From Father James Gilhooley A man was observing the golden jubilee of his wedding. He was asked his secret. He responded, "On my wedding day, Joan's father gave me a watch. Across the face of it, he had printed, "Say something nice to Joan.'" Did Jesus know of the teachings of the Greek philosopher Plato who lived 400 years before Him? There is speculation Christ spoke Greek. If He did, He surely would have applauded Plato's writing on marriage. He taught that man and woman are but half of their original size. Genuine happiness only arrives when the two halves in question find each other and marry.
Thus they help each other reach full growth. Marriage then should not shrink one's personality. The contrary, according to one of the greatest minds we know of, is the case. Marriage should double one's own person and spirit in its fullest sense. Courtship, said a sage, is dreaming happy dreams together and a good marriage is bringing them down to earth and watching them come true. First the bad news. Everyone here is aware of the alarming statistics on divorce. One third of all marriages are ending before the divorce judge. Some feel that percentage is too conservative. But, in any case, these are no longer academic numbers, for most of us have family members who are divorced. The dreadful plague has hit our own homes. In Joseph Donder's words, we have all witnessed too often in marriage: "hopes not fulfilled, prayers not heard, efforts in vain, promises unrealized, frustration, disaster, a curse instead of a blessing, death instead of life." Now the good news.
Arthur Tonne reports that a study reveals that but one out of fifty seven marriages ended in divorce among husbands and wives that worshipped at church consistently. Even more amazing was the finding that only one marriage in five hundred concluded in divorce in couples where there is organized Scripture reading and prayer. To paraphrase Patrick Peyton, the husband and wife who pray together have an above-average chance of staying together. Mark's Gospel today reveals that God made the law prohibiting divorce. But Tonne's figures reveal He also appears determined to do His part to assist couples who give Him the serious attention He deserves. Public worship and private study and prayer over the Scriptures strike me as good marriage insurance. The most hard-nosed insurance broker would advise bride and groom to invest in same from day one. When this Gospel begins, the Teacher is in the territory which is today's Jordan. The Nazarene was preaching out in the open fields. The synagogues were too small to hold the crowds who wanted to hear Him. This tells you of His popularity and effectiveness as a preacher.
The Master's prohibition on divorce is found not merely here in Mark's Gospel. One can also discover it in the Gospel of Luke and, for emphasis, two different times in Matthew. Some may wish He did not condemn divorce, but the written record shows He did. And St Paul clearly understood that point, for he underlines the prohibition in his own letters. Divorce disturbed the Christ. In His day, it was more common than the common cold. No attorneys nor judges were required. A divorce became a fact before one could say, "Going, going, gone." Marriage for the Christ means undivided loyalty. One commentator has observed that our culture teaches husband and wife to ask, "What's in it for me?"
But Jesus wants them to ask each other, "What's in it for us?" Married people rush to ask, "How can I complete myself in this union?" But the Teacher according to Mark wishes them to ask, "How can we complete ourselves?" Some self-anointed experts advise couples to inquire, "How can I serve my wife?" and "How can I serve my husband?" But the real question is, "How can we serve each other?" Albert Schweitzer sums up the point this way: "The only ones who will be really happy are those who have sought and found out how to serve." Or, as Neil Diamond puts it in a ballad: "Selfishness is the reason for the decline in the number of husbands and wives." If couples learn to treat the other the way they treat their own selves, their marriage will become more attractive. Each must say, "I will do more than belong, I will participate. I will do more than care, I will help. I will do more than believe, I will practice. I will do more than be fair, I will be kind. I will do more than be friendly, I will be a friend. I will do more than forgive, I will love." Author Unknown
Today’s reading follows a previous summary of Jesus’ teaching. It reminds us that this was part of his teaching at this point of his life: “And again crowds gathered round him and again he taught them as his custom was”. All this teaching was very appropriate once he had made up his mind to head for Jerusalem and face the consequences of what he had achieved up to now. This was especially “his custom” at this stage.
Our text for today is clearly divided into two sections.
Verses 2 to 12 are a teaching on marriage.
Verses 13 to 16 are a teaching on Jesus’ attitude to children.
The juxtaposition reminds us then that Jesus’ teaching on marriage must not remain focused on this aspect of life alone. We must therefore look on his teaching as a wide concept.
This is the glory and the richness of the method of lectio divina and today’s passage is not an exception. In this method, every text of the bible is spoken to the whole world. Every Christian, no matter what his own vocation may be, is set to find within the context of the story before us something they can learn from it. It is always a wonderful message of new life, a way of being truer to what is deep within ourselves.
Jesus shows himself as a wise person. He points out how in the course of every period, a community always tends to take the easy way out. This is a normal turn of events. Then eventually some one like Moses arises on the scene. He makes something official although it was originally just a spontaneous compromise. It was intended to suit a particular circumstance. Now all of a sudden it takes on the force of a law.
The relationship between man and woman is a very good example. The ancient text of Genesis reminds us that man and woman were intended by God to live on equal terms. There was to be no great difference between them. They are both human beings, created by God to live in harmony. Jesus then is the typical “wise person”. He is able to move beyond the here-and-now problem and see how things were “at the beginning of creation.”
This is why he can see that “they were testing him”. It was not a small question but a great one.
We can read the passage then of other realities which God made to be complementary and we have allowed to become opposed or even in competition.
Jesus is the great teacher who restores harmony that was there in the “beginning”. He brings about that what had become two should once more be found as “one body”, always in harmony, never in opposition.
We remember being able to give ourselves to work of different kinds, whatever it may be. The work often seems to be intolerable to us. But we need to be comfortable with ourselves. We must give ourselves as we are – not as we think we should be.
We remember our own country for example. Our people have been brought up to be well able to get over the disagreements among themselves and continue to find a harmonious relationship with each other. In this way, our little country can be an outstanding example to many others in the rest of the world. We are called to live in good relationships in spite of our religious disagreements which may appear to be serious but do not prevent us from living in harmony.
We will notice that verses 10 to 12 are separate from the rest of the passage. In fact they don’t occur in the other versions of the story at all.
They serve as an important addition to the passage. Jesus adds a new element to the usual breakdown between husband and wife. He says, “If a woman divorces her husband, and marries another, she is guilty of adultery too”. This is a remarkable addition telling us that in the Christian Church women have their rights and privileges too. Men have them and so do women. We must insist that this is the right approach to the problem – at every level.
In general we interpret both passages as moments when we find that we come to a deeper insight into a truth. We thought we had it well received. Now we realise that it means more to us than we had originally thought. We accept this with great joy and recognition.
The story of Jesus and the children must not to be limited to one meaning of literal children. In the New Testament, children are always to be taken as examples of the “little ones”. They are those who are not considered important or worthy of serious consideration in our community. We can apply it to situations where they include people who are called in the bible “tax collectors and sinners”. These are those who are rejected by most people but whom we now recognize as our equals. There are many of them as life teaches us.
We may identify with the disciples, or more probably with Jesus. His attitude is at three levels.
i) He is welcoming of those whom society has tended to reject as unreasonable.
ii) He shows the children reverence. He “lays hands on them and blesses them”, treating each of them as very important.
iii) He sees that each of them has something unique to teach the rest of us.
All children, and this includes all those in our community we tended to neglect, have a deep lesson to teach us. They tell us how we should relate to those in our community whom we tended to neglect.
“Able to approach the Future as a Friend,
Without a wardrobe of excuses.” W.H. Auden
Lord, there are many things in life which you have made complementary,
not two, but together forming one reality:
– young and old in a community;
– men and women in relationships;
– people of different cultures in our one world;
– body and soul within each of us.
It is difficult to make this unity,
and so we allow ourselves to divorce these things from each other.
We see them as opposed and even in competition.
We thank you for people like Jesus
who teach us that it was not so at the beginning of creation,
and what you have united we human beings have no right to divide.
Lord, we who have been happily married thank you today for the great gift
by which two people whom you have made male and female
left their mothers and fathers and the two then became one body,
so that we are no longer two but just one body
in a bond so strong that no one could ever break it.
Lord, we pray that your Church may remain faithful to the teaching of Jesus,
so that even though we come back and question one another over and over again,
we may continue to say, as he did,
that not only is the man who divorces his wife and marries another
guilty of adultery against her,
but the woman who divorces her husband and marries another
is guilty of adultery too.
Lord, we remember the time when little children were not allowed to go to Holy Communion.
We thank you that you sent us a great pope like Pius X.
He was rightly indignant that they were being turned away;
he allowed them to come to Jesus
and would not let them be stopped any longer.
“The incarnation is the mystery in which each of the thousand million human beings living on our planet has become a sharer from the moment he is conceived beneath the heart of his mother.” Pope John Paul II
Lord, when we become professionals,
doctors, lawyers, consultants, bankers, principals of schools,
we tend to isolate ourselves in our air-conditioned offices
with efficient receptionists who turn away people
when they bring small problems to us.
We pray that we may feel indignation at this
and that in our presbyteries and church offices
we may rather put our arms round the little people,
lay our hands on them and share our blessings with them.
“To understand Scripture we must stop acting like mere spectators.” Karl Barth
Lord, sometimes at our church services little children distract us;
they make noise, run up and down the aisle and make comments.
We block them from our minds so that we can concentrate on our prayers
or on the sermon.
But they are teaching us a precious lesson,
that if we do not feel at home with them we can never enter into your presence.
“How much better to carry relief to the poor than send it.” John Wesley
Lord, when we were young we said foolish things,
or expressed ourselves awkwardly, and most adults dismissed us.
Today we remember with gratitude that one person who welcomed us
as Jesus welcomed little children, and took us seriously,
showing us that what we were saying was in fact very important,
and so gave us a blessing.
Introduction to the Celebration
We gather each week to form the church: the community who follow Jesus as the way to the Father, and who encounter Jesus, and become one with him, when we gather about his table. It is this encounter with Jesus that makes this a sacred place and a sacred event. At our gathering today we are reminded in the gospel that one of the other sacred places where we can encounter the Son of God is in marriage: the union, indeed, of a married couple is the image of the bond that exists between Jesus Christ and us, his church.
1. Preaching on divorce
There is a perceptible shudder in most congregations when this gospel on divorce is read: the subconscious expectation is that now ‘we are in for it’ – an harangue on the evils of divorce, why it is bad for society, and why it must be opposed at every turn. There is a popular folk memory of such ‘pulpit thumping’ that is far larger than probably the real extent of such preaching in the past, and despite the fact that few people under sixty can even remember seeing a sermon delivered from an actual pulpit. So the first thing to remember today is that there is a lot of deep-felt resentment about such harangues in any community, and it creates a tension and dissonance between people and their hearing of the good news. It is part of the task of every preacher of the good news to seek to remove that tension.
However, quite apart from the fact that harangues on a topic like divorce simply do not work (indeed, they are counter-productive in that people resent them), there is a deeper reason why they are wholly inappropriate at a celebration of the Eucharist. Imagine a situation where a preacher was on a soapbox in a public place (it could be a blog on the internet or a column in a local newspaper) and is arguing the church’s stand on divorce. Here the communications dynamic is that the preacher is explaining the church’s position to all-and-sundry, some, many, or perhaps all are outsiders to the church and the gospel, and who may be inquirers about our position or who may be detractors of Christianity and for whom this message is an explanation. However, the situation at the Eucharist is completely different: we are meeting as the church, our gathering makes us the church, and as an intimate family meal of sisters and brothers in Christ, we cannot hear the church’s teaching as if we were outsiders to that teaching – alas much actual preaching fails to recognise this! The communications dynamic at the Eucharist is that we are a group made into a sacred unity as the body of Christ, and we hear this message as intimates. So we hear the gospel as good news about ourselves and our chosen way for the pilgrimage of faith and life. Any preaching which starts off on the premise that the Eucharistic congregation needs to be told what’they should know’ about’ the church’s position’ on this or that (which silently assumes that the gathering and ‘the church’ are distinct realities), is based on a false ecclesiology and ignores the nature of the task the liturgy entrusts to the homilist.
What practical steps, therefore, can the president of an assembly take to allay the fears of many that they are going to be harangued?
• First, concentrate on marriage as part of God’s loving plan of salvation, rather than starting from the failure of marriage at the point when divorce looms on the horizon.
• Second, since marriage is part of human experience, recognise that a celibate speaking on marriage sounds as convincing as someone offering to service your car because he has bought the manual although he has never worked in a garage! Preaching on marriage by a celibate has as much integrity as an plutocrat preaching on the option for the poor: the lack of integrity stems from the fact that there is not the combination of thinking, experiencing and feeling that is the hallmark of true human knowledge / wisdom.
• Third, get someone to give the homily who can help the community reflect on marriage from within their own Christian experience. Obviously, if there is a married deacon, this is a day when he should preach. Otherwise, begin the homily by inviting someone, or a couple, to address the gathering, and conclude by having a moment to reflect on what they have shared with their brothers and sisters. Every community has someone with some theological training or who has some experience with one of the many groups that act to support Christians in the marriages.
• Fourth, there will be people in the assembly for whom’regular’ marriage is not an option, or for whom marriage has failed. So whoever addresses the community needs to be reminded that presenting some ‘ideal’ marriage as covering all and as being assured of success if only some criteria are met is not only false witness, but can be deeply hurtful. No one should leave the Lord’s banquet of love feeling hurt — this is a basic Christian principle.
• Lastly, watch out in using the word ‘sacrament’: most people think of an event (e.g. a baptism ceremony) or a thing (e.g. the Blessed Sacrament) rather than of an on-going mystery when they hear the word. So’the sacrament of matrimony’ is the wedding. It is a waste of time to try to correct this: our task is to communicate the good news, not to make sure that people are aware of the correct use of theological jargon.
2. The shorter version of the gospel
There are two reasons for opting for the shorter form of the gospel today. First, the two topics are really distinct and reading both just creates confusion. Second, we live with the on-going effects of the abuse of children and vulnerable people by clergy. Reading this longer text, unless you are prepared to openly talk about the wickedness of the crimes of the clergy involved —some of whom may be well known to everyone in the assembly seems like obfuscation and denial. If that is the message that is sent out, then the good news has not been preached.
3. The reader of the first reading
The passage from Genesis 2 is one that many women object to as theN, note in it that the author believes women should be subordinate to men (see the commentary). This in itself creates difficulties in the liturgy, but these are only exacerbated if this lection is read by a man to the women in the assembly. So this is an occasion where one should try to ensure that the reader for this reading is a woman.
1. It is a basic principle of communication that one should not start with a negative: is there anything more off-putting than someone approaching you and you already know they are only going to tell you about problems? Likewise, with today’s gospel: the question was put to Jesus about divorce, yet it is an understanding of marriage that is the real issue. But that raised another issue: given that their marriages are the most complex area of the lives of most of the community gathered, what can be said that is not trite in the course of five to seven minutes?
2. If you are not going to appeal to your own experience of marriage as a place where the risen Christ is encountered — i.e. a sacramental place —then it is perhaps best to offer some texts for the community to reflect upon such that the homily becomes a guided meditation.
3. Introduce the meditation with some phrase like this: This passage from Mark’s preaching reminds us that marriage is part of God’s loving plan for the creation, and people who are married can, in their marriages, encounter Jesus who renews the creation, brings healing from discord, and who gives us strength to be people of love. Here are some passages to reflect on which express in prayer how we view marriage.
4. Use these texts from the prefaces of marriage:
‘You [0 God] are the loving Father of the world of nature; you are the loving Father of the new creation of grace.
In Christian marriage you bring together the two orders of creation:
nature’s gift of children enriches the world
and your grace enriches also your church.’
‘You created man [and woman] in love to share your divine life.
We see [our] high destiny in the love of husband and wife, Which bears the imprint of your own divine love.
Love is [our] origin,
Love is [our] constant calling,
Love is [our] fulfilment in heaven.
The love of man and woman
Is made holy in the sacrament of marriage
And becomes the mirror of your everlasting love.’
These two texts (from Prefaces 72 and 74 respectively) should be enough, if read slowly with pauses, to create a space of reflection.
5. Some may object that offering a poetic reflection is ‘dodging’ a sermon, but this fails to grasp the fact that what is called for is a homily –a communication event that allows the assembly to come into contact with the Word of God (something alive and active, and not to be confused with the words in the gospel’s text) in response to hearing the preaching of the evangelists. In a noisy, busy world – a world that is so frenetic that it is well to remember that in every gathering there will be one person who has forgotten to turn off their mobile, and many others who are worried that they are missing calls while their mobiles are ‘off’ – deliberately creating spaces for reflection may be a necessary precondition of people hearing the Word.
The gospels agree that Jesus, unlike his contemporaries in the Pharisee movement, takes a very strong line on divorce. He argues from God’s plan in Genesis (see first reading) that the original intention for marriage was that it should be a covenant of love willed by God and that it should not be set aside by any human agency. This answer no doubt shocked his disciples who would have, like their contemporaries, taken divorce for granted.
However, when questioned, Jesus drives the point home forcefully by speaking of adultery and divorce in the same breath and then also of women divorcing. This was not allowed among the Jews but did occur among the Gentiles. So Jesus is calling for a radical rethink on the nature of married love, one that rejects the dominant view based on a husband’s power over his wife and instead emphasises the relationship of equals intended by God. This challenging teaching is followed by another exhortation on the appropriate way to receive the kingdom. It is worth remembering that it is not so long since Jesus advised his disciples that anyone who welcomes a child welcomes him. Now we find them preventing the children from coming to him and not surprisingly he is angry with them. This is not just because of the incident but because of their repeated failure to really listen to what he is telling them.
The message from the Bible in relation to the sexes is that this relationship is not built on superiority but on complementarily. It is a message that with the passage of time and the rise of patriarchal societies has become blurred. Genesis insists that both are equally made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27) and share fully in the destiny which is theirs as children of God. Unfortunately Jesus does not offer specific pastoral advice for people who find themselves in broken marriages but we do know that we are always called to be compassionate as our heavenly Father is compassionate
FROM THE CONNECTIONS:
In today’s Gospel, Jesus cites the Genesis account of the creation of man and woman (today’s first reading) to emphasize that husband and wife are equal partners in the covenant of marriage (“the two become one body”). The language of Genesis indicates that the Creator intends for the marriage union to possess the same special covenantal nature as God’s covenant with Israel. Jesus again appeals to the spiritof the Law rather than arguing legalities: It is the nature of their marriage covenant that husband and wife owe to one another total and complete love and mutual respect in sharing responsibility for making their marriage succeed.
Today’s Gospel reading also includes Mark’s story of Jesus’ welcoming the little children. Again, Jesus holds up the model of a child’s simplicity and humility as the model for the servant-disciple.
Marriage is more than a legal contract between two “parties” but a sacrament – a living sign of God’s presence and grace in our midst, the manifestation of the love of God, a love that knows neither condition nor limit in its ability to give and forgive.
A child’s marvelous sense of wonder, inquisitiveness and simplicity that deflates adult “logic” and the “conventional wisdom” and make us look at the essence of our actions and our beliefs model for us how to respond in faith to Jesus' call to discipleship.
Whites and darks, bless the Lord!
The night before their 10th anniversary, they did what they had done just about every Thursday night since they were married: the laundry.
In the family room, with the baseball game on, they sorted the mountain of just-laundered clothes. She smoothed their daughter’s tees; he folded their son’s Spiderman pajamas. She matched up what seemed like hundreds of socks; he separated the various undershirts and underpants.
As he kept one eye on the ball game while they worked, it struck her how their laundry had grown over the last ten years. She remembered that first year of their marriage when they would hurry off to that dingy laundromat near their one-bedroom apartment with their single basket of clothes. They were both working and in school; time and money were tight. Now they had this beautiful home with (thank God!) a washing machine and dryer. With the birth of their children, the single basket quadrupled, with diapers, play clothes and school clothes, and the never ending need to wash more towels. There were, of course, disasters along the way: the time he shrunk her beautiful cashmere sweater, the time little Bobby left crayons in his pocket that turned all the whites into a bizarre shade of reddish orange.
As she continued to fluff and folded this week's laundry, she was overcome with a sense of gratitude. Tonight she saw these shirts and socks and shorts as nothing less than cotton and polyblend signs of God’s goodness.
Just then, her daydream snapped. As she reached into the basket to grab a towel, he grabbed the same towel. She looked up and smiled; he smiled back, not knowing what that tear in her eye was all about. His touch still sent a shiver up and down her spine. Yep, the marriage is still working, she thought.
Tomorrow night they would go out to dinner to celebrate ten years of doing laundry together.
A couple’s life together -- a life centered in trust, forgiveness and love -- and their generous response to the vocation of parenthood model the unfathomable and profound love of God: love that lets go rather than clings, love that happily gives rather than takes, love that liberates rather than confines. The sacrament of marriage, as Jesus taught, is a total giving and sharing by each spouse so that the line between “his” and “hers” disappears into only “us.” In the life they create together, life that sometimes means both taking on and letting go for the sake of the beloved, Christ is the ever-present Wedding Guest, who makes their simple, everyday life together a miraculous sacrament, in which the love of God is revealed to all of us in this couple’s love for one another.
FROM FR. JUDE BOTELHO:
The first reading speaks to us of love – God’s love for his creation, his people, his very own. He does not create and leave them to manage on their own. God is constantly involved in our life! “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate.” We have been made to be people who need people. It is part of our nature to be in relationship with one another, to be people who live in love, people who live in community, in a family, in togetherness. We are made for one another, made from one another. The description of woman being created from man’s rib is symbolic. She is not created from his foot to be controlled, she is not created from his head to dominate him but from close to his heart, always needed, always to be cared for.
They returned home happy but tired after celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary with their children and friends. Before falling into bed he offered to make a late-night snack for both of them. While she slumped into a stool along the kitchen counter, he collected the ham, cheese and mustard from the refrigerator. Reaching into the breadbox, he took out what turned out to be the last four slices of bread. He carefully made two sandwiches and cut each in four quarters, the way she liked them. He placed one of the sandwiches in a plate and placed it in front of her. “How come you always give me the sandwich with the heel of the bread,” she said. “For forty years we’ve been married and you always give me the heel of the bread. I know I’ve never said this before, but honey, I really hate the heel of the bread.” Embarrassed he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I always give you the heel of bread because it’s my favourite piece.” The story speaks of a tender love. It might also show some lack of communication if, after forty years, they didn’t know what each liked or disliked.
‘Cast your bread’ in Connections
In the Gospel we see the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus: It is really against the law for a man to divorce his wife? After all Moses allowed us to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.” Even today, many question the laws/teachings of the Church. So many people are breaking the law, so why can’t the Church change according to the times? We must always distinguish between those who are law-breakers, victims of the law, and victims of circumstances. We have no right to sit in judgment, to point a finger at others. We are called to be compassionate and understanding of the weaknesses of others. We have always to distinguish between the person and the law. At the same time we see Jesus not mincing his words. He lays down the law as it is. The Law will not change to suit our whims and fancies or for our convenience. Marriage is for life, commitment is for life. We want our relationships to last forever and they will, if we work at them and let God be an integral part of our lives. Perhaps the last part of the Gospel gives us one way in which we can make our relationships work: Jesus let the little children come to him and blessed them. The child symbolizes dependence on another. For our relationships to work we depend on God. Lastly, even as we grow and mature we must never lose the sense of wonder that we had as children. One of the things that strikes us about children is how they can get engrossed in the simplest of things, they forget everything else and enjoy that moment, that thing, that person. That ability to wonder can keep us going and we will find there is always something to be grateful for in our relationships and in life itself.
From now on, I’m the One!
A feature in weddings in more recent times is the lighting of candles. The couple light two before the ceremony, signifying their individual lives, then when they become husband and wife they blow them out and light a single candle to symbolize the two becoming one and the unity of the partnership henceforth. On one occasion when not only the candles but also the readings proclaimed their unity, the couple were walking down the aisle after signing the register, and as they beamed at the admiring guests the bride gave her newly acquired husband a nudge and whispered, “Did you take that all in?” “All what?” he said. “All that about the two being one.” “Yes I guess so,” he said, and then came the coup de grace. “Well in case you’re in any doubt, from now on I’m the one!”
James A. Feeban in ‘Story Power’
The question is asked, “Is there anything more beautiful in life than a boy and a girl clasping clean hands and pure hearts in the path of marriage? Can there be any thing more beautiful than young love?” And the answer is given. “Yes there is a more beautiful thing. It is the spectacle of an old man and an old woman finishing their journey together on that path. Their hands are gnarled, but still clasped; their faces are seamed but still radiant; their hearts are physically bowed and tired, but still strong with love and devotion for one another. Yes there is a more beautiful thing than young love. Old love.”
The Marriage Commitment
Harold Kushner, an American rabbi tells how a young couple came to see him one evening. Their wedding was coming up and he was to officiate at it. At one point the young man said to him, ‘Rabbi, would you object if we made one small change in the wedding ceremony? Instead of pronouncing us husband and wife ‘till death do us part,’ could you pronounce us husband and wife’ for as long as love lasts? We’ve talked about this and we both feel that, should the day come when we no longer love each other, it wouldn’t be morally right for us to be stuck with each other.’ But the rabbi replied, ‘I do object, and I won’t make the change. You and I know that there is such a thing as divorce, and we know that a lot of marriages these days don’t last until one of the partners dies. But let me tell you something. If you go into marriage with an attitude of “If it doesn’t work out, we can always split’, then I can almost guarantee you that things won’t work out for you. ‘I appreciate your honesty. But you must understand that a marriage commitment is not just a mutual willingness to live together, but a commitment to accept the frustrations and disappointments that are an inevitable part of two imperfect human beings relating to each other. It’s hard enough to make a go of marriage even when you give it everything you’ve got. But if only a part of you is involved in the relationship, then you have virtually no chance’.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sundays and Holy Day Liturgies’
The enjoyment of simple things
In one of his books, Born Again, Charles Colson takes us back to a happy summer vacation he spent with his two sons. He bought them a 14-foot sailboat and took it out to the lake. When they arrived at the lake, a gentle summer rain was falling, but it didn’t dampen their spirits. As they shoved off the pier, the only sound that could be heard was the sound of rippling water. Colson’s ten-year old son was in control of the boat. When the boy realized he was skipper, the most marvelous look came upon his face. His eyes flashed with the excitement and wonder of knowing that in his two hands he was holding the power of the wind. As Colson looked into his son’s face and eyes, he himself became transfixed and strangely he found himself talking to God. He still remembers his words: Thank you God for giving me this son, for giving us this wonderful moment. Just looking into this boy’s eyes fulfils my life. Whatever happens in the future, even if I die tomorrow, my life is complete and full. Thank You!” Indeed, on that rainy summer afternoon, Colson discovered for himself, something that spiritual writers have maintained: wonder lies at the heart of prayer and worship.
Why no change?
Mike was a Christian and his pal Joe was an atheist. Joe lost no opportunity to have a ‘go’ at Mike about what he saw as the irrelevance of Christianity. One day they were out for a walk when they came across a gang of ‘toughies’ who were fighting and swearing. Joe pointed out the scene and said, “Look Mike, it’s been 2000 years since Christ came into the world and it’s still filled with aggression and violence.” Mike said nothing. Five minutes later, they came upon a group of dirty faced children. Now it was Mike’s turn. “Look Joe, it’s over 2000 years since soap was first discovered and yet the world’s still filled with dirty faces.” – Nothing happens till you use soap! –There is nothing automatic about Jesus or his message. It is like discovering a cure for cancer. Nothing happens until the patient takes the medicine. Jesus never fails! It’s a pity we have never tried his message!
Jack McArdle in ‘150 More stories for Preachers and Teachers’
Fr. Tony Kadavil:
If it seems strange to you that people might usher the children away from Jesus, think about the last time you flew on an airplane. When the family with four small children came walking up the aisle, did you think, maybe not so secretly, "Please don't sit next to me, please don't sit next to me?"
3) Where Is the Hope?
This worldview is sad, hopeless, and far from what God intended. More than ever, our children wonder what marriage is and what they might hope for in a relationship.
Steve Zeisler, What Did Moses Command?
4) Don't Hope...Decide
5) Teaching Takes Time
Some argue that our children do not need the quantity of our time if the time we give them is filled with quality. It's true. There's no need to give our children even fifteen minutes of our time, if all they experience through us is negativism or unrest or a spirit of impatience. But most good teaching takes sheer time. Our loving and caring spirit, our understanding and calmness, and our devotion to Jesus Christ in word and action, need to seep in to a child's mind and soul. Such sharing rarely comes through a quick torrent of kisses or a fleeting, kindly word. It takes time and patience. Indeed the very spending of time with our children is part of our communicating to them that they are valued and loved.
Richard W. Patt, Partners in the Impossible, CSS Publishing Co., Inc.
6) The True Meaning of Marriage
7) Real Life Children
Jesus' teaching about divorce provokes a variety of responses. Some people hear the text snarl at them like a wild animal. Others grow angry when they simply hear the words, and vow to cross their fingers the next time they encounter that piece of scripture. Still others wish their preacher would stand up and swing this text like a club; family life is spinning out of control, they claim, and the church should push us back to simpler, more Victorian times.
Dr. Paul Popenoe, the famous marriage counselor, was talking to a young husband who had been openly critical of his wife. Dr. Popenoe was explaining how two become one in marriage. In a smart reply the husband said, "Yes, but which one?" The counselor said, "A little of each." Then he went on to explain that in marriage you have to develop "we-psychology"...and to think of yourself in terms of a pair rather than as an individual. What happens when two become one in a real marriage? Some think that it reduces your individuality. Too often one party or the other seems to be saying: "Alright - we two shall become one...and I AM the one!" Obviously, such a marriage is headed for trouble. Ideally, when "two become one" it means that each one is doubled, but not duplicated. You still retain your individual identity, but you add to yourself the identity of the other, and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." (Mark 10:7)
10) We Trust Them with the Children, Don't We?
A new principal was checking over his school on the first day. Passing the stockroom, he was startled to see the door wide open and teachers going in and out, carrying off books and supplies. The school he came from had a check-out system that required the teachers to indicate what supplies they had obtained. Curious about the practice here he asked the school custodian, "Do you think it's wise to keep the stockroom unlocked and to let the teachers take things without asking?" The custodian responded, "We trust them with the children, don't we?"
Jesus wants us to trust in him and let the child within to be free. It is the only way to receive the kingdom of God. He wants us to give the child within the freedom to express itself, being creative, having fun and sharing emotions and feelings. He wants us to accept others who are different realizing that God makes us all and wants us to be genuine, authentic human beings. The end result is absolute joy and the opportunity to experience life in its fullest.
"But Dad, you just can't decide to divorce Mama just like that after 54 years together. What happened?"
"It's too painful to talk about it. I only called because you're my son, and I thought you should know. I really don't want to get into it anymore than this. You can call your sister and tell her. It will spare me the pain."
"No, I don't want you to say anything to her about it. I haven't told her yet. Believe me it hasn't been easy. I've agonized over it for several days, and I've finally come to a decision. I have an appointment with the lawyer the day after tomorrow."
"Well, all right, I promise. Next week is Yom Kippur. I'll hold off seeing the lawyer until after then. Call your sister in MA and break the news to her. I just can't bear to talk about it anymore."
Isn't that the best way to get your kids together for Yom Kippur!
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:
13) "My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God and I didn't."