27th Sunday Year B
Disharmony in our marriage harms ourselves and our children. Let us seek healing from Jesus.
In our modern society, many marriages are in trouble – Christian marriages as well as non-Christian ones. Statistically, we know that one out of every two marriages ends in divorce. This is an alarming piece of statistics. As alarming as it is, what we do not see in this piece of statistics are two things:
- That many marriages which do not end in divorce are also in trouble.
- That all troubled marriages, divorced or not, bring great anguish to all parties concern.
On the first point, many husbands and wives live as strangers under the same roof. Many could not work out their differences but also decided not to end their marriage. This could be because of cultural taboo; or they are staying together “for the sake of the children”. In truth, the greatest gift the couple can give to their children is not merely staying together under one roof. As many children of disharmonious marriages would testify, the sheer act of the parents merely staying under one roof does not bring them happiness. The greatest gift a couple can give to their children is to live their marriage as God intended. Not only is this the greatest gift to the children, it is the greatest gift they can give to each other. A marriage lived by God’s original design is a source of great fulfilment and great joy, since God is original author of that marital union itself.
The First Reading tells the story of creation; and how God authored the marital union. After God created the man, God gifted him with possessions. God said to him, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden” (Gen 2:16). God also gave him power and authority over all His creation. We saw the man exercising this authority by naming all the animals. So the man had great possessions, power and authority. Yet he is not fulfilled. What is our modern-day solution to this problem? We seek more possessions, more power and more authority. Think about this, if possessions, power and authority cannot satisfy me, why would more of it make any difference? Alas, many husbands and wives today are obsessed with materialistic pursuits. They thought possessions, power and authority will bring them happiness. And when they are still not happy, they seek to acquire even more possessions, even more power and even more authority. In the process, they work even harder and make even greater sacrifice to their family life. Often, they sacrifice the one thing that can bring them true fulfillment – their family union and through it their union with God. In the First Reading, we hear that this family-God-union is exactly what God prescribed as the solution to the man’s unfulfillment problem. The man needed a soulmate. So God made a perfect helper and companion for the man, by fashioning a woman out of his rib. But the woman was not a separate new creation. By fashioning the woman out of the man’s rib, God had in fact divided the original human into two separate beings. And that is not all, in addition to the possessions, power and authority God has gifted humankind, He shared with humankind His greatest gift of all – the power of creation. God summed up His gifts by this command: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28) This is why “a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (verse 24)
But because of our sins and weaknesses, many husbands and wives have lost sight of God’s original design for our marriages. St Paul advised us, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor 13:4-7) But instead living these values in our marriages, we are often proud and unforgiving toward our spouses. And when our marriage breaks down, out of even more pride, we make a virtue out of it. We say that we did a noble thing by staying together for the children. Or if our marriage ends in divorce, we blame everyone else but ourselves. We say that the Church is heartless in refusing the Eucharist to the divorce and remarried. Wasn’t this what the Pharisees was doing in the Gospel this week? They asked Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (verse 2) And just like us, they tried to make a virtue out of this line of questioning, disguising it as a quest for truth. They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” (verse 4) Not only were the Pharisees being self-righteous, they were in fact finding loop holes in the law to justify their lack in morality. My brothers and sisters, isn’t this what we do as well? But Jesus did not mince His words when he replied, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you” (verse 5). Jesus concluded his teaching on divorce with a simple command: what God has joined together, let no one separate (verse 9). Indeed, this is the foundation of the Church’s teaching on the indissoluble nature of marriage.
This brings us to the second point: a troubled marriage, divorced or not, causes great pains to all concerned – not just the couple. Friends and family of the couples are often dragged into the marital disharmony. The worst affected are the children. Young children do not know how to process the conflicts between the two people closest to them – their parents. What they cannot process, they bottle it up within them. Over time, while they may look fine from the outside, they built up a large deposit of latent anger within their hearts. This can manifest as behavioural problems for the child and often persist into their adulthood. It is thus not surprising many people who run foul with the law came from broken families. It is also not surprising many children from divorced family often end up being divorced themselves. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church taught us, “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. … Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them” (CCC 2223). My brothers and sisters, make no mistake, the disharmony in our family harm our children gravely, severely affecting not just their current happiness but likely their future happiness as well.
But what do I do if I am the offspring of a broken family? I might say, it is not my fault that I carry this great hurt and latent anger in me. So, should I simply resign myself to a lifetime of misery? The truth is, all our families are imperfect in some ways. To a greater or lesser extent, all of us carries baggages from our upbringing. We all need healing to shed ourselves of these baggages. Otherwise, these baggages will continue to torment our inner soul. We can sweep them under the carpet and pretend they are not there. But deep down we know they are always there, casting an over-bearing shadow on our life. This is the reason Jesus allowed Himself to suffer innocently. In the Second Reading, St Paul lamented that Jesus tasted death for sake of all of us (verse 9). Jesus took on our sufferings as our brother (verse 11). He suffered on my behalf so that I need not suffer anymore. This is why St Paul called Jesus’ suffering a grace of God (verse 9). He added, “It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (verse 10) So if I am seeking healing from the baggages of my life, all I need to do is come to Jesus. I need to open my wounds to Him, and let Jesus the divine physician heal me. But this is not easy to approach Jesus like that. It takes courage, it takes trust; and most of all, it takes faith.
May the Holy Spirit gift us with courage, trust and faith. Amen.