Marriage, Divorce and the Church

In Reflections and Homilies by Deacon ScottLeave a Comment

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37

My homily at the 5:00 Mass at Our Lady of Fatima
Saturday, February 15, 2020

Audio Recording

On this weekend following Valentine’s Day, I think it’s appropriate that we reflect on what Jesus tells us in today’s gospel reading about marriage. 

If we are honest, we will agree that today’s gospel contains some of his most difficult teachings, particularly his teaching on divorce and adultery.

  • His teaching is understood to mean that if a couple is married in a sacramental sense, that marriage cannot be dissolved except by the death of one of the spouses. 
  • He tells us that because of this, divorce and remarriage is not an option for his followers – doing so is essentially committing adultery.
  • Jesus taught this clearly, and so his Church continues to teach it today.

But why does Jesus teach such a hard doctrine? Isn’t he being excessively harsh? Is this a contradiction of his compassion and his mercy?

  • To answer those questions, we have to reflect on the meaning of marriage from God’s perspective.
  • It’s also important to know that as a reflection of God’s mercy, the Church has a process for healing should you find yourself in a position of wishing to remarry, or having been remarried after experiencing a divorce. 

So, what is the sacrament of matrimony, from God’s perspective? Why this strong teaching on marriage and divorce from our Lord? When two people go into business together, they form a partnership. They agree to work together on a project that will benefit each of them. The bond they form is entirely practical, exterior, contractual. 

When a man and a woman get married, they do much, much more. 

  • They pledge their whole selves to one another, unconditionally, out of love. 
  • In so doing they become, as it were, one person. 
  • They are bonded together not by an external contract or agreement, like business partners, but by the mutual commitment to be one another’s spouse. 
  • Not just friends, not just companions, not just a significant other, but spouses. 
  • A new physical-spiritual reality comes into existence: a marriage, a unique, exclusive, permanent bond between husband and wife.

That’s what marriage is; that’s how God designed it. And it is beautiful. It is life-giving. It gives witness to the world though the love of the married couple of the love God has for each of us.

Designed by God, marriage can not be changed by secular notions or trends to redefine marriage. This is why Mother Church does not recognize civil “marriage” between two people of the same sex. This is why she does not recognize the remarriage of individuals who previously entered into a valid marriage.

When a couple marries, it is typically because they want to spend the rest of their lives together, hoping to one day have children and build a family together. They promise to stay together through good times and bad. 

If this is not their intent, if they are being somehow forced to marry, or marrying for a financial, political, or selfish reason – even if they have a church wedding – they are not consenting to marriage as defined by God. 

In these cases, the formation of a true marriage bond is blocked by the lack of proper intent on the part of one or both parties. 

And this is why the Church has a process to determine whether or not a marriage was ever valid. If it is found not to have to right conditions for validity, whatever they might be, an annulment can be granted.

Unlike divorce, which claims to undo a marriage bond that really existed, an annulment states that an apparent marriage never really existed, because a flaw in the consent of one or both parties blocked the formation of that bond.

Here’s another important point about life after divorce, one that is not understood by many Catholics. If you find yourself in the position of being divorced and you are not in an intimate relationship with someone else, you are welcome to receive the sacraments and share fully in the life of the Church.

However, if you are divorced and remarried apart from the Church then you should not receive Holy Communion. This is because you are not living in communion with God’s will, as revealed through both the Scriptures and the teachings of his Church.

Having said this, it’s so important for you to know that the Church offers hope to all people, regardless of their state in life. God loves us…this never changes. He ALWAYS loves us, in spite of the hurtful choices we’ve made in life. He simply wants us to repent of those choices and come back to him. He lovingly awaits our return with open arms. He NEVER withholds his forgiveness from anyone who sincerely seeks it.

To assist anyone who may be divorced and considering remarriage, or those who have divorced and remarried, Deacon Bill and myself are offering an evening seminar later this month entitled “Divorce, Remarriage and the Church.” 

In this short, informative seminar we’ll get into more detail about the annulment process for those who are divorced and have remarried or are planning to remarry. It will be held at 7:00 on Tuesday, February 25 and is just an hour in length. Everyone is invited to attend.

Let’s pray today for all married couples, that they would turn to Christ in good times and bad, trusting in his grace and wisdom to strengthen their marriage bond and lead them to the happiness that only he can give. Let us also pray for all who have experienced the pain of divorce, that they might know how much God loves them and that they will find relief from their pain within the Church.

God bless you.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.