Sunday, February 12, 2017

Jesus' teaching on divorce and remarriage

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A:
Today is week three of listening to the Sermon on the Mount.  Remember we started with the beatitudes, then last week Jesus called us to be salt of the earth and a light to the world.  Now, today we get into some of the real down to earth teachings of Jesus.  These are teachings that we have all heard before.  And they are quite challenging.
I don’t know about you, but there is almost too much in here right?  Jesus didn’t come to do away with the law.  You shall not kill, or even be angry.  Settle grievances.  Don’t look with lust.  On and on.  It’s a pretty long reading and there is a lot covered in this reading. 
That is probably why the church gives us the option of reading a shorter version.  Now, I don’t like reading the shorter versions here at Mass.  I think that we should hear the whole message.  But, I really had to laugh a little bit this week when I noticed just what gets cut out in the shorter version.  They leave out Jesus’ very controversial message about divorce and remarriage.  So, just imagine how many churches this week decided to read the shorter version as a way of just avoiding the controversy.  But, not us here at St. Jude.  Actually, I thought it might be important to discuss just what we do believe about divorce, remarriage, and annulment.
First of all, let’s all just admit that we have all been touched by divorce at some point.  Maybe our own family, maybe our own marriages, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends.  I’m willing to bet the farm that everyone here has experienced someone who has gone through divorce.  And can’t we all say universally that it’s a bad thing?  I mean nobody gets divorced because their life is so great and there is no pain, anguish, or turmoil.  So, the first thing I want to say about divorce is that the reason that Jesus is against divorce is because he wants us to experience so much more.  He doesn’t want people to go through the negative experience of divorce, the pain and turmoil that it can bring.  Doesn’t that resonate in our hearts: don’t we want marriages that last till death, full of love and support?  Of course.  I prepared lots of couples for marriage.  So far none of them have told me: I’m really looking forward to a few rocky years of marriage ending in a nasty divorce.  No… They all want happiness, love, peace.  Jesus isn’t simply against divorce.  He is in favor of happy, healthy, and holy marriages.  So, let’s all take some time to pray for marriages this week.  If you struggle in your marriage, work right now to fix it.  Give me call, we can sit down and talk.  Seriously.
The catechism states that there are certain circumstances where civil divorce might be chosen.  But, it’s always something to be avoided.  Still it’s important to remember that a civil divorce does not end marriage in God’s eyes.  Even if a couple experiences a civil divorce, they are expected to be faithful to their marriage vows.  Being faithful to the vows means that a person who is divorced shouldn’t enter a new marriage.  People will ask me about communion.  People who have gone through a divorce can still receive communion and confession.  But, if a divorced person decided to enter a new civil marriage, that person is not able to receive the sacraments, unless they can receive and annulment of their previous marriage.
But, what are annulments?  Isn’t that a Catholic divorce?  I find that there is a lot of confusion out there about annulments.  As you may know, that’s one of my extra jobs is to be a judge in the tribunal.  So, it’s my job to judge these marriage cases and declare whether or not a marriage is valid.  So what is an annulment?  Annulment does not change a marriage, it doesn’t separate spouses who are united in marriage.  But, it evaluates the condition of the marriage to determine if the marriage was valid from the beginning. 
The Church recognizes that marriage is not a simple decision.  To enter marriage, a couple must freely commit the intellect and the will to the covenant of marriage.  There are 3 ways a marriage can go wrong from the start.  1, illegal marriages.  2, simulation of marriage.  3, problem with consent.  If any of these things are present, the judge in the tribunal can declare that the marriage in question is invalid, so the parties of that marriage are free to enter a new marriage.  But, if the judge cannot make that determination, then he would rule that the marriage is valid, and Jesus’ command about not entering into a new marriage would still be in place.
Someone might say to me, the Church’s teaching about marriage and divorce is not very loving.  My response is that first of all this teaching does not come from the Church per se, it comes straight from Jesus.  And, we all certainly know that Jesus is loving right?  So, this command has to be loving.  We always have to remember that Jesus wants what is best for us, even if it’s not the easiest thing for us.

So, if this teaching of Jesus strikes us as tough, bring it to prayer.  Ask Jesus to show the way to the love and peace that he wants to give us.  In our modern day, these words are controversial and edgy.  But, Jesus wants more for us.  He wants to take us to a new place.  So, let’s remember to pray for marriages, for couples preparing for marriage, for couples in difficult marriages, for people who have experienced divorce.  Let’s pray for all of us, that we might hear the truth in Christ’s words, and have the courage to share this truth with the world.

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