Things got a little personal at the end of my Masses this weekend. You see, it was a “deacon preach” weekend, which meant I wasn’t able to preach on the beauty and permanence of Marriage. The deacons I must say, preached beautifully about life (This is respect life Sunday) and about marriage. But as I was listening to the readings and the Gospel I thought that there may be a number of people who felt uncomfortable at hearing these words:
Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
My own parents were divorced around the time I was fifteen years old. I thought of them and I thought of the countless others who have gone through the difficult and painful experience of divorce. Marriage is meant to be forever – but sometimes it just doesn’t work. The Church recognizes that, the church empathizes with those who carry this heavy cross.
After the Post-Communion Prayer I offered a few words to the congregation about this. I spoke to them about the difficulty that so many of our fellow Catholics have hearing these words from the Gospel. Divorce is unfortunately a reality in our world. I told the congregation that I know this reality first hand, as my own parents went through such an experience. But the divorce for my parents wasn’t the end of the story. Through the gentle encouragement of a kind priest my parents went through the annulment process. It was probably the most healing experience that could have happened to my family.
So many people misunderstand the Church’s teaching of divorce, annulments and remarriage. I encouraged those in the congregation to speak to me or another priest about getting an annulment to help move on with their lives. I’ve heard of so many people staying away from the Eucharist because they are divorced and as a result cannot receive communion. NO! Divorce in and of itself is not a sin, is not a reason to stay away from the Eucharist. Being remarried outside of the Church would be a reason one should not receive Holy Communion. The Church recognizes the difficulty that so many people have when it comes to this area of life. She stands ready to assist those who are in pain.
Please pass these words on to those who are struggling with this reality right now. Divorce is an ugly, painful experience. It should always be a last resort. But it is something that is sometimes unavoidable. This reality doesn’t change the Church’s teaching on the beauty and permanence of marriage. It enhances the fact that the Church is mother and is home. No one should ever unnecessarily feel separated from her. The Church helped my family – and in helping my family it became clear just how much the Church is my family too.
Pope Benedict spoke on Marriage during his homily for the openening of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.
The theme of marriage, found in the Gospel and the first reading, deserves special attention. The message of the word of God may be summed up in the expression found in the Book of Genesis and taken up by Jesus himself: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24; Mk 10:7-8). What does this word say to us today? It seems to me that it invites us to be more aware of a reality, already well known but not fully appreciated: that matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianized world. The union of a man and a woman, their becoming “one flesh” in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis. And it is not by chance. Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way. Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross. Today we ought to grasp the full truth of this statement, in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly. There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. And, as the Church has said and witnessed for a long time now, marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization. This is already being seen in the many experiences of communities and movements, but its realization is also growing in dioceses and parishes, as shown in the recent World Meeting of Families.
Check out the USCCB’s fantastic website For Your Marriage to enhance your marriage and to help gain some understanding on the Church’s teachings of marriage.