Thursday, August 11, 2005



AUGUST 12, 2005

JOSHUA 24:1-13
Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He
summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they
presented themselves before God. Joshua said to all the people, "This
is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `Long ago your forefathers,
including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River
and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land
beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many
descendants. I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I
assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his sons went
down to Egypt. "`Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I afflicted the
Egyptians by what I did there, and I brought you out. When I brought
your fathers out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians
pursued them with chariots and horsemen as far as the Red Sea. But they
cried to the LORD for help, and he put darkness between you and the
Egyptians; he brought the sea over them and covered them. You saw with
your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the desert
for a long time. "`I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived
east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I gave them into your
hands. I destroyed them
from before you, and you took possession of their land. When Balak son
of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent
for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. But I would not listen to
Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of
his hand. "`Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The
citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites,
Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and
Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands. I sent the hornet ahead of
you, which drove them out before you--also the two Amorite kings. You
did not do it with your own sword and bow. So I gave you a land on
which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in
them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.'

MATTHEW 19:3-12
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a
man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" "Haven't you read,"
he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and
female,' and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and
mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'?
So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has
joined together, let man not separate." "Why then," they asked, "did
Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and
send her away?" Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your
wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the
beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for
marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."
The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband
and wife, it is better not to marry." Jesus replied, "Not everyone can
accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some
are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way
by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of
heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

Today's gospel selection is perhaps one of the most controversial
passages in all four gospels. Did Jesus allow divorce, even as a rare
exception to the general principle established by God in the book of
Genesis, that marriage should be perpetual and monogamous? Rather than
try to answer this question, let us reflect Jesus' vision of what a
marriage should be.

The general principle is clear: marriage is indissoluble. Jesus quotes
Genesis: " . . . a man . . . joins himself to his wife and they
become one body." Jesus then makes explicit what God implies, "Whom
God has joined, let no man separate."

But Moses did allow divorce. And so the Pharisees bring this matter up
to Jesus. Are you denying the law laid down by Moses? Are you saying
Moses was wrong? He never should have approved of divorce?

Jesus responds, "what Moses said was not a law, it was a
concession." The Jews of Moses' day were hardheaded, he says, i.e.,
they refused to accept that a man must be united with one woman for

Jesus' vision of marriage flew in the face of the Jewish objections.
It gives rise to a very beautiful vision. A life-long love
commitment, a shared life stretching over many years, so intimate in
every aspect of its reality that the two spouses can be called one
flesh. A life of love, issuing in the gift of love the spouses give to
each other and to God, the child, and the years of loving nurture and
care which will allow the child to grow into loving adulthood in the
service of God and neighbor.

This is a truly inspiring vision. The apostles, however, reflecting
the general male attitude in Jewish patriarchal society, object: "if a
man must make a life-long commitment to one woman, it's better not to

Jesus, seems to agree with them. "Not every one can accept this
teaching, only those to whom it is given to do so."

To whom is it so given? Only the man and woman who have from their
wedding day admitted Christ to their marriage, who have therefore the
spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, to guide them, only a couple that is
deeply Christian, can build up a relationship which the Christian ideal
of marriage demands.

Only with the help of Christ and his Holy Spirit can the couple develop
the sympathy, the understanding, the forgiving spirit, and the
considerate love, which any marriage requires, if it is to be

"Lord Jesus Christ, your call to holiness extends to all in every state
of life. Sanctify our lives--as married couples and as singles--that we
may live as men and women who are consecrated to you. Make us leaven in
a society that disdains life-long marriage fidelity, chastity, and
living single for the Lord."

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