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Marriage: A Gospel for the World
Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus came into the district of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom, he again taught them. The Pharisees approached him and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. 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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, I love you. Knowing that you created me in your image and likeness and that you call me to share in your life gives my life meaning and purpose. In you, I find my joy and my peace. I believe in you. I believe that you know me and want me to know you in and through the realities of my life. Knowing that you are always with me gives me hope. You are always working for my good. Lord, I ask that in this prayer time, you help me learn from your example of availability and attentiveness so that I can better love those you have placed in my life.
- Crowds Gathered and Jesus Taught: As Scripture so often describes, Jesus reached a town and a crowd gathered to hear him teach. At the same time, the Pharisees approached to test him. Despite any fatigue from traveling, Jesus made himself available to address both groups. He did not protect himself from the demands of the crowd nor the hard questions of the Pharisees. In other passages, Jesus generously responded when individuals cried out to him (blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46 and the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:22, for example). When we recall that Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life…” (Mark 10:45), we may focus on the big ways he served: the miracles he worked, the content of his teaching, his Passion. However, his model of attentiveness and availability are significant examples of humble, ordinary service. Are we attentive to others who seek our assistance, or do we shrug off their need, expecting that someone else will help them? Perhaps we are more available to those outside our family than we are to our family members. Over the years, Pope Francis has often encouraged parents to “waste time” with their children—to be available to them in unstructured ways. Marriage Encounter addresses the challenge of “married singles”—spouses each so busy with their own lives that they don’t share the intimacy they are meant to experience. Do we give those in our family focused attention? Attention and availability are concrete ways of loving and serving as Jesus did.
- Hardness of Heart: When Matthew described this same scene of Jesus restoring the indissolubility of marriage, the disciples responded, “it is better not to marry” (Matthew 19:10). Original sin disrupted God’s beautiful plan for man and woman, and as a consequence, the original communion between man and woman was ruptured and distorted (CCC 1607). Nevertheless, it is this relationship between spouses that St. Paul holds up as the image of the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:21-32). We can trust that God will give us the grace we need to live our marriages well. He promised: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
- The Two Shall Become One: In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, “On Love in the Family,” Pope Francis describes the beauty of a long-lasting marriage: “Just as a good wine begins to ‘breathe’ with time, so too the daily experience of fidelity gives married life richness and ‘body’. …The love present from the beginning becomes more conscious, settled, and mature as the couple discover each other anew day after day, year after year. …(they) now taste the sweetness of the wine of love, well-aged and stored deep within their hearts” (Amoris Laetitia 231). The world needs to see the beauty of marital love that grows over the years. In a homily for the Synod on the New Evangelization, Pope Benedict said, “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” (October 7, 2012). Marriage matters, not only as an interpersonal reality, not only for the nurturing of children, but for the good of society and the life of the Church.
Conversing with Christ: Heavenly Father, your plan for marriage is beautiful. How humbling it is to think that you work through human instruments to image the relationship between your Son and his bride, the Church. You trust us to make your faithful, fruitful, free, unconditional love visible in the midst of all the confusion that exists about marriage today. At times, it seems so far beyond our capabilities, but through the grace of the sacrament of Matrimony you make it possible for spouses to grow in love and unity day by day, year by year. You accompany them and provide for their needs just as you did in Cana. I ask you to help me see how I can better support marriage—my own marriage, the marriages of family and friends, the marriages of fellow parishioners, the future marriages of engaged couples, the marriages of hurting couples.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray one decade of the rosary, meditating on the wedding feast at Cana, for the strengthening of marriages within my family and friends.
For Further Reflection: Slowly pray the official prayer of the Tenth World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Rome, June 22-26: “Family Love: A Vocation and a Path to Holiness.”
We come before you to praise you
and to thank you for the great gift of the family.
We pray to you for all families
consecrated by the sacrament of Matrimony.
May they rediscover each day
the grace they have received,
and as small domestic Churches,
may they know how to witness to your presence
and to the love with which Christ loves the Church.
We pray to you for all families faced with difficulty and suffering
caused by illness or circumstances of which only you know.
Sustain them and make them aware
of the path to holiness upon which you call them,
so that they might experience your infinite mercy
and find new ways to grow in love.
We pray to you for children and young people:
may they encounter you and respond joyfully
to the vocation you have in mind for them;
We pray for parents and grandparents: may they be aware
that they are signs of the fatherhood and motherhood of God
in caring for the children who, in body and spirit, you entrust to them;
and for the experience of fraternity
that the family can give to the world.
Lord, grant that each family
might live their specific vocation to holiness in the Church
as a call to become missionary disciples,
in the service of life and peace,
in communion with our priests, religious,
and all vocations in the Church.
Bless the World Meeting of Families.
Janet McLaughlin and her husband, Chris, live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.