TEXT: The Holy Gospel According to Saint Mark 10:2-16
One of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century has been the logarithmic increase in the divorce rate, especially in the United States and Europe. The statistics are shameful and they only represent the terrible consequences of self-centered sin in the Western world. It seems that people have completely lost sight of the significance of the institution of marriage and have cast it aside for more selfish interests.
As early as the first century, men were looking for excuses.
2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"
But, Jesus was aware of this "test" and made it clear what was the Mind of the Lord.
3 He answered them, "What did Moses command you?"
4 They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away."
5 But Jesus said to them, "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.
It was because of the hardness of the heart that Moses wrote the laws concerning divorce.
What is this "hardness."?
Hosea speaks of fallow ground.
Hosea, who was no stranger to divorce and infidelity spoke these words in prophecy Hosea 10. They are some of my favorite prophetic utterances by one of God's choicest servants -
"10 I will come against the wayward people to chastise them; and nations shall be gathered against them when they are chastised for their double iniquity.
11 Ephraim was a trained heifer that loved to thresh, and I spared her fair neck; but I will put Ephraim to the yoke, Judah must plow, Jacob must harrow for himself.
12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain salvation upon you.
13 You have plowed iniquity, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your chariots and in the multitude of your warriors,
14 therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle; mothers were dashed in pieces with their children.
15 Thus it shall be done to you, O house of Israel, because of your great wickedness. In the storm the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off."
WHAT a statement by this prophet of God, Hosea (whose very name, Hoshea, is similar to that of Jesus - Salvation).
Listen to the HEART of the Lord God - "Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain salvation upon you."
Here is the Voice of the same Lord speaking as Hoshea (Jesus) - Salvation.
He speaks to hard hearts that need to be broken and re-planted. The Sower is sowing seeds and breaking up our understandings and presenting the Ways of God. (John 14:6)
What is the ground that is fallow, this hardpan earth that is waterless? This hardened clay that, when it rains, the water pools and it does not go down to seeds that await water for germination?
Jesus said --
6 But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.'
7 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,
8 and the two shall become one.' So they are no longer two but one.
9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."
That is the LAW of God that mankind has broken and trampled under foot. Thus, the enemy within has destroyed mothers and children through the hardness of man's heart, the fallow ground, the waterless soil.
Beloved, this is not popular, what I am about to say - But it is Jesus who said it. His disciples, the apostles of our Lord felt this was so important they asked him again about it!
10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.
11 And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her;
12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
What did Jesus just say?
I have had numerous people declare to me when they were confronted with this passage, verses 10-12, the exact OPPOSITE of what Jesus said.
Jesus said what?
He said -- "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
The statement stands as it reads.
Unless the Church binds and loosens, there can be no twisting of this statement to mean anything else than it says.
Yes, there is grace and forgiveness and there is a process within the Church authorized by God. However, divorce as such will always remain a terrible matter in the eyes of God. We cannot at the peril of our own eternal souls simply brush these awesome words of Jesus Christ, our Hoshea, aside as "suggestions."
So powerful is there inter-relatedness of marriage and divorce that Mark immediately introduces children into this context.
13 And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them.
How often do we see children in such a light as nuisances to Jesus?
Jesus does not see them in this way at all.
14 But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.
Jesus was indignant?
WE are to become like little children in our Faith. Simplicity of Faith in God alone.
There is a prayer to the Blessed Virgin that a friend and priest (Fr. Henry Liguori) shared with me recently. I cannot set this prayer aside now as I read this passage and comment upon it.
May we learn from it daily.
NOS CUM PROLE PIA BENEDICAT VIRGO MARIA!
May the Virgin Mary bless us with her holy Child!
May this indeed become our daily prayer.
"Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.
May this Holy Child Jesus become the Model Supreme for our obedience of Faith to God the Father.
The hardness of our hearts may prevent this from happening within us.
That is the danger.
There is always danger in the desert where the ground is arid and fallow.
It needs to be broken up, because of the hardness of our hearts and then it is God who will plant the Seed of Jesus the Child within us. May the Virgin Mary bless us with her holy Child!
Today, we are thankful for the hand of Jesus at the plough as the fallow may be broken within our hearts and our hearts might be softened to receive the Child Jesus as we approach Advent.
Grace and peace.