27th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
Last Sunday, we heard Jesus expound on the reality of sin and cringed a little at his solution for sinners: self-amputation and drowning. This Sunday, Jesus tackles another difficult topic: marriage and divorce. What Jesus has to say on marriage and divorce directly contradicts and is offensive to current secular orthodoxies on the subject. But this is nothing new. The Gospel is fundamentally opposed to the world. Pushing against the Zeitgeist – the Spirit of the Age – is just part and parcel of the Church's mission in saving souls. So, we could ask: how does what Jesus have to say about marriage and divorce push against the Spirit of the Age? At its sacramental core, marriage is about an indissoluble, life-long commitment between one man and one woman; the having and raising of children; and Christ's love for his bride, the Church. The Zeitgeist prefers temporary and utilitarian relationships; short-sighted and selfish sterility; and that the Church come to believe that she has been abandoned by the Bridegroom. Jesus says of the married couple: “[they] are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no [man] must separate.”
Two elements of what Jesus teaches here need highlighting: the connection btw marriage and Creation and man's hardheartedness that made divorce necessary. God created the human person in two sexes: male and female. We have male humans and female humans. Being male, being female is fundamental to what it is to being a human. Hair color, weight, height, skin color, etc. are all accidental to being human. So, dying your hair, losing or gaining weight, even radical surgery do not and cannot make you any less human. Or any less male or female. The Zeitgeist demands that our sex be a matter of personal choice. Your creation has nothing to do with whether you “identify” as male or female. Your DNA, your anatomy, your appearance – none have anything to do with your sex. All that matters is your will. Your will is supreme. What do you choose to be? Chose and that is what you are! Why would the Zeitgeist push such an obvious lie? The lie causes cultural confusion, social anxiety, legal chaos, and defies the Creator. All of these combine to grant the Zeitgeist more power. And power is all the Zeitgeist is interested in. Power to confuse, control, and eventually dominate. . .all done in the name of human liberation.
The second element of Jesus' teaching hits closer to home for most of us. Hardheartedness. Moses allowed that a man could rid himself of an indecent wife by simply handing her a bill of divorce. It comes as no surprise, that the wife was not afforded the same privilege. Why did Moses allow divorce? Because he knew that men (in this case, males) weren't always capable of compassion, joy, or love. The Law was given b/c humans need clear limits, well-defined rules for growing in holiness. Moses' Law made this one exception – divorce – as a concession to the weaknesses of men. Jesus ends this exception for us b/c in him we are always capable of compassion and joy and love! The Zeitgeist has succeeded in making divorce a universal, no-fault concession in this age. Why? Not out of any sort of mercy to our weakness as Moses did, but because divorce tends to reinforce man's unwillingness to be compassionate, joyful, and loving. Divorce is man's futile attempt to undo what God has done. And the Zeitgeist is always ready, willing, and able to cheer on the destruction of the Father's Creation. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, says, No.
Why is marriage the focus of the Zeitgeist's persistent attacks? Simply put: sacramental marriage is the public sign of Christ's love for his Bride, the Church. Every sacramental marriage signifies to the world that Christ loves his Church. Does this mean that every marriage is a happy bond? Hardly! Does this mean that marriages should never have problems? No. Does this mean that every marriage is guaranteed children? No. What sacramental marriage guarantees is that Christ will be in the middle of the bond, strengthening what grows weak and providing all the gifts necessary to keep the bond strong. The bond of sacramental marriage is indissoluble b/c Christ cannot stop loving his Bride, the Church. What the Zeitgeist loathes more than anything else is the idea, the reality that there are some things not subject to the whims of the will alone. There are some things that cannot be changed simply b/c we want to change them. One of these is the truth that Christ gives us everything we need to endure, to thrive; and to achieve the holiness he died to make possible. “If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is brought to perfection in us.”