27th Sun in OT Mark 10 2-16
In the beginning when God created human beings in his own image and likeness, God said “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him”. Therefore the Bible begins with this marriage, and at the end, in Revelation, it ends with a marriage, the wedding supper of the Lamb. As we partake of the one bread and one cup, we actually have a foretaste of that wedding feast.
Sometimes, people ask me, ‘father what is the most joyful day in your life’? And my answer always is the day I became a priest. After 12 years of study and formation, making a lifelong Commitment for the sake Jesus and His people in the church! And to this very day I am very happy and proud of being a priest. Few months ago, I was officiating the wedding anniversary of a couple who had been celebrating 70 years together. At the end of the service I asked John the same question. Holding the hand of his lovely wife Mary, he said the day I married to this beautiful lady. John and Mary, they are very unusual couple. They have five children, 17 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren. All of them are faithfully practicing their catholic faith. I have never seen such an incredible catholic family here. I asked them, what is the secret? They said, all these years we have two priorities in life: God is the no: 1 priority and family is the No.2 priority. Therefore our family is a happy family. Priesthood, marriage, these are different vocations of life and we call them sacraments of the church. Take a moment and think about, what happened on the day of your wedding? You and your spouse come to the House of the Lord, accompanied by your parents, grandparents, family members and friends to make a lifelong commitment to each other in the name of Jesus.
What happened on the day of your wedding? First of all you were receiving a sacrament. The word sacrament comes from the Latin word sacramentum. In the Roman army a person became a soldier by undergoing a sacramentum. The sacramentum had two parts: the soldier comes forward and took an oath of office or made a promise that he will be undergo the military discipline and practice which is a hard and tough commitment for the rest of the life. That commitment resulted in new responsibilities and new benefits. The soldier acquired the responsibility for undergoing military discipline and obeying military commands. He also acquired social and legal benefits, because living conditions in the Roman Army were very good and veterans received special privileges and benefits. A sacrament is: “An outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.” The simple explanation is that God is invisible and his grace is invisible. So the invisible God gives His invisible grace through a visible sign. So the sacrament is a religious sign in which a sacred or spiritual power is transmitted to the Christians. For Christians, therefore a sacrament is a channel of divine grace. There are two fundamental ideas in the Church teaching on the sacraments. First sacraments are instituted by Christ. Second is the effect of the sacraments. They are the signs of Christ’s work; the sins of Christ’s continuing work in his Church.
The question for our meditation is: is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife. At the time of Jesus there were two schools of thoughts regarding marriage and divorce: one school of Jewish thought taught that no man should divorce his wife. And then the second school of thought taught that a man could divorce his wife if he was unhappy. Insignificant reasons were given for divorce in this second school of thought. Jesus said that Moses gave them this commandment from Deut 24:1-4 because of the hardness of a man’s heart that felt compelled to write a bill of divorce. Isn’t that what is behind divorce? A hardness of heart? What makes people divorce? Adultery? Domestic violence? Alcoholism? Indecency? Look at divorce today…50% of all marriages end in divorce! That is absurd! Is it a fact that 50% of all marriages end because of adultery or domestic violence…NO! Hardened heart? YES.
Two dimensions of marriage that are at the heart of the Jesus’ teachings are: Unity or the two shall be one, and the Permanence. Unity: “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Mk 10:7-8). Marriage is between a man and a woman, and when we say ‘a woman’ we mean one woman! Permanence: “What God has united, human beings must not divide” (Mk 10:9). Why are unity and permanence so important in human marriage? Human beings have to just look at their heart. Is it possible to just forget and move on with one’s life after two people have entered into an intimate relationship where everything was shared, at the physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual levels? Now let us look at the second part of the gospel reading of today. It is interesting to note that the themes of marriage and children appear together in today’s gospel. Why is a healthy family that is ensured by a permanent marriage needed, for the wellbeing of children? Let us look at some interesting facts. A calf of a cow is able to stand on its feet merely thirty minutes after its birth. Watch it the next day: it is all over the place, running nonstop. A duckling is able to swim the very day it is hatched. Even a calf of an elephant, large as it is, can stand on its feet within minutes of its birth, and eventually move with the herd. Now look at a human baby: totally helpless at birth. We take an average of eight to twelve months to crawl, to stand on our feet, and eventually to walk and run. Why is the human baby so vulnerable? It is because of two related facts: the human brain is so complex, and because of its complexity, only about 40% its structure could be complete by the time of birth. On the other hand, a calf’s brain could be about 80% complete by the time of its birth. Given that our brain is not fully developed we are feeble and helpless at the time of our birth. We learn to be human in the company of other human beings. Hence an infant needs to be welcomed among a caring group of people. And the best place is within the family where he/she is loved and cared for especially through the early years. No wonder then, unity and permanence in marriage, ensures a stable family, tied to the wellbeing of the couple, the children, and humanity in general.
In the beginning God said “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him,” Today many people are alone! We are lonely at home.
Per statista.com says we are spending over 200 minutes per day using our smartphones for something other than a conversation. If the focus of the research is on teenagers, some report their usage tops 500 minutes per day. Two reasons for divorce today- too distracted with unimportant things of life and God is the last priority in life for many people. The first man and woman (Adam and Eve) failed, because they pushed God to the side with their selfishness. The second Man and Woman (Jesus and Mary) became completely successful, because they placed God at the center of their lives.
As Bishop Fulton J Sheen used to say, “It takes three to get married: a man and a woman and God. This month is especially dedicated to Rosary. The Rosary devotion at homes keeps the families united. This is one of the noble traditions of the Church. Those who pray the Rosary shall be kept united like the Rosary beads. Let’s offer our families to Our Mother Mary of the Rosary that she may intercede for us before the Almighty so that our family relations might be strengthened, Amen!