Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: Marriage and divorce
By: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya
Homily for Sunday October 3 2021
Today, considering the high percentage of divorces in the world, I wish to touch on the subject of marriage and divorce. I feel this homily should be of great interest to everyone, both married and single, as it will provide us with the knowledge and understanding of what the Holy Bible tells us about the Sacrament of Marriage.
WHAT IS MARRIAGE?
The Holy Catholic Church teaches that the Sacrament of Marriage is an indissoluble union, contracted by mutual consent, between one man and one woman, in a lawful manner, by which they are obliged to live together all the days of their life. [Though there are attempts to redefine marriage, to include the union of people of same sex. If it happens that eventually some states or nations should define marriage as such, it would not qualify as a sacrament.]
MARRIAGE: GOD’S OWN MAKING
First and foremost, we must not forget that marriage is not something that was invented by man. It was instituted by God Himself and has been present since the dawn of humanity, since the creation of the first man and woman. In the beginning, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” [Gen. 2:18] “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of the ribs of Adam and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.’ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh.” [Gen. 2:21-5]
THE UNITY OF MARRIAGE
In marriage, the man and the woman become one. They belong to each other. The union between a man and a woman in the Sacrament of Marriage is compared to the union between Christ and the Church. “Husbands must love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind – yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of the body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” [Mk. 10:6-8; Eph. 5:25-31]
“The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” [1 Cor. 7:4] “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.” [1 Cor. 7:3] In the Sacrament of Marriage, perfect harmony must exist. Husband and wife must be one as Christ is one with the Church. Both parties, in the fullness of love, must give and take according to each other’s pleasure. Neither one owns the other.
In their conjugal rights, they should “not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote themselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt them because of their lack of self-control.” [1 Cor. 7:5] “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Mt. 19:6]
In the Gospel reading of today, we heard Jesus say, “Whoever divorces his wife, (except for unchastity) and marries another commits adultery.” [Mt. 19:9; Lk. 16:18] What exactly does this passage mean? To fully understand it, in view of what the Gospel of Mark adds to the Word of the Lord, we come to the realization that Jesus was answering two questions. First of all, Jesus was saying that according to the law Moses gave them, a man can only divorce his wife if she commits adultery. Secondly, if the man remarries another woman because he has divorced his own wife, he commits adultery. In other words, neither one of them are at liberty of getting married again.
On this subject, St. Paul states, “To the married, I give this command – not I but the Lord – that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.” [1 Cor. 7:10-1] As heard, from the early days of the Church, it was not recommended that one should divorce and get remarried because this contradicted the Sacredness of the Sacrament of Marriage that God had instituted on earth.
Now, some take this command very lightly. Regarding this, Saint Paul says, “Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” [Eph. 4:17-9]
To divorce and remarry is to commit adultery! I hope some of you are not saying “What is the big deal about adultery. Is it not a common thing nowadays? A lot of people who are doing it. So what’s the big deal?” The big deal is that they who are living in adultery, none of them shall enter the Kingdom of God. So says St. Paul “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.” [1 Cor. 6:9-10]
The same words are found in Galatians 5:19-21 where St. Paul says, I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In Hebrew 13:4, we read “Let marriage be held in honour by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”
In today’s Second Reading, we heard that the Lord Jesus was made lower than the angels so that He may be crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Christ died for us! He suffered for us! He did all this to bring us to glory, so we may obtain our salvation through Him. In Christ, we are sanctified by the grace of the heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. Our sanctification unites us with our Sanctifier, the Lord Jesus. Our sanctification entitles us to be called brothers and sisters of Christ.
But this is only possible if we live by the Law, the Divine Law of love, forgiveness and holiness so the grace of God may continuously shine on us as we persevere in our pilgrimage on earth towards the eternal Kingdom that awaits those who will qualify to be adopted as the children of God.
Beloved in Christ the Sacrament of Marriage is a vocation. More so, it is a vocation to holiness. For many, married life is not compatible with responding to the call to holiness. For many the call to holiness is only for priests and those who have embraced the consecrated life as Religious. Those who think as such may have forgotten that each Sacrament instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ bestows upon worthy receivers the inward grace needed for the spiritual journey towards holiness.
Therefore, the Sacrament of marriage is also a means for husband and wife to attain holiness through their love for one another. The husband helps the wife to grow in holiness and the wife equally assists the husband to grow in holiness. That is the plan of God. So Jesus is telling us without any shadow of doubt that divorce is not part of God’s plan. God’s dream is that husband and wife should mirror the fidelity of God towards us. A married couple is asked to reflect the covenant love of God for us His people, a faithful God who never fails in this promise of fidelity to us, despite our own unfaithfulness.
Where the issue of divorce creeps in is when forgiveness is lacking in marriage. When two people get married they bring with them to their marriage normal human weaknesses and they discover weaknesses in the other which previously they did not know. This is an opportunity to love the other, heal the other, and forgive the other.
Nevertheless, it can happen and it does happen that two partners in marriage may not be able to sustain their relationship so that their marriage no longer functions, such that it has become practically impossible to live in peace with each other without destroying each other. Here again the Church has to echo the gospel. It has to proclaim the message of God’s mercy, of his liberating forgiveness. There is no human failure so great that it is completely hopeless and no longer open to God’s mercy. God is the God of the second chance and the third and so on. I think we all know this from our experience. So, is a relationship that does not work out the only exception? Not according to God. In marriage, husband and wife are called to mirror God’s forgiving power.
My brothers and sisters, many couples have made effort and many will make effort to prove that their marital separation or divorce was valid, their situation being an exceptional case. This is the common statement! I have heard it before! Many other priests have heard it also! But the bottom line is that, as a priest, as a servant of God, I am obliged, for the salvation of your soul, to tell you the truth, even if the truth hurts.
The Lord God does not approve of divorces! He does not approve of common-law relationships! And He does not approve of adultery! If you value your salvation, then change from your worldly way and embrace the spiritual way, the righteousness of God. Move out of your adulterous relationship before it eternally destroys you!
At this mass I am going to wash my hands! And I will say “I have spoken the Word of God.” Now, it is up to you, to do as your free will decides, for better or worse. May the grace of God be with all of us as we seek to live by His divine will.
*Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya*