Meditation of the week

The indissolubility of marriage

Mark 10,2-16.

At the time of Jesus there were two schools of thought about divorce in Judaism – that of Rabbi Shammai, permitting divorce for a serious matter, like infidelity, and that of Rabbi Hillel allowing it for the most trivial reasons, like the wife being a poor cook.

Today’s gospel story is shaped around the question of whether or not in Jesus’ opinion divorce is permissible.  The fact that the question is presented as a test may indicate that the Pharisees already knew his position on the issue and wished to challenge it. To disarm their hostility somewhat, Jesus in reply asks them what Moses taught about divorce. Referring to Deut 24,1, they reply that he allowed it.  Jesus qualifies their quotation from Deuteronomy with the background information that this concession, (compassionate for the woman’s sake), was allowed  because of their (ancestors’) hardness of heart.  Consolidating his moral stance on divorce  further, Jesus quotes the Genesis Creation Stories  to show that from the beginning of creation God made them male and female (Gen, 1,27), and that is why they leave father and mother and the two become one body (Gen 2,24). From these two Genesis texts, Jesus draws the logical conclusion – the precept that what God has joined together man must not separate/divorce.” Man” here refers to the husband rather to a judicial authority. The emphasis is primarily on the relational aspect of marriage from which the original Mosaic juridical position derives.

Back in the house, a safer place, the disciples question Jesus further.  He answers more fully, including what seems like a reference to Herodias, (Herod Philip’s divorced wife, then re-married to his brother Herod Antipas), since Jewish women were not normally allowed to divorce. A man or woman who divorces his/her partner and marries again is guilty of adultery.

The bringing of children to Jesus follows immediately without reference to time, place or circumstances. The purpose of bringing them to Jesus was to obtain a blessing for them. The disciples were probably trying to protect Jesus from too much attention and publicity. Jesus was indignant at the disciples turning away the children – the only time in this gospel when Jesus is indignant. The disciples are turning away the very ones, who for their openness, receptivity  and humility, are most suited to the kingdom.  Anyone who does not receive the kingdom as a child does, won’t get into it. Then Jesus welcomed the children warmly and tenderly and blessed them.

In Christian marriage a unity and complementarity, created by nature and blessed by the sacrament of  marriage, is celebrated and affirmed – a union of love created and blessed by God, and modelled on Christ’s love for the church, which is his body.

It is the privilege and responsibility of parents to bring their children to Jesus by having them baptised into the family of God and the Christian church, and in teaching them the ways of the faith.  Grandparents have a special role too in helping their grandchildren to know Jesus.

Please say a prayer for the Holy Spirit to guide the Extraordinary Synod of bishops meeting this October, to discuss “Young people, Faith and vocational discernment,” in the contemporary church/world.

Father Geoff O’Grady