BY: Rev. Fr. Charles Nyameh



{Gen 2:18-24, Ps 127, Heb 2:9-11, Mk 10:2-16}

In the last Parish I worked, before my transfer on loan to the Irish Church, one daily routine I would not ordinarily miss was playing soccer in the evening with the local team. Even on days when I had to visit some of my outstation Churches in the mountains, I would still go to play soccer in the evening. In that team, we had players from the three main religions in the village; Christians, Muslims, adherents of the African Traditional Religion {ATR}. On one of such evenings, before the match, a Muslim player who just got wedded was to be congratulated. After the congratulations, one person asked the new groom, “I hope you will not divorce your wife?” The new groom replied, “This marriage of mine is ‘Church’ marriage, there will be no divorce”. Strictly speaking, we all knew it was not a Church marriage but by his statement, he recognizes that Church marriages ought to last; present realities, however, fall short of this expected ideal.

At the heart of this reflection, lies a question we all need to ask ourselves, “What is God’s design for marriage and the family life, and what has humanity made of this institution? God’s design or intention for the institution of marriage and family life, as we will learn from God’s Word is sure to be some hurting truths for some to hear, whereas humanity’s design or intention for the institution will be some soothing lies for some to hear. God who is love and who created man and woman for love has called them to an intimate communion of life and of love in marriage; “So they are no longer two, but one flesh” {Mt 19:6}. God also said after creating man and woman, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…” {Gen 1:28}. By its nature, marriage is ordered to the communion and good of the couple and to the generation and education of children.

Marriage can be considered the oldest institution in humanity; Christ not only restored the original order of matrimony and affirmed its indissolubility, but raised it to the dignity of a sacrament, giving spouses a special grace to live out their marriage as a symbol of Christ’s love for his bride the Church: “Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church” {Ephe 5:25}; Christ loves the Church even with its imperfections and so should couples love themselves. The sacrament of marriage is the only one among the seven sacraments that the groom and the bride are the ministers themselves and not the Cleric, who receives their consent as an official witness and grants them blessings in the name of God and the Church. Let us read a few excerpts from the nuptial blessing given to a couple on their wedding day:
“O God, who by your mighty power created all things out of nothing, and when you had set in place the beginnings of the universe, formed man and woman in your own image, making the woman an inseparable helpmate to the man, that they might be no longer two, but one flesh and taught that what you were pleased to make one must never be divided;
O God, by whom a woman is joined to man and the companionship they had in the beginning, is endowed with the one blessing not forfeited by original sin nor washed away by the flood…”

In spite of this loving design and intention of God for marriage and family life, humanity has fashioned for itself unions and practices that are not in tandem with God’s will; same-sex unions, divorce, abortion, etc.; these might be legal in some countries but not moral. Some marriages can hardly be said to be founded on true love: some simply go into contractual marriages and file for a divorce once the deal is done; some migrants simply go into marriages with citizens of their host countries in order to naturalize; some in my home country go into marriages when their parents or close relations are in top political positions, with the hope that on the day of their wedding huge donations would be given to them by other political appointees who will grace the occasion; and some simply go into forced marriages due to pressures of one sort or the other. Are these not some reasons for rising cases of divorce? It is estimated that in Belgium over 70% of marriages end up in divorce and about 60% in Spain and Portugal. Divorce has consequences not only for the couple but for any child or children of that union.
Jesus affirmed in the gospel that divorce is not part of God’s plans and the book of Malachi also states, “…For I hate divorce, says the Lord the God of Israel…” {Mal 2:16}. Jesus told the Pharisees that Moses only allowed them to divorce because they were so unteachable. Are we less unteachable today, I wonder! But for those whose marriages have broken beyond any human possibility to amend or repair, they could approach the Ecclesiastical Marriage Tribunal in their respective provinces through their diocesan representatives. If the Tribunal can establish the presence of any impediment at the time of the marriage, such a marriage can be nullified and the two parties could have a chance to legally marry in Church again. The nullification of a marriage is totally different from a civil divorce. One prayer I came across a few years ago, and have since been saying it after each decade of the Rosary, is, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you, save the lives of unborn children, all souls in Purgatory, all Priests and Religious, all Marriages and Families.” Amen.


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