Jesus was generally on His guard when dealing with The Pharisees. They seemed to be always working from a hidden agenda. Mark’s Gospel, chapter 10, verses 2 to 12 is a good illustration. They approach Jesus with a great show of humility, pretending to seek His instruction on the subject of divorce. In reality, they were divided among themselves on the subject and they wanted to see on which side He would come down. But Jesus would not be trapped.
Instead of discussing divorce, He chooses to instruct them on marriage. He begins with Genesis and how it is written there that a man leaves his mother and father and joins himself to his wife and that in this way they become one body... and Jesus adds: “They are no longer two therefore, but one flesh, united by God.” Stop and think what this means. It means that husband and wife are related as irreversibly as a father is to his son or a sister to her to her brother.
A judge can declare that you are no longer responsible for your child’s actions or debts. But he can never declare her to be no longer your daughter! In the same way, a court can declare a husband and wife to be civilly divorced, that is, freed from the civil effects of marriage... But, no court can validly rule that they are no longer husband and wife. At their request, GOD has joined them, and whether He did so through biological or sacramental means makes no difference.
Now then, is all of this part of The Gospel? That is to say, is it “good news?” Is this unbreakable bond of a valid marriage a happy reality? ...Or is it a burden of fearsome potential?
Marriage, as we traditionally know it, is natural to us. Jesus recognized it as THE primary relationship. It is more important than our relationship with our parents or, by extension, our siblings. Surely it is intended to be happy!
Not all are called to marriage. Jesus was not. Some of us are not. But for most people, marriage is the vocation within which they are called to realize their potential and to do so happily. Career, social life, cultural life, political life...all are secondary to that fundamental building block of society, that basic irreversible relationship which is marriage and, consequently, everything must give way to it when harmony is threatened. The foundational importance of marriage demands this radical priority.
Clearly, the marriage bond is intended for the good of men and women, of children and of society as a whole. It responds to a deep-seated need in both sexes for permanence, security, stability and by no means least, complimentarity. Men and women are at their happiest and are most complete in a stable commitment and it is in such an environment that society flourishes and produces its best.
There are many reasons for choosing not to seek a husband or a wife. Some are generous, some selfish, and some a mixture of both. There are other reasons, disturbing and problematic reasons which are, as yet, beyond our understanding and to which we have, thus far, found only the most facile of solutions.
Without mutual respect, generosity, a sense of commitment to the common good and basic good sense in the choice of a partner, marriage will not work. In other words, it takes two informed, dedicated and responsible people to make a marriage. One is not enough! Therefore, two people should know each other very well before they literally put their lives into each other’s hands. Civil divorce, even when, as a last resort, counselled by the Church, is a tragic, traumatizing experience. So called re-marriage after divorce is a misnomer. A valid marriage is for life. The Church has not the power to change that. It is not a question of discipline but of Revelation.
This may seem hard but such is the nature of reality. It brings to mind another flesh and blood relationship, The Eucharist. Remember when Jesus spelled it out in plain words saying that unless we eat the flesh of The Son of Man and drink His blood, we will not have life in us? There were some who said that it was too much and that they could not accept it. Jesus did not compromise... With great sadness, He let them go...