“If You Weaken One Aspect Of The Marital Bond, You Will Inevitably Weaken The Other.”
By: Father Stephen Hellman
God’s Plan In The Beginning
The question that is directed to Jesus in our Gospel today sounds very similar to many of the questions that people throw at the Church about marriage today. Questions like, Why can’t people divorce and remarry? Why can’t two people engage in premarital sex? Why can’t two women or two men marry each other? All of these questions ultimately stem from the fact that, because we are affected by sin, it is a struggle for human beings to love in the way that God created us to love.
In our Gospel when the Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce they are trying to trip Him up as so many people try to “trip up” the Church today…
But Jesus responds to them in a way that cuts at the heart and speaks to man’s deepest desire: In the beginning it was not so. Jesus points us back to the beginning…
He points us to the fact that in the beginning, God intended man and woman’s love to be an image of God who is love. God intended man and woman to be able to love in a way that was free, that was life-giving, that was totally focused on the other. God intended man and woman’s love to be a sign of the first Covenant that God would establish with the Israelite people and a sign of the New Covenant that Jesus would establish with all of humanity on the Cross. Marriage was to be the first sacrament.
God’s Plan Was Ruptured Through Sin
But Jesus tells us that the reason this plan was ruptured was because of sin and the hardness of our hearts. And we know from the rest of the story, that the only way that God’s plan for spousal love could be recaptured was through redemption. Christ’s free gift to us setting our hearts free to love perfectly came through the grace that was offered to us on the Cross. We have to be healed by the Cross in order to love in the way that God intended. If we never allow Jesus to come to us and heal us personally, then we will always have the tendency to turn in on ourselves, and our love will not be true love but counterfeit love, which is never free and never life-giving.
Our society today is enslaved to numerous forms of such counterfeit love. We see that in the beginning life and love were inseparable. Yet over time we came to believe that we could separate life from love. And so the permanent, faithful and life-giving love of marriage began to change. With artificial contraception, man and woman no longer gave of themselves to each other with consistent openness to new life. And once the life-giving part of marriage became treated as independent of the marital bond, the strength of that permanent and faithful bond of marriage was also weakened. It became clear that weakening one part of marriage, the life aspect of marriage, ended up weakening the other part of marriage, the permanent and faithful love of marriage. Weaken one part, and you weaken the other.
Society Confirms What The Church Teaches, But Society Continues To Ignore The Church
Society was proving what the Church has always taught: that life and love are inseparable.
And yet society continued to ignore the Church, and the domino effect began.
After the widespread adoption of contraception, divorce rates skyrocketed. After all, if children aren’t a part of marriage, why should marriage be permanent?
And once our society came to question marriage’s permanence, the logical question arose: why should the marital act then be restricted to marriage?
And if the marital act is allowed outside marriage, why should it have to result in children?
And if the act is to result in children, why should we have to accept them?
Human Life Is Now Viewed As A Commodity, Not A Gift
Do you see how it is, that step-by-step over the course of time, denying God’s plan for man and woman has led our society to the point where we are today, the point where many, many people quite casually hold to the principle that the willful killing of innocent unborn human life is entirely acceptable?
We have taught mothers that the baby in their womb is not a gift always to be welcomed, but rather property—to be not merely discarded but destroyed if it creates inconvenience…
So in creating a culture of death that disparages marriage and fails to respect the sanctity of innocent human life, we have also driven a wedge between the natural intimacy of mother and child…
In the beginning it was not so.
Life and love go together.
Catholics Are Called To Be A People Of Life
We Catholics are a people of life. When a couple is married in the Catholic Church, the priest asks them if they will “accept children lovingly from God.” This question lies at the heart of the holy Sacrament of Marriage, because marriage is both directed to the good of the spouses and ordered to the procreation and education of children.
Yet, so many in our culture fail to get this teaching…so many fail to understand that life and love go together….
And if, for whatever reason, you consider yourself a “pro-choice” Catholic—frankly, you are in denial about your own faith, about the facts of science, about what is written on your own heart….
In the beginning, it was not so.
A Civilization of Love requires a Culture of Life. We Catholics are a people of life and of love.
As we come to the Eucharist today, let us recommit ourselves to this Gospel message that we’ve heard today, as we come to share in the body and blood of the One who is love and who gives us life. Amen.