973 and later, after his release from prison, a noted Evangelical Christian leader and cultural commentator), notes some disturbing realities that plague children who grow up without a father: a) Children of single-parent families are five times more likely to be poor because half the single mothers in the United States live below the poverty line. b) Children of divorced parents suffer intense grief and other metal problems requiring psychological help. c) Children from disrupted families have more academic and behavioral problems at school and are nearly twice as likely to drop out of high school. d) Girls in single-parent homes are at a much greater risk for being sexually precocious, and are more likely to have a child out of wedlock. e) Crime and substance abuse are strongly linked to fatherless households. f) Statistics show that 60 percent of rapists grew up in fatherless homes, as did 72 percent of adolescent murderers, and 70 percent of all long-term prison inmates. In fact, most of the social problems disrupting American life today can be traced to divorce. Today’s Gospel contains Jesus’ clear teaching on marriage and divorce.
Introduction: Today’s Scripture readings are about the bond of love that marriage creates between a man and a woman, a bond that God intends to be permanent. They challenge the spouses to practice the fidelity of their ever-faithful God. The first reading, taken from Genesis, explains God’s original plan concerning sex and marriage. It teaches us that God made man and woman for each other. Hence, in marriage they are no longer two but one, united by an unbreakable bond. The reading also describes the institution of marriage and shows that monogamy was God’s intention from the very beginning. The Responsorial Psalm expands the marital theme of the first reading and the Gospel to include the children born of the union. Since the children enrich the lives of their parents, the Psalmist prays: “May you see your children’s children.” The second reading, taken from Hebrews, reminds us that Jesus became one of us, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. As one of us, he “tasted death for everyone.” Jesus was not only the Sacrifice, but also the High Priest. We are now his brothers and sisters, bonded with him and through him bonded with God. Thus, Christ became the brother and Savior of all people – the good and the bad, the divorced, gays, lesbians — everyone. Jesus’ prohibition of divorce can be a source of suffering for those who face difficult married lives. Paul suggests that we have to accept that pain as Jesus did, as the suffering we should endure on the way to glory. Today’s Gospel gives Christ’s explicit teaching on marriage and divorce, the Divine origin of marriage, the sacredness of family life and the indissolubility of marriage. These are difficult messages to preach in a society that embraces co-habitation and ignores both the escalating divorce statistics and divorce’s dangerous consequences. The Gospel teaches that family life is sacred, that husband and wife are partners with equal rights and that the destruction of the family by divorce will result in the destruction of society.
The first reading: Genesis 2:18-24, explained: The creation story in chapter two of Genesis shows that the ancient Israelites knew the importance of man and woman being joined one to another. The woman is made of the rib of man, and, hence, she is “bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh.” Figuratively, “bone” stands for strength and “flesh” stands for weakness. Woman’s origin makes her one with man. They are bonded in God’s deliberate creation of them. The clearest expression of this bonding is found in the marriage of a man and woman and their co-creation, with God, of a child, making of the three new family unit. Woman is found to be a “suitable partner” for man. That is why, God says, “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife” with the result that, “the two of them become one flesh.” The Genesis text attributes two essential qualities to marriage: unity (the two shall become one) and complementarity or mutual interdependence. The theme of marital bonding, which is essential for human fulfillment and happiness in marriage and families, appears in both the first reading and today’s Gospel and explains Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce. Divorce reveals an absence of marital bonding.
The second reading (Hebrews 2:9-11, explained): The Letter to the Hebrews is a sermon which explains the meaning of the early Christian confession that Christ died for us and our sins. It presents Christ as the great High Priest who has willingly offered himself on our behalf. He is both the perfect Sacrifice and the Priest who offers it. Today’s passage from Hebrews says that, by the grace of God, Jesus tasted death for us all, that he was our leader on the way to salvation and that we are now his brothers and sisters. Christ was thus “perfect” for fulfilling the task of bringing us into a new relationship with God in which we may now approach God with confidence and even boldness. Christ became the brother and Savior of all people – the good and the bad, the divorced, gays, lesbians – everyone. Jesus’ prohibition of divorce can be a source of suffering for those who experience difficult married lives. But Paul suggests that we have to accept pain the way Jesus did, as the suffering we should endure on the way to glory.
The context: King Herod had married his brother’s wife, Herodias, violating the Mosaic Law. John the Baptist showed courage in condemning the king in public and lost his head for it. In today’s Gospel the Pharisees were setting a trap for Jesus, asking whether he agreed with his cousin John on the non-legitimacy of divorce. They were trying to trick him, to see if he would criticize the Mosaic tradition and alienate the people. But Jesus used the occasion to declare unequivocally that the bond of marriage comes from God, not man, and that it is permanent and indissoluble: “What God has joined, man must not separate”.
High ideal and low practice: “The ancient Jewish term for marriage was kiddushin, a term that meant sanctification or consecration. Ordinarily, kiddushin signified the husband’s absolute consecration to his wife and of the wife to her husband. Each became an offering totally given to the other.” (William Barclay). Thus, the Jews had a high ideal of marriage and their rabbis taught: “the very altar sheds tears when a man divorces the wife of his youth.” But their practice was far from that ideal, and divorce was common and easy. The wife was considered to be a husband’s property with no legal rights whatsoever. So, Moses commanded the men at least to give the woman they were abandoning a certificate of divorce which stated: “She is not my wife and I am not her husband.” He would give this paper to his wife and tell her to leave. They were then legally divorced. That way she would at least be free to remarry. Without that certificate, technically she was still the property of her former husband. So Moses was trying in a small way to give women some protection. There were two interpretations prevalent in Jewish theological schools concerning the Mosaic Law on divorce by which Moses allowed divorce when the husband found “some indecency” in his wife. “When a man, after marrying a woman and having relations with her, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house” (Deuteronomy 24:1). The Shammai School interpreted “indecency” as adultery, or some grounds of sexual impropriety, while the Hillel School interpreted it as anything which the husband did not like in his wife’s word, behavior, actions, or even her appearance. There are grounds for divorce if the wife burned his breakfast, put too much salt on his food, showed disrespect to him, spoke disrespectfully of her husband’s parents in his presence, spoke to a man on the street, or even let her hair down in public — or simply if he found a woman who was more attractive to him! Perhaps the most significant difference between their customs and ours lay in the status of the different genders. A man could divorce a woman on a whim, but a woman could not divorce a man for any cause.
Jesus’ stand: Jesus’ prohibition of divorce here stands out dramatically for its sternness, which admits of no exceptions. It is interesting to note that Matthew’s parallel version (in Mt 19) adds the exception “except for unchastity/adultery” (v.9); Luke (in 16:18) does not include this exception. Jesus did not claim to introduce a new teaching. He reminded the Jews that his doctrine went back to the original intention of God. Citing the book of Genesis, Jesus proved that God made us male and female and commanded that “the two shall become one flesh.” He then drew the conclusion that “they are no longer two, but one body” – partners with equal rights. The marriage relationship is God’s gift to us. It is God’s way of providing a lover, a helpmate, someone who will always be there for us. Hence, He declared that no man was allowed to separate what God had joined together (Mt 19:6). In contrast with the prevailing culture, Jesus presents man and woman as having equal rights and their marriage as essentially a permanent relationship. (“In creating men ‘male and female,’ God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity” CCC #2334). These words might have reminded the Pharisees of Yahweh’s warning given through his last prophet: “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16). Jesus also explains that Moses’ permission for divorce was only a temporary concession to control the growing rate of divorce even in his time, by introducing a law governing divorce. Jesus adds that it was because of the hard-heartedness of the Jewish men that Moses allowed such a concession. (The Greek expression used, σκληροκαρδία, sklērokardia, frequently means “stubbornness; obstinacy; refusal to be taught; insensitivity; persistent refusal to change one’s behavior.” Dr. Watson). By negating an interpretation of Dt. 24:1-6 that allowed easy divorce, Jesus says, in effect, that where such a possibility of injustice and inequality exists in marriage, there can be no true marriage according to the intent of Genesis. According to the Mosaic sanction, men were allowed to divorce their wives, but wives were not able to divorce their husbands. By denying the man’s right to divorce, Jesus places the husband and wife on an equal footing in marriage and teaches that no Mosaic regulation dealing with a temporary situation can alter the permanency and unity of marriage, which God intended.
The Catholic teaching: Today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel, taken with Mt 5:31-32; Mt 19:3-9; Lk 16:18; and 1 Cor 7:10-11, is the main source from which the Catholic Church derives Jesus’ teaching on the Sacramental nature of marriage and its indissolubility. Christian marriage involves both a sacred and legal contract between a man and woman and at the same time is rooted in a special Covenant with the Lord. That is why Jesus states that a valid marriage is permanent. Hence, the Church has always firmly taught that a Sacramental marriage between Christians in which there has been true matrimonial consent and consummation, is absolutely indissoluble, except by the death of one of the spouses. The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the Church’s teaching: “Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death…… Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society” (CCC #2384, 2385).
Stability in marriage: Of course, it is not always easy for the two partners in a marriage to get along with each other because marriage though one of the most fulfilling of all relationships is also one of the most demanding. The husband and wife bring to the marriage their strengths and weaknesses, loves and hates, hurts and wounds, hopes and fears. Hence, the first requisite for a lasting marriage is that the spouses learn to accept each other as they are: two imperfect and vulnerable human beings. They are God’s gift to each other: “I will make a suitable partner for him.” They must learn that healing the wounds of family life is as necessary as healing the wounds in the body. In Familiaris Consortio (n. 17), Pope St. John Paul II encourages families with the following plea: “Family, become what you are!” This echoes the Second Vatican Council, which calls the family, “the intimate community of life and love in which the partners are nourished spiritually and physically, accept one another as they are, and adjust to each other, deriving strength through prayer, the Word of God, the Sacrament, plus guidance and counseling…” When the marriage relationship breaks down and reconciliation is not possible, the Church recognizes the right of the couple to separate and live apart permanently. If divorced Catholics then enter into a civil marriage, they are allowed to receive Eucharistic Communion only if they refrain from sexual relations.
Life messages: 1) The spouses need to work hard to create a good marriage: Marriage demands that they should become the right person for each another. It means a union based on committed, sharing and forgiving, sacrificial agape-love. It requires a lot of mutual adjustments; generosity and good will to forgive and ask for forgiveness; sincere cooperation in training children and raising them as practising Catholic Christians; and daily strength from God, obtained through personal and family prayers and punctual participation in the parish liturgy.
2) We need to reach out with Christian sympathy to the divorced and troubled families. There must be compassion, and a challenge to sin no more. Those who are divorced must be taught that God has not abandoned them. The parish community needs to accept them with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. It is the duty of the Christian community to love and support them. We must reach out to those who have been hurt by bad marriages. We may not realize the depth of their pain, but we must be aware of our own frailty. Those who are divorced and remarried must not be excluded from our community. While the Church cannot sanction remarriage unless the previous marriage has been declared annulled by the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal, we must make it clear that the Church is not issuing a condemnation. “They should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts for justice, to bring up their children in the Christian Faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace” (CCC #1651). The National Catechetical Directory for Catholics of the United States says: “Divorced persons and their children should be welcomed by the parish community and made to feel truly a part of parish life. Catechesis of the Church’s teaching on the consequences of remarriage after divorce is not only necessary, but will be supportive for the divorced” (No. 131).
3) We need to be aware of the dangers of cohabitation. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, the rates of depression are three times higher for cohabiting couples than they are for married couples. Cohabiting men and women reported significantly more alcohol problems than married or single men and women. Cohabiting unions have more disagreements, fight more often and report lower levels of happiness than their married counterparts. Male aggression is twice as common among cohabiting couples as it is among married partners. Hence, parents must make sure that children understand that cohabitation is morally evil and not an innocent option for fun.
JOKES OF THE WEEK
#1: “My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God and I didn’t.”
# 2: A 98-year-old man and a 95-year-old woman went to a lawyer to get a divorce. “How long have you been married?” he asked. “75 rough and rocky years,” they said. “Then, why have you waited so long to file for divorce?” They replied, “We had to wait for the kids to die!”
# 3: “The secret of my success in my married life and in my business is the same”, said, Henry Ford on the 50th anniversary of his wedding, “I don’t change models every now and then; instead I stick on to one and try to improve it.”
# 4: A couple was being interviewed on their Golden Wedding Anniversary. “In all that time — did you ever consider divorce?” they were asked. “Oh, no, not divorce,” the wife said. “Murder sometimes, but never divorce.” (Jack Benny, comedian)
# 5: Marriage markers: I never married because there was no need. I have 3 pets at home which answer the same purpose as a husband: I have a dog that growls every morning, a parrot which swears all afternoon and a cat that comes home late at night.
#5: Marriage miscellany: “A marriage may be made in Heaven but the maintenance must be done on earth.” Marriage is a three-ring circus: Engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering. At the cocktail party, one woman said to another, “Aren’t you wearing your wedding ring on the wrong finger?” The other replied, “Yes I am; I married the wrong man.” Adam and Eve had an ideal marriage. He didn’t have to hear about all the men she could have married, and she didn’t have to hear about the way his mother cooked. A man tells his wife of 15 years that it feels like they’ve only been married for 5 minutes, the wife says that’s so sweet, and he says yeah 5 minutes under water.
# 7: Plato, the great Greek thinker of the fourth century BC, reports the legend that human beings were originally twice as big and twice as strong as they are now. However, because their size and strength made them arrogant, the gods cut them down to half their size; only when two-matching halves found one another and completed one another in marriage did they find true happiness.
8)”We’re getting a divorce!”: Morris calls his son in NY and says, “Benny, I have something to tell you. However, I don’t want to discuss it. I’m merely telling you because you’re my oldest child, and I thought you ought to know. I’ve made up my mind, I’m divorcing Mama.” The son is shocked and asks his father to tell him what happened. “I don’t want to get into it. My mind is made up.” “But Dad, you just can’t decide to divorce Mama just like that after 54 years together. What happened?” “It’s too painful to talk about it. I only called because you’re my son, and I thought you should know. I really don’t want to get into it any more than this. You can call your sister and tell her. It will spare me the pain.” “But where’s Mama? Can I talk to her?” “No, I don’t want you to say anything to her about it. I haven’t told her yet. Believe me it hasn’t been easy. I’ve agonized over it for several days, and I’ve finally come to a decision. I have an appointment with the lawyer the day after tomorrow.” “Dad, don’t do anything rash. I’m going to take the first flight down. Promise me that you won’t do anything until I get there.”
“Well, all right, I promise. Next week is Christmas. I’ll hold off seeing the lawyer until after then. Call your sister in MA and break the news to her. I just can’t bear to talk about it anymore.” A half hour later, Morris receives a call from his daughter who tells him that she and her brother were able to get tickets and that they and the children will be arriving in Florida the in two days. “Benny told me that you don’t want to talk about it on the telephone but promise me that you won’t do anything until we both get there.” Morris smiles and tells his wife, “Isn’t that the best way to get your kids together for Christmas!”
USEFUL WEBSITE OF THE WEEK
# 1: Roman Catholic Divorce Issues: http://www.divorceinfo.com/catholic.htm
# 2: Annulment Guide: http://www.idotaketwo.com/christian_remarriage.html
# 3: Divorce and Remarriage: http://www.religioustolerance.org/div_rc.htm
# 4: The Catholic Church on Marriage, Divorce, and Annulments: http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/62/Catholic_Church_on_Marriage__Divorce__and_Annulment.html
# 5: Annulment FAQS (USCCB): http://www.foryourmarriage.org/catholic-marriage/church-teachings/annulments/
26- Additional anecdotes:
1) 12 Rules for a happy marriage: Recently I came across the following 12 rules for a happy marriage that had been given by the well-known Ann Landers in her weekly article. Although to my knowledge, Mrs. Landers has never obeyed the Gospel of Christ, I believe she set forth twelve practical suggestions that will promote a happier home environment. These twelve rules are actually Biblical; I have included Scripture references for each rule:
- Never both be angry at once (Proverbs 19:11)
- Never yell at each other unless the house is on fire (Proverbs 21:23)
- Yield to the wishes of the other as an exercise in self-discipline, if you can’t think of a better reason (Col. 3:18-19; Ephesians 5:21)
- If you have a choice between making yourself or your spouse look good–choose your spouse (Philippians 2:3-4; Matthew 19:19)
- If you feel you must criticize, do so lovingly (Ephesians 4:15)
- Never bring up a mistake of the past (Philippians 3:13-14)
- Neglect the whole world rather than each other (Ephesians 5:25-31)
- Never let the day end without saying at least one complimentary thing to your life partner (Proverbs 31:26)
- Never meet without an affectionate greeting (Proverbs 5:18-19)
- When you make a mistake, talk it out and ask for forgiveness (James 5:16)
- Remember, it takes two to make an argument. The one who is wrong is the one who will be doing most of the talking (James 3:5-8)
- Never go to bed mad (Ecclesiastes 7:9; Colossians 3:8).
2) Immoral alternatives to divorce: The U.S. Census for the year 2000 reveals that 9.7 million Americans live with unmarried partners of the opposite sex while 1.2 million Americans live with same-sex partners. The report also indicates that 41% of American women, ages 15-44, have cohabited with an unmarried man at some point in their lives. Biblical Counseling for Today asks the following questions. a) Do you know that 90 percent of cohabitating couples plan to get married someday, but 40 percent break up before they do? b) Do you know that those who live together before they get married are nearly twice as likely to get a divorce afterward, compared to couples who remain chaste? In fact, the longer a couple lives together before marriage, the more likely they are to get divorced afterward!”… c) Do you know that 84 percent of all documented child abuse occurs in single–parent homes, with half of those instances occurring at the hands of the male partner? d) Do you know that an unmarried pregnant woman is 4 times more likely to be beaten by her partner than a married woman?’
3) Divorce and cohabitation: The U.S. Census Bureau report for the decade of the 90’s was released May 15 2001. Here are its disturbing findings concerning the family. The average life span of a marriage has dropped alarmingly. Any marriage without an expiration date of 10 years is, well, a miracle. Households headed by unmarried partners grew by almost 72 percent from 1990 to 2000. Most of these arrangements were men and women living together out of wedlock. Other studies have shown that cohabitation increased by close to 1,000 percent from 1960 to 1998. Households headed by single mothers increased by more than 25 percent, and those led by single fathers grew, get this, by almost 62 percent. And this next finding is astounding: For the first time ever, nuclear families dropped below 25 percent of households. That means the nuclear family, a mom and a dad and children, represents less than a quarter of all homes. Another finding partially explains why this is happening: A third of all babies are born to unmarried women (33 percent) compared to only 4 percent in 1940. You will remember some years back the actress Jodie Foster was in the news because she chose to bear and raise a child alone. There are a growing number of women in their late 20’s and 30’s who are doing the same
4) In search of a perfect woman to marry: One afternoon, according to an old Sufi tale, a man named Nasiruddin was sitting in a cafe, drinking tea with a friend and talking about life and love. “How come you never got married, Nasruddin?” asked his friend at one point. “Well,” said Nasruddin, “to tell you the truth, I spent my youth looking for the perfect woman. In Cairo, I met a beautiful and intelligent woman, with eyes like dark olives, but she was unkind. Then in Baghdad, I met a woman who was a wonderful and generous soul, but we had no interests in common. One woman after another would seem just right, but there would always be something missing. Then one day, I met her. She was beautiful, intelligent, generous and kind. We had everything in common. In fact, she was perfect.” “Well,” said Nasruddin’s friend, “what happened? Why didn’t you marry her?” Nasruddin sipped his tea reflectively. “Well,” he replied. ”It’s a sad thing; seems she was looking for the perfect man.” In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us that an imperfect man has no right to divorce his equally imperfect wife whom God has given him as His perfect gift.
5) “Chemistry and Math of marriage”: Neil Warren, who has studied what he calls the “love secrets” of 100 couples with model marriages, says that his most significant finding is also the most surprising. Here’s the most shocking thing you may read in this entire book. Chemistry between two people is responsive to mental and emotional processes over which we have tremendous control. That’s right, you can make chemistry happen. If you don’t feel the flutter in your heart for your spouse that you once did, if the magic is gone from your relationship, don’t panic. You can change that! [Neil Clark Warren, The Triumphant Marriage (Dallas: Word Books, 1995), 72.] The phrase “The chemistry just isn’t there anymore,” should be banished from our vocabulary. Each of us can maximize chemistry to make new chemical reactions happen. The chemistry wrong? Mix up some new chemicals. Stir up some different romance ingredients. Here are some simple rituals of renewal which can keep your marriage romantically potent: Plant a tree together. Give a gift in honor of your marriage. Renew marriage vows. Buy the biggest wedding cake and invite friends over. Exchange gifts of jewelry. But as important as it is to become a good chemist, it is equally important to become a bad mathematician. In marriage, each partner must be willing to put in more than he or she takes out. Each person has to do a little more than what he thinks his share is'” [Prescription for a Quality Relationship (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988).] A lasting marriage is one in which each partner “looks out for number two,” not where each one is “looking out for number one.”
6) Flex the muscles of trust and bend the knees of prayer. Trust may not seem glamorous or sexy, but many married people have found out too late that without trust, there is nothing. Mistrust is a cancer that rots away relationships. Faithfulness in a relationship is measured in more ways than monogamy; trust is the key component of faithfulness, while mistrust always plays a part in unfaithfulness. Bend the knees of prayer. The connection between complete, genuine trust in one another and faithfulness is perhaps what underlies one final finding about lasting marriages that shouldn’t be a surprise, but is. Andrew Greeley says, “It’s one of those statistics that catches your eye and makes you say, ‘No, that can’t be!’ But according to a groundbreaking Gallup survey, happiness in a marriage is better predicted by how often a couple prays together than by how often they make love.” [For more on this see Faithful Attraction (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991), 190.] There’s more. Couples who pray together (compared to couples who don’t), report having greater respect for their mate (83 percent vs. 62 percent), agree on how to raise children (73 percent vs. 59 percent), are more playful (56 percent vs. 45 percent), and believe their mate is a skilled lover (62 percent vs. 49 percent). Individual prayer correlates with marital happiness, too, but joint prayer correlates at a level twice as high. According to a 1990 university study, virtually ignored by social scientists, decades of research have demonstrated that people highly involved in their Faith have the happiest marriages. [See D. Thomas and M. Cornwall, “Religion and Family in the 1980s: Discovery and Development,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52, (1990), 983-992.]
7) “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” A newly-ordained priest was about to perform his first wedding, and he was very nervous. So he asked his pastor for help. The old monsignor told him everything he needed to know and then ended with some advice. “Father,” he said, “if you get lost and can’t think of what to say, quote Scripture. It’s always safe, and you’ll never go wrong.”
With that the young priest went off to the Church and did a fine job of conducting the wedding … until the very end, that is, when he was to pray the solemn blessing over the bride and groom. At that crucial moment, with hand outstretched and every eye upon him, he froze. He couldn’t find his place in the prayer book. His mind was a blank. He had no idea of what to say. Then he remembered the monsignor’s advice: if you get lost, quote scripture. So he ended the wedding by quoting most solemnly the only verse he could remember, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Fr. Dennis Clarke)
8) “I want to be married, but I didn’t know how to draw it.” A fifth grade teacher asked the children in her art class to draw pictures of what they want to be when they grow up. Sally drew an astronaut, Sue a doctor, Bruce a missionary. But Karen turned in a blank sheet of paper. “Isn’t there something you want to be?” the teacher inquired. The child replied, “I want to be married, but I didn’t know how to draw it.” Sad, but isn’t that true of our society today? Over 95 percent of us will marry at some point in our life. Yet nearly forty percent of us will divorce. In 1890 there were nearly 10,000 divorces nationwide. Last year there were over 1,200,000! In Charlotte, North Carolina, last year there were more divorces than there were marriages. Ditto for Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. It is as if we’ve lost the blueprint for building a lasting and satisfying home. Where can we go to find the blueprint? Can your U.S. Senator supply it? Is it in the pages of Better Homes and Gardens magazine? Is it animated on the silver screen from Hollywood? Do you inquire of Ann Landers? That is why we have the Gospel on marriage and divorce today. Jesus’ words repeat the oldest Biblical teaching on matrimony: `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ (Genesis 2:24).
9) “We’ve had a fight. Papa, I want to come home.” A young couple had a quarrel and the bride of three months called her parents long distance saying, “Mama, I hate him. We’ve had a fight. Papa, I want to come home.” The father very discreetly said, “I’m sorry, daughter, you have no home here. For better or worse you’ve left for a new home. Work it out the best you can!” and he hung up the phone. Now I know that was a difficult thing for a parent to do, but it was the right thing. The best advice to a parent is to hold your children very close, love them, and train them up in God’s Word. Then let them go! Let them leave! Don’t interfere. Don’t give them advice unless you are asked. And don’t live near them if you can help it. Across town is best!
[Original form of Joke of the week #8] “I’ve made up my mind, I’m divorcing Mama.” There is a story about a Jewish couple from New York that moved to Florida. Because of that move their children never visited them. Morris calls his son in NY and says, “Benny, I have something to tell you. However, I don’t want to discuss it. I’m merely telling you because you’re my oldest child, and I thought you ought to know. I’ve made up my mind, I’m divorcing Mama.” The son is shocked, and asks his father to tell him what happened. “I don’t want to get into it. My mind is made up.” “But Dad, you just can’t decide to divorce Mama just like that after 54 years together. What happened?” “It’s too painful to talk about it. I only called because you’re my son, and I thought you should know. I really don’t want to get into it anymore than this. You can call your sister and tell her. It will spare me the pain.” “But where’s Mama? Can I talk to her?” “No, I don’t want you to say anything to her about it. I haven’t told her yet. Believe me it hasn’t been easy. I’ve agonized over it for several days, and I’ve finally come to a decision. I have an appointment with the lawyer the day after tomorrow.” “Dad, don’t do anything rash. I’m going to take the first flight down. Promise me that you won’t do anything until I get there.” “Well, all right, I promise. Next week is Rosh Hashanah. I’ll hold off seeing the lawyer until after then. Call your sister in MA and break the news to her. I just can’t bear to talk about it anymore.” A half hour later, Morris receives a call from his daughter who tells him that she and her brother were able to get tickets and that they and the children will be arriving in Florida in two days. “Benny told me that you don’t want to talk about it on the telephone, but promise me that you won’t do anything until we both get there.” Morris promises. After hanging up from his daughter, Morris turns to his wife and says, “Well, it worked this time, but we are going to have to come up with a new idea to get them here for Passover!”
11) “I love you so much!” Michael Hargrove tells about a scene at an airport that literally changed his life. He was picking up a friend. He noticed a man coming toward him carrying two light bags. The man stopped right next to Hargrove to greet his family. The man motioned to his youngest son (maybe six years old) as he laid down his bags. They hugged and Hargrove heard the father say, “It’s so good to see you, son. I missed you so much!” “Me, too, Dad!” said the son. The oldest son (maybe nine or ten) was next. “You’re already quite the young man. I love you very much, Zach!” Then he turned to their little girl (perhaps one or one-and-a-half). He kissed her and held her close. He handed his daughter to his oldest son and declared, “I’ve saved the best for last!” and proceeded to give his wife a long, passionate kiss. “I love you so much!” He said to his wife softly. Hargrove interrupted this idyllic scene to ask, “Wow! How long have you two been married?” “Been together fourteen years total, married twelve of those,” the man replied, as he gazed into his wife’s face. “Well then, how long have you been away?” The man turned around and said, “Two whole days!” Hargrove was stunned. “I hope my marriage is still that passionate after twelve years!” The man stopped smiling and said, “Don’t hope, friend . . . decide!” (Michael D. Hargrove, Chapnotes, ChapnotesMail@aol.com?Subject=Subscribe.) And that’s it, isn’t it? For most of us it comes down to a decision. “Till death do us part.” It doesn’t happen in every relationship, but that is still the ideal that Jesus gives us. “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Amen.
12) “The wedding was nice. How about inviting me to the marriage? God.” A satisfying marriage requires the presence of God. In the fall of 1998, an anonymous donor in Florida had an idea. He decided to hire an ad agency, the Smith Agency, to design a campaign to get the people of his community talking about God. The Smith Agency designed eighteen billboards with what were supposedly sayings from God. Signs like, “Come on over and bring the kids . . . – God,” and “Let’s meet at my house Sunday before the game . . . – God,” and “We need to talk . . . – God,” and “What part of ‘Thou Shalt Not’ didn’t you understand? – God” and “Keep using my name in vain, I’ll make rush hour longer . . . – God.” The signs were an instant hit with much of the public. In fact, in the spring of 1999, the Outdoor Advertising Agency of America decided to use the spiritual billboards for its public service campaign that year. Soon, the sayings from God were appearing on ten thousand billboards around the country free of charge. One memorable billboard said this, “The wedding was nice. How about inviting me to the marriage? . . . – God.” [Tommy Nelson, The 12 Essentials of Godly Success (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), p.170.]
13) “I love you.” Dr. James Dobson and his wife, Shirley, tell about a husband named Jim who was tragically killed in an accident while driving home from work. It was his wife Carol’s fiftieth birthday. Rescue teams found two plane tickets to Hawaii in Jim’s pocket; he had planned to surprise Carol with them. Months later, Carol was asked how she was coping. She answered that on their wedding day, she and Jim had promised to say, “I love you” before noon each day of their marriage. Over the years it had become a fun–and often difficult–challenge. She recalled running down the driveway saying, “I love you,” even though she was angry at Jim. On other occasions she drove to his office to drop a note in his car before the noon deadline. The effort it took to keep that promise led to many positive memories of their years together. The morning Jim died, he left a birthday card in the kitchen, then slipped out to the car. Carol heard the engine starting and raced outside. She banged on the car window until he rolled it down, then yelled over the roar of the engine, “Here on my fiftieth birthday, Mr. James E. Garret, I, Carol Garret, want to go on record as saying I love you!” “That’s how I’ve survived,” Carol said later. “Knowing that the last words I said to Jim were ‘I love you!’” Wouldn’t it be tragic if you had to remember that the last word you spoke to your husband or wife was a word of criticism, a word that belittled him or her? Is your marriage marked by positive comments and words of encouragement? Are you able to overlook one another’s faults and forgive one another’s mistakes? This is getting more and more difficult, isn’t it?
14) They made plans to renew their wedding vows in the National Forest: There was an interesting article in a women’s magazine recently. After sixteen years of marriage, Suzanne and Jim Shemwell of Boise, Idaho, were ready to call it quits. They argued constantly. Divorce seemed like their only option. But then, on March 5, 2003, while on a snowmobile trip in the Boise National Forest, Suzanne and Jim became stranded in a blizzard. For the next five days, they had to rely on one another for their very survival. Trapped in the forest, fighting frostbite, hunger, and various injuries, Jim and Suzanne stopped arguing and began cooperating. Back home, their conversations were filled with insults and discouraging comments. But out in the woods, they focused on encouraging and comforting one another. By the time they were rescued on March 10, 2003, the Shemwells were wondering why they had ever wanted to separate in the first place. They made plans to renew their wedding vows on March 10, 2004, in the Boise National Forest. It would probably help many couples to get lost in a forest for a while so that they could really get to know each other. How well do you know your spouse? Are you sensitive to one another’s needs? That’s question one on our test. Here’s question two: Is your marriage marked by positive comments and words of encouragement? Now here things get a little stickier. How easy it is for marriage partners to aim barbs toward one another!
15) “I don’t know, fills gaps I guess.” Perhaps you saw the original Rocky film before Sylvester Stallone. Do you remember the love relationship Rocky had with Adrian in Rocky? She was the little wallflower who worked in the pet shop, the sister of Pauly, an insensitive goon who worked at the meat house and wanted to become a collector of debts for a loan shark. Pauly couldn’t understand why Rocky was attracted to Adrian. “I don’t see it,” he said. “What’s the attraction?” Do you remember Rocky’s answer? Rocky said, “I don’t know — fills gaps I guess.” “What’s gaps?” asks Pauly. “She’s got gaps,” says Rocky, “I got gaps. Together we fill gaps.” In his simple but profound way, Rocky hit upon a great truth. He was saying that he and Adrian each had empty places in their lives. But when the two of them got together, they filled those blank spots in one another. [Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Moments Together for Couples (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1995).] And that is exactly what God intended. God takes marriage seriously. There are no perfect marriages but there can be great marriages. Those great marriages occur when two people commit themselves to God and to one another
16) Anna Ruby Falls: In the mountains of Georgia there is a waterfall called Anna Ruby Falls. It is a perfect example of what becoming one in marriage is like. Two separate mountain streams lap and gurgle down a mountain and plummet separately, one 150 feet, the other 300 feet, in a dazzling display of watery lace and rainbow colors. At the base of the mountain both falls enter a common pool. Here the two creeks are joined and flow on as a river together. Marriage is like this, too. We become one and flow on. His is hers and hers is his. Neither mate loses his identity. They blend. Talents, strength, faults, Faiths, needs — they are joined in marriage and the two become one.
17) United Methodist Social Principles Centuries ago, Tertullian wrote: “How beautiful, then, is the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, and one in the religion they practice.” The United Methodist Social Principles are an example of how Christ’s words are heard and how we, in our brokenness, live. “When a married couple is estranged beyond reconciliation, even after thoughtful consideration and counsel, divorce is a regrettable alternative in the midst of brokenness.”
18) Polygamy, bigamy monogamy? 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, which can lead to divorce which Jesus condemns in today’s Gospel. (Fr. Benitez).
19) “I remember who she is and I remember who I am.” A few years ago, there was a man whose wife became seriously ill with Alzheimer’s disease. She completely lost all of her memory and her ability to remember who she was or who anyone else was. She was in a nursing home and her husband came by to sit beside her bed and be beside her every day. One of his sons told him that he didn’t need to keep doing that because she didn’t remember who she was and she didn’t remember who he was. The man said: “I know she doesn’t remember anything, but I do. I remember who she is and I remember who I am. I am the husband who said to her 55 years ago, ‘I will love and cherish you for better or worse and in sickness and health.’ And I intend to do just that.” (http://www.parkavemethodist.org/sermon.php?s=16.)
20) Carrying the most valuable treasure: Among the folkloric literature of Eastern Europe, there is a tale which reflects the quality of love which marriage demands: After a long siege, the duke of Bavaria sat trapped in his castle of Weisberg. Outside the city walls, his enemy, emperor Konrad, was demanding his surrender. While the conditions of surrender were being determined, the women of Weisberg sent a message to Konrad, asking for safe passage out of the city. They also requested that they be allowed to take with them as many of their valuables as they could carry. Their request granted, soon the castle gates were opened and out came the women. To Konrad’s amazement, they carried no gold or jewels. Each woman was bending under the weight of her husband whom she hoped to save from the vengeance of their conqueror. Their loving stratagem proved successful and their story continues to bear witness to selfless love which constitutes a true marriage. (Sanchez Archives).
21) Authentic married love: In their book, Spiritual Partners, Cornelia Jessey and Irving Sussmann have chronicled the marriage of some of the world’s most noted couples. Among the relationships cited are those of Catherine and William Blake, Olivia and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Paula and Martin Buber, Maisie Ward and Frank Sheed (Sheed and Ward Publ. Co.), and Raissa and Jacques Maritain. Each marriage was a union of two very different people with very different backgrounds and experiences. Many of the spouses were from vastly different cultures, countries and religious affiliations. Yet each of these remarkable marriages was enduring, monogamous and offered to the world an example of authentic married love as well as a deep spiritual outpouring of creativity and service which influenced religious thought and western culture. (Sanchez Archives).
22) Androgyne legend on marriage: Marriage has been a mystery throughout human history. From the time immemorial philosophers have reflected on this mystery, poets have sung about it, and religious men have glorified it. They realized that marriage is a union of man and woman in physical, mental, religious and social realms. In their attempt to give a convincing explanation for this mystery the wise men of the ancient past gave rise to many legends. According to a Greek legend, “The original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two, as they are now, but originally the man and woman were together. The primeval man was called Androgyne. He was round, his back and sides forming a circle; one head with two faces looking in opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men do now, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace. Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they dared to scale the heavens, and they made an attack on the gods. The gods took council and Zeus discovered a way to humble their pride. So they decided to cut them in to two. After the division, each of the two parts of man (the Androgyne), desired union with its other half. And that desire for the reunion takes place in marriage. So, the desire of one another is implanted within us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two. (Fr. Bobby Jose).
23) The Marriage Commitment: Harold Kushner, an American rabbi tells how a young couple came to see him one evening. Their wedding was coming up and he was to officiate at it. At one point the young man said to him, “Rabbi, would you object if we made one small change in the wedding ceremony? Instead of pronouncing us husband and wife ‘till death do us part,’ could you pronounce us husband and wife ’for as long as love lasts?’ We’ve talked about this and we both feel that, should the day come when we no longer love each other, it wouldn’t be morally right for us to be stuck with each other.” But the rabbi replied, “I do object, and I won’t make the change. You and I know that there is such a thing as divorce, and we know that a lot of marriages these days don’t last until one of the partners dies. But let me tell you something. If you go into marriage with an attitude of, ‘If it doesn’t work out, we can always split, ’then I can almost guarantee you that things won’t work out for you. I appreciate your honesty. But you must understand that a marriage commitment is not just a mutual willingness to live together, but a commitment to accept the frustrations and disappointments that are an inevitable part of two imperfect human beings relating to each other. It’s hard enough to make a go of marriage even when you give it everything you’ve got. But if only a part of you is involved in the relationship, then you have virtually no chance.” (Flor McCarthy in New Sundays and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
24) Strange Arithmetic: Dr. Paul Popenoe, the famous marriage counselor, was talking to a young husband who had been openly critical of his wife. Dr. Popenoe was explaining how two become one in marriage. In a smart reply the husband said, “Yes, but which one?” The counselor said, “A little of each.” Then he went on to explain that in marriage you have to develop “we-psychology”…and to think of yourself in terms of a pair rather than as an individual. What happens when two become one in a real marriage? Some think that it reduces your individuality. Too often one party or the other seems to be saying: “All right – we two shall become one…and I AM the one!” Obviously, such a marriage is headed for trouble. Ideally, when “two become one” it means that each one is doubled, but not duplicated. You still retain your individual identity, but you add to yourself the identity of the other, and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Mark 10:7). A wise person once said: “A marriage consists of one master, one mistress, and two slaves; making, in total, one.” That may be strange arithmetic, but it is good theology. (Donald B. Strobe, Collected Words, www.Sermons.com).
25) From now on, I’m the One! A feature in weddings in more recent times is the lighting of candles. The couple light two before the ceremony, signifying their individual lives, then when they become husband and wife they blow them out and light a single candle to symbolize the two becoming one and the unity of the partnership henceforth. On one occasion when not only the candles but also the readings proclaimed their unity, the couple were walking down the aisle after signing the register, and as they beamed at the admiring guests the bride gave her newly acquired husband a nudge and whispered, “Did you take that all in?” “All what?” he said. “All that about the two being one.” “Yes, I guess so,” he said, and then came the coup de grace. “Well in case you’re in any doubt, from now on, I’m the one!” (James A. Feeban in Story Power; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
26) Old Love: The question is asked, “Is there anything more beautiful in life than a boy and a girl clasping clean hands and pure hearts in the path of marriage? Can there be any thing more beautiful than young love?” And the answer is given. “Yes, there is a more beautiful thing. It is the spectacle of an old man and an old woman finishing their journey together on that path. Their hands are gnarled, but still clasped; their faces are seamed but still radiant; their hearts are physically bowed and tired, but still strong with love and devotion for one another. Yes, there is a more beautiful thing than young love. Old love.” (Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho). L/18
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 52) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit our website: http://frtonyshomilies.com/ by just clicking on it for missed homilies, previous Cycle B homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 196 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily.
Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.