About Marriage and Broken Marriage

(Homily for Thirty-Third Ordinary Sunday - Year C)

Message: God wants to rule in our wounded, broken lives - and to save us in the context of family.

Today (in the first reading) we listened to the prophet Malachi. He is one of the "twelve minor prophets" - but "minor" does not mean insignificant. His prophecy, in fact, has great importance. In some Bibles, Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. He is hinge between the two covenants. The final verse of Malachi says, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet...and he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their father." This prophecy applies to John the Baptist who we will hear more about in the season of Advent.

Malachi speaks about the coming of the Lord, but his immediate focus is on the family - turning the hearts of fathers to children and children to fathers. But for a father to love his children, he also must love their mother. Malachi has some strong words for me: "Take heed to yourselves," he says, "and let none be faithless to the wife of his youth for I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel."

Malachi focuses on the family - and so does Jesus. When someone asked him about divorce, he went back to the beginning of creation: "God made them male and female," says Jesus, "For that reason a man shall leave his father and mother and join himself with his wife - and the two shall become one flesh." Then Jesus added, "Let no man separate what God has joined."

This is a beautiful, but difficult teaching. How do we apply it today? We have people in a variety of situations: widowed, divorced, separated, living together, single - and people who are struggling with the meaning of their sexuality. And, really, who isn't?* Especially today.

About this we need to say two things. First, we want all of you. To quote Pope Francis: The Church is not a museum for saints, but a field hospital for the wounded. When medics bring a wounded man to a field hospital, they treat his wounds. They don't check for diabetes and hypertension. That will wait.

The Church is a field hospital. We want you, no matter what your condition.

After treating the wound, there is a second thing: We not only want you, we need you. Jesus has a role for you in the Church, but to take up that role, you have to recover a measure of health. We have some remedies, tried and true remedies - like examination of conscience, prayer and confession.

Jesus embraced sinners, many of them much worse than we can imagine, but he called them something better. He called them, in fact, to highest possible ideal. He loves us and he sees in us a potential that you or can barely conceive.

Jesus shocked people of his day by stating that if a man divorces his wife and marries another, he commits adultery. Those words continue to shock.

The Catholic Church has always taken literally Jesus' words about the indissolubility of marriage - but we also recognize the complexity of our human condition. For that reason we have a process for those previously married who seek the blessing of their current marriage. I know it can be difficult, but in our parish we do have trained marriage advocates who can help.

The bottom line is this: We want you, no matter what your marital state. We want you and we will work with you to strive for the ideal Jesus presents.

Today's psalm says, "God come to rule the earth." He wants to rule our wounded, broken lives. He wants to save us in the context of family. And Jesus says, "By your perseverance you will secure your lives." Amen.


*In the same conversation I have heard people assert: 1) That, really, there is no significant difference between men and women and 2) It was good for man to have a sex change because "he always felt he had a woman inside him that needed to come out." I didn't have words to sort out such contradictions. Do you?

**Pope Francis addressed this complexity in his Press Conference when returning from World Youth Day:

With reference to the issue of giving communion to persons in a second union (because those who are divorced can receive communion, there is no problem, but when they are in a second union, they can’t…), I believe that we need to look at this within the larger context of the entire pastoral care of marriage. And so it is a problem. But also – a parenthesis – the Orthodox have a different practice. They follow the theology of what they call oikonomia, and they give a second chance, they allow it. But I believe that this problem – and here I close the parenthesis – must be studied within the context of the pastoral care of marriage. And so, two things: first, one of the themes to be examined with the eight members of the Council of Cardinals with whom I will meet on 1-3 October is how to move forward in the pastoral care of marriage, and this problem will come up there. And a second thing: two weeks ago the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops met with me about the theme of the next Synod. It was an anthropological theme, but talking it over, going back and forth, we saw this anthropological theme: how does the faith help with one’s personal life-project, but in the family, and so pointing towards the pastoral care of marriage. We are moving towards a somewhat deeper pastoral care of marriage. And this is a problem for everyone, because there are so many of them, no? For example, I will only mention one: Cardinal Quarracino, my predecessor, used to say that as far as he was concerned, half of all marriages are null. But why did he say this? Because people get married lacking maturity, they get married without realizing that it is a life-long commitment, they get married because society tells them they have to get married. And this is where the pastoral care of marriage also comes in. And then there is the legal problem of matrimonial nullity, this has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this. It is complex, the problem of the pastoral care of marriage.

Versión Castellana

The Coming of the Lord - the Typhoon in the Philippines & our response. (MP3 Audio)

Final Version (a major rewrite in light of Philippine Typhoon)

From Archives (Homilies for Thirty-Second Sunday, Year C):

2016: Stewards of Mercy Week 3: Work Quietly
2013: About Marriage and Broken Marriage
2010: The Virtue of Hope
2007: Night and Day We Worked
2004: Facing the End of Life
2001: The Coming Catastrophe
1998: The Choice is Yours

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Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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