"Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?"


Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 417  Mt 19:3-12

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying,
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”
He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning
the Creator made them male and female and said,
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?
So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”
They said to him, “Then why did Moses command
that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?”
He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts
Moses allowed you to divorce your wives,
but from the beginning it was not so.
I say to you, whoever divorces his wife
(unless the marriage is unlawful)
and marries another commits adultery.”
His disciples said to him,
“If that is the case of a man with his wife,
it is better not to marry.”
He answered, “Not all can accept this word,
but only those to whom that is granted.
Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so;
some, because they were made so by others;
some, because they have renounced marriage
for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”
                                                                                          It seems that two arguments are taking place in this passage. One one side the Pharisee is arguing the technicalities of a marriage contract, and on the other Jesus is arguing an act of God. The Pharisee is placing an argument on how two people can dissolve a relationship that they joined in, and Jesus is basing his argument on man should not try to break a union God has created. The Pharisee is focused on the earthly practicalities, while Jesus focuses on solely Gods actions. The earthly implications were no small matter, marriage was frequently not simply between two individuals; it was between two families, or two tribes, and many times even between two nations. In Jesus’s view it is between two individuals and one God; that relationship between the two individuals mirrors the relationship between man and God. Jesus view is less complicated, and he does not allow a flurry of legalities cloud the issue; in his view the marriage between man and woman is initiated by God and whoever tries to undo what God has joined together, is in sin. That sin is not limited to the couple, but extends to those who try to damage that union. In the Pharisees argument then  the marriage ceremony then becomes one of the sealing of a contract, while in Jesus view it is the ceremony is the celebration of a marriage discovered.

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