27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 7 October, 2018
MARRIAGE NEEDS DEEPER UNDERSTANDING.
(Gen 2:18-24, Ps 127.R.v.5, Heb 2:9-11, Mk 10:2-16)
In the pastoral office, one Romeo arrives with his Juliet in their first appointment. Two of them affirm that they know each other very well, first shared thoughts and photos on Instagram and Facebook; and have communicated through skype and cell phone before meeting each other. They have had previous marriages which didn’t work out, so they want to try this one! They can't wait to get married, ……on Friday – three weeks from now (they have booked the hotel for the reception)! Few are willing to do it well.
In this 21st century, our lives are replete with varied patterns of relationships – some strong, some not so strong, others quite temporary. A patient meets the doctor but mainly when health fails. The tenant has a contract relationship with the landlord; and the lawyer and the client have legal or working relationships. But this should not be so with the marriage relationship. Marriage is different in that the institution predates all other patterns of relationships and existed before all societal conventions. Seeing marriage as any other partnership and therefore, requiring that marriage be managed like all other social contracts becomes the first step in the wrong direction.
The first reading and the Gospel of today both centre on marriage and family, and asks us to make the effort to understand this vocation in its deeper meaning. In the first reading, we are reminded that the man and woman enter into marriage as a response to providence. They agree to form a relationship of love and life in a self-sharing commitment intended to last and generate new life. The ‘agreement’ entered into here accepts life’s contrasting situations in clear contrast to every other form of partnership, which hopes to thrive only when the going is well. Thus, unlike any other relationship pattern, marriage claims its joys mainly by what it sacrifices, forgives, hopes and endures.
For the emphasis, ecclesial teachings on marriage and family have always objected to marriage being exclusively seen as a social contract. The Church prefers to uphold marriage as a covenant and therefore, a sacrament. This is in line with biblical teachings holding the marriage relationship as a true sign of the reality of God’s plan for man and woman as unique and complementary to each other. For, since both the man and woman are made in God’s own image and likeness, what God gives to them in their vocation to the married love is the image or sign of God’s own love and presence. A love and an intimacy able to generate and nurture life as a share in God’s creative genius.
However, not minding that the human family pre-dates all forms of society - ancient or modern; and notwithstanding that the natural human family constitutes the very primordial cell of every human community, the values of marriage and family are still undermined. The modern-contemporary society, characteristic in its crises of values, traps itself in an endless struggle aimed at redefining marriage mainly for pleasure; and seeking to craft the primordial values of family only along sociological and psychological conventions changing with each passing age. It’s an example of today's man seeking to be god unto themselves, rather than submitting to God after the example of Christ.
The present rhetoric on the human family though, is not a new thing. It reminisces former times in being ‘unteachable’ and in forcing God’s hands (Mt 19:8). Freedom constantly misused and misapplied comes from a hardness of heart. When a people have become indifferent to spiritual values, they also gradually but substantially lose trust in themselves and in the best of their own values. The norm becomes what seems convenient by means of minimal restriction. The marriage crisis is a warning against enthroning absolute permissiveness as the normative ethics for society.