Today’s homily is for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary time, Oct. 3, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.
Today’s Gospel ends with Jesus telling his disciples privately, “whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” It seems like a strange ending to Jesus teaching about divorce, don’t you think? Jesus speaks about the permanency of marriage as God intended from the beginning. He talks about a bill of divorce being offered as a concession because too many of us are fickle, unloving, selfish, and weak. He uses the term “hard-hearted.”
To be hard-hearted is to remain closed off, unwilling to make oneself vulnerable. Sadly, too many–even in marriage, even with our spouse–remain closed off, insensitive, unconcerning, unsupportive and undiscerning. This is not marriage at all. A marriage as God intended, says Jesus, is one where far from being divided into mine and hers, me and “other,” my friends, her friends, my money, her money, my time, my goals, my dreams, my future, my, my, my, Jesus teaches instead that there is only we, ours, and us. Our future, our finances, our friends, and our goals. That is marriage as God intended. That is, actuality, marriage.
In Jesus’ day, as it is now, people were looking for any reason at all to divorce and find another…you know, one that you’ll be happier with than the one you’re with now–fulfilled, satisfied in every way. One that will not bring you down to earth like that anchor you’re with now, but let’s you keep your head in the clouds; lets you be the astronaut God has called you to be. One that will launch you to the glory for which you were created, will sustain you while you’re up there in space, and manage all your affairs down here on earth. This is pure folly. It’s a fantasy. The stuff of movies and romance novels, maybe, but not of real life.
Jesus says that when two people are married there is a fusion that occurs. Each of them joins together to create something entirely new. When I marry couples I tell them that Christian marriage is more like pancakes than bacon and eggs. Bacon and eggs are simple. You cook them and put them on the plate. You don’t like eggs? Oatmeal instead. You don’t like bacon; sausage instead. Switch ‘em around, mix and match you know! But with pancakes, you start with eggs, butter, flour, baking soda, sugar, milk, mix ‘em all up, add a little heat from the kitchen (wink wink) and you have a pancake! Where did the eggs go? The butter? It’s in there, but indistinguishable. It becomes something entirely new. That’s why Jesus says the two become one flesh, never to be undone. You just can’t undo it. It’s impossible. That’s marriage.
So why so many struggles in marriage today? I think it’s because the ingredients are there, but they stay in the bag. Instead of marriage being the ingredients coming together, we’re calling marriage the bag. The hardness of heart closes people off to the mixing that must occur for a marriage to actually take place. That’s what an annulment is, actually. It’s not “a catholic divorce” as some say. It is instead a statement of fact that all the ingredients were there, but for one reason or another–always related to the hardness of heart–they never fused. Never became one.
Marriage as God intended is the absolute goal, a helper and guide, and a companion for the whole of life. It’s beautiful and right and good. It’s a foretaste of heaven–the fullness of the Kingdom. Just ask my wife, she’s living in the kingdom right now! Haha. No, it’s work, humbly accepted, and embrace on faith. You see, before you can have it, you have to accept it as true. That’s why Jesus says if we’re not ready to accept the Kingdom (and clearly marriage) like a child we will not enter it.
Whether the Kingdom or marriage, we must live in the truth, we must trust, we must forgive, and allow for mistakes and growth (and more mistakes), but remain always in faith, always in hope, always in love. And that is marriage as God intended, the two become one, and one with God.
St. Margaret of Youville said, “All the wealth of the world cannot be compared with the happiness of living together happily united.”