Believe it or not this is the eighth time I have had to commit to print a reflection for the celebration of The Baptism of the Lord ... and the...
This week I want to focus exclusively on our
OLD TESTAMENT and GOSPEL READINGS [GENESIS 2: 18 – 24 and MARK 10: 2 – 16]. Let us bear in mind that the question posed of Jesus by the Pharisees was “in order to test” him. Many translations render these words as “in order to trap Jesus.”
Then, let us make a real effort to accept the fact that the coming Synod of Bishops has no intention whatsoever of changing the Church’s basic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage or dilute in any measure the scriptural
IDEAL of marriage for life. What the synod will attempt to solve is the pressing pastoral problem of how we (and I mean “we”) should (not could) outreach to (not deal with!) those fellow Christians and Catholics who are living good Christian lives in a second marriage after the failure (very often not through bad will or deliberate, chosen, obtuseness) of the first?
People make mistakes. Yes, people even
SIN! Why is it that the Church is unable to forgive and reconcile those who have made mistakes, and even sinned, in a first marriage? How is it possible that a person who pays an unjust wage over a long period of time may be forgiven and present themselves without a problem at Communion? However someone who failed miserably and culpably over similar length of time and, as a result, is divorced but repents and remarries has to be denied access to the Eucharist? It reminds one of a life sentence which is, indeed, for LIFE!? Is a failed marriage a worse sin than consistently paying an unjust wage?
Now let us reflect on one teaching from each of the two readings. Firstly, in Genesis we are taught that “therefore a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” This is a simple and direct teaching and truth. However, we need to ask what if one of the spouses does not, in fact and practice,
LEAVE the parents and CLING TO the other … when one of the spouses find themselves in a marriage where there are two other people involved in the clinging and there has been no DEPARTURE? Believe me it happens. It is often said that hard cases make bad law but is this a realistic pastoral response?
So, we move on to Jesus’ words that
“what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” This is absolutely true and valid. Yet, the question must be asked – did God actually join this marriage together? Church law itself says that the fact of a marriage service / ritual celebrated, with all the ‘trimmings’, in a church with the priest / deacon present as an official witness cannot be used as proof of the validity of the marriage! Perhaps there is a real possibility that God did not join together?! TODAY’S PSALM  prays “from presumption restrain your servant.” Why is it that there are so many Catholics who presume that any effort to find pastoral remedies (not doctrinal changes) for crippling spiritual / faith difficulties is against the will of God-in-Christ? These are the REAL problems with which the synod is attempting to grapple, and – during their recent plenary session – of which the South African Catholic Bishops Conference has made clear they are acutely and sensitively aware.
Finally, it would be helpful to reflect here on the relevance of Jesus’ admonition in today’s Gospel about harm done to children. How is possible for those born to Catholic parents in second marriages to be (as the Church expects) raised as fully integrated members of the community if mothers and fathers are unable to participate fully in the worship of the Church? How do parents plead guilty to being public sinners?