It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Matthew 5: 31-32
Reflection – (I am away at the Nazareth family camp this week, but left the blog on automatic post-pilot.)
It strikes me as perhaps significant that I am posting this while away ministering to married couples at the Nazareth camp in Quebec. I would say ‘isn’t it ironic’, but I don’t want all those people who make fun of Alanis Morissette to turn their pedantic mockery on me.
Oh, how this little passage from the Lord goes against our grain today. How we buckle and strain against this, how we look for a loophole, an out, an escape clause. I remember distinctly my first seminary essay in moral theology where we were asked to discuss ‘is the Sermon on the Mount relevant in the modern world’.
My response, which the professor didn’t appreciate was that the question is not whether or not the Sermon on the Mount is relevant to us, but rather is our life relevant to the Sermon on the Mount! And that remains my position, come hell or high water. That divorce and remarriage are so utterly the norm, so utterly prevalent in our world today means that our lives are increasingly irrelevant to the Sermon on the Mount… and that is a serious problem indeed.
Now of course, the obvious caveats. Situations of serious abuse must not be endured. The call to self-preservation is morally antecedent to the call to stay in conjugal union. And of course, so often we see in our world today that one spouse initiates the divorce and essentially abandons the other against his or her will.
But… the Gospel is the Gospel. Marriage is marriage, and Jesus has forbidden divorce. Not the Church: Jesus. Accept the authority of Christ or don’t, but don’t pretend He hasn’t said what He has said, eh?
It occurs to me in all this business of marriage and divorce and remarriage, which I do realize is so very painful for so very many people, that again we have to put all this in the big picture of our whole relationship with Christ and our call to communion with and in Him. If we see it as just a cold moral law coming to us either from a heaven unmarked by the failure of love and unity or from a Church run by celibate men, then it is indeed a painful and unbearable burden.
But if we see it as deeply connected to our call to communion with God and His utter commitment to communion with us, then it shifts somewhat, don’t you think? Still painful, yes, and the failure of a relationship can be nothing but cruciform for any of us. But in the divine context, the divine milieu, it does shift. The whole mystery of marriage, its success and its failure, becomes a place of sharing God’s life and God’s love, God’s desire for union, and the suffering of the cross God endured due to lack of union.
We have to go there in our thinking and living of this matter of marriage and divorce—it’s more than a little relevant, don’t you think?