Sacrament of Matrimony

10-03-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

A bishop, priest, deacon, or lay preacher who is preaching this weekend can certainly stand tall on the preaching box and rant about marriage in this present age and in these times. It is easy to focus a talk on pre-marital sex, divorce or same sex marriage instead of attempting to lift up marriage and encourage people to see the beauty and wonder of marriage. Religious preachers can be quite lazy and often go about bashing and beating people up and do not put thought and effort about lifting up the Word of God and his gifts to us. We all know it is easier to throw around nasty names and criticize without understanding anything than it is to think decently and thoughtfully about something that is important. Oftentimes this bashing and destroying is a substitute for what it is really going on. Certainly, the Gospel tells us this in plain and clear terms.

The first reading of this weekend presents us with the image that marriage is a remedy for loneliness, but also informs us that true marriage forms an intimate union that is unbreakable. "The two become one flesh." In the Gospel passage the real point of Jesus is that those who marry should be united so deeply that divorce becomes unthinkable. The message is not that we cannot talk about divorce, but in doing so we must recognize that some marriages are not tenable (e.g. when domestic abuse exists etc.) and that many of those who are divorced became so not through any fault of their own. Indeed, oftentimes couples who marry may have education, social status, employment, and age, but they really in fact lack the adult maturity to truly give themselves in marriage. They simply have not grown up and are still self-centered. Just because one is all grown up age-wise does not mean a person is able to be less self-centered and capable of giving oneself to someone else.

Our Gospel passage tells us how the Pharisees used this topic of marriage as a means to trap Jesus. We know from the First Reading that God created Adam and Eve to be equal partners and that maturity, fidelity and responsibility are required of both. People often wonder how the Church can grant an annulment to a marriage of long duration. Often couples are able, or at least one of them is able to tolerate the other until the kids are older or until simply it becomes impossible. A spouse will often tolerate way too much because of their love for the children. I have come to realize being older than twenty or thirty does not mean that a person is a mature, whole, healthy, and substantial person. Chronological Age does not directly guarantee a person of maturity who is capable to marrying. Marrying may force the hidden flaws of perhaps a very nice person to become evident because of the closeness of the marriage relationship. The flaw of immaturity (i.e. self-centeredness) does not mean that someone is "bad", it just means the person still is too self-centered to be able to marry someone else.

Much like today's Gospel passage about Jesus, I do not want to walk into the trap of other people's "issues" which are disguised as questions.

As you are aware I am not married. I leave it to married deacons and lay preachers and also widowed deacons, priests and bishops, religious and lay preachers to speak much more about marriage. We always presume in favor of a couple to get married and it is disappointing when the marriage fails. Sometimes a person can mature in a marriage and it will succeed, and sadly sometimes not. God has blessed the Sacrament of Matrimony. For those who seek it or have sought it, may His grace be there to sustain you and help you to grow in your love.