Marriage. It is a word that strikes fear into the heart of many people within the Church these days, because of the fractious nature of the debates of the recent past and the demands for equality for some sectors of society. The Gospel lesson (Mark 10.2-16) will then, be something that will either be embraced or avoided for one reason or another. It speaks about marriage, divorce, the blessing of children and the reception of the kingdom of God.
But first let’s set the scene: Jesus has moved on from Capernaum, across the River Jordan and into the territory of Herod Antipas. The same king who had locked up and then had John the Baptist executed. The Pharisees saw and opportunity to have Jesus locked up. So asked him to talk about marriage and see if they could get him to offend Antipas and for things to take their course. Jesus questions them about what the Law and therefore Moses had to say about divorce. They discuss the passage from Deuteronomy which says,
If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. (Deut. 24.1-4)
The question that is being asked I think is this: “Under what grounds is it lawful to divorce your wife... what conditions have to be met for it to be okay to do that?” Jesus rather than agree with the standard of his day, or even of Moses goes back further and quotes Moses from Genesis where it is written,
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female... Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10.6-9; Genesis 2.24)
Therein, there is a difference between what the world believes about marriage and what the Church believes. The Church believes that marriage is a lifelong process of going from being two individuals to being a single unit. Thus marriage was God’s idea and the act giving woman to man and man to woman was, in and of itself, a gift. And it is a gift that is not given once and only once. It is the gift that is meant to keep on giving, husband to wife and wife to husband.
Unfortunately, the world has reduced marriage to uniting two people who believe that they have found their BFF (Best Friend Forever). Being faithful in that context seems to be reducing to “for as long as you both shall love” rather than the Church’s standard of “for as long as you both shall live.” Marriage is more than just feeling that one loves another. It is the deliberate choice to love the other person whether you feel like it or not. Being faithful to marriage bed is not just a physical thing, it is about putting one’s wife, one’s husband ahead of all things and all people, excluding everyone and everything but God, who binds the relationship through his own love and strength.
What Jesus calls the Church to, is a high standard of living and being together, especially in marriage. The marriage bond is meant exemplify the relationship between Christ and his Church. God came up with the idea of marriage and gave woman to man as a companion. Through Christian marriage, the world should be able to see God and glorify him because we are made aware of his presence by the way that the married couple lives together.
How do children come into this? We are challenged to receive the coming king, the coming kingdom like you are going to receive a newly born child. You need to present yourself to Christ to be blessed and then work to draw others into that blessing. You need to give them the Child that was in that manger so long ago and who invites those who will come to him to receive the power to become the children of God. May that be so for you today.