Sunday Readings: Genesis 2.18-24; Hebrews 2.9-11; Mark 10.2-12
Some Pharisees asked Jesus a question as a test. “Tell us, does the Law allow a husband to divorce his wife?” Jesus replied, “What law did Moses give you?” A Pharisee answered, “Moses gave permission for a husband to write a divorce notice and send his wife away.”
Jesus said, “Moses wrote this law for you because you are so hard to teach. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female and for this reason men and women leave their fathers and mothers and the two become one. They are no longer two but one. Let no one separate what God has joined.” – Mark 10.2-9
The Old Testament law that allows divorce appears in Deuteronomy 24.1-4. It assumes a husband owns his wife and can send her out of his house. A woman’s sexuality belongs to her husband who expects virginity before marriage, fidelity during marriage, and no remarriage in the case of divorce. To repudiate a wife puts her outside the family social structure, in effect impoverishing her.
Among the rabbis who discuss divorce in Jesus’ time, some allow sending a wife away only in the case of her infidelity. Others allow divorce for trivial reasons, for example, finding a more comely woman. The law that allows divorce appears in Deuteronomy 24.1-4. It assumes a husband owns his wife and can send her out of his house. A woman’s sexuality belongs to her husband who expects virginity before marriage, fidelity during marriage, and no remarriage in the case of divorce.
What about divorce today? The Synod on the Family that Pope Francis convened in 2016 considered this question. Marriages fall apart. A spouse needs to escape violence or subjugation. Spouses lack the maturity to make commitments.
Today more partners than not expect equality and mutuality in marriage. They share the chores that keep a household going and the responsibilities for raising children. In Amoris Laetitia, Love in the Family, Pope Francis affirms the growing equality and reciprocity between men and women in their marriages today (#54).
Where legalists draw sharp unyielding lines, Pope Francis speaks pastorally about making room for grace and respecting people’s consciences. The Church that is a field hospital doesn’t cut off divorced and remarried couples from communion and the companionship of parish life.
Marriage is the most common way Christians live out their discipleship. In marriage spouses promise to love each other faithfully and open their lives to each other’s family and friends. Marriage is a life work, a promise and a process couples live out over time.
What is one thing you have learned about yourself through marriage?