Friday’s gospel – 24th May 2024

Jesus has moved into Judaea and is approaching the heartland of Judaism and he is approached by Pharisees again. They have heard all about him and are eager to get the better of this uncouth northern lad. And the issue of marriage and divorce must have been a hot topic. Was there a specific incident that caused the debate? Was it to try to stoke up antagonism with the royal family with its history of divorce?

Whatever it was, it resulted in Jesus’ teaching on marriage that we should not be surprised about given his teaching on adultery and the role of thought in that. This is a strict stance, but is based on scripture. The Pharisees use the book of Deuteronomy as the basis of their argument against him: it presupposes that divorce is acceptable and shows the manner in which Moses instigated the procedure for divorce.

But Jesus looks at earlier scripture quoting Genesis and God bringing man and woman together to become one body. And that is God’s plan and Deuteronomy is a corruption of the Law; the Law that he has come to fulfil.

So we have a demanding position on marriage. For those for whom the making of the vows and maintaining them is successful, so there are great blessings poured out by God, but inevitably, as fallen creatures, our best intentions are sometimes laid to waste and we know that marriage fails. It is an issue of great sadness to those involved, those around them, the people of God, the Church and, of course, God.

Over time the relationship between divorce and active participation in the liturgy has differed but still based on the teachings of Christ. In recent times the Code of Canon Law from 1983 removed the real threat of excommunication for those divorcing, but nevertheless there remains great pain amongst Catholics about the ability to reconcile honest God-loving people that have failed in this area with the Church, and for the Church to show the love that it has for these people.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will be at work amongst Pope Francis, the magisterium and all others involved that the mutual love between God and his people can be sustained in the manner God wants of us.

Gospel Mark 10:1-12 ©

Jesus came to the district of Judaea and the far side of the Jordan. And again crowds gathered round him, and again he taught them, as his custom was. Some Pharisees approached him and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’