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Sunday Readings for Feb. 13, 2011 (6A)
By Fr. James Gilhooley
In 1962 came the Cuban missile crisis. It was a nuclear war stand off between the US and the USSR. In the event of attack, two thousand of the most important people in the US government were to be saved in a bomb shelter dug into a Virginia mountain. One VIP was Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. When he was handed his survival pass, Warren asked, "Where is my wife's?" He was told she was not a VIP. Smiling, he handed the pass back. "In that case," he said, "you have room for one more VIP." This is the type of marriage Jesus had in mind.
Jesus in this Gospel says, "Everyone who divorces his wife forces her to commit adultery. The man who marries a divorced woman likewise commits adultery." These words do not stir us nowadays. But, when Jesus spoke them way back then, they struck the first audiences as off the wall.
Nowhere in the 5000 years of recorded history was marriage in worse shape than when Jesus came. Our own age, with its high divorce rate, would almost emerge as a golden age by comparison.
The world of Jesus witnessed marriage and family being destroyed. On the books, the Jews had a splendid view of marriage. Divorce was a no-no. God in the Book of Malachai had spoken on the question, "I hate divorce." Rabbis of course took their cue from this piece of advice. "The very altar sheds tears when a man divorces the wife of his youth," said they piously.
But the practice for the husband was a different matter altogether. The wife had to ride in the back of the bus and had no legal rights at all. She could not break the marriage bond. Her man could divorce her and put her out on the street for the slightest pretext. Her "crimes" might be these: if she put no salt in his stew, if she appeared out of doors without a babushka, if she bad-mouthed her mother-in-law, etc. (William Barclay)
Much to their financial chagrin, attorneys were not needed. All the husband had to do was write a note of divorce on the back of his laundry list in front of two friends. The marriage was history. Young women were reluctant to marry. Could you fault them? Incidentally, they could not be so cavalier with their husbands.
When the Nazarene said no to divorce, He became the hero of every woman in Palestine. Was Jesus a feminist? You better believe it! The great wonder is that He was not killed by men long before His thirty-third birthday. That He was able to live so long was one of His greatest miracles. The Christian Gospel was liberating women and breaking the glass ceiling two thousand years ago. This was long before the term Women's Liberation came limping into our language.
What did Jesus have in mind when He spoke of marriage? For openers, Christian marriage is the union of two good forgivers. (Unknown) While marriages may be made in heaven, they have to be worked out on earth. Each party must be capable of receiving love and giving it. Arguments will come but they must be quickly buried. Reflect on Winston Churchill's advice. "If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future." Christ reminds couples happiness is two hearts pulling at one load. If couples go through life without experiencing pain, they probably haven't been born yet. (Neil Simon)
It was once taught marriage was a 50-50 proposition. But today we testify each must give a 100%. As Neil Diamond sings, "Selfishness is the reason for the decline in the number of husbands and wives." Many men are delighted to share their working wives' income but refuse to do their share of housework and caring for the children. These are classic male chauvinists.
Couples are reminded that chances of a good marriage are improved when it becomes a triangle - man, woman, and God.
In marriage, one binds oneself not to a job definition but to a person. Success in marriage is more than finding the right person. It is becoming the right person. (Unknown)
As for the fear of making a mistake, may God help those who won't marry until they find the perfect partner. And God help them when they do. If either wants a Good Housekeeping guarantee, that person should go live with a car battery. The faults of spouses we write on the sands. Their virtues on our heart. (Erma Bombeck)
Justice and Mrs Warren would remind couples while a wedding takes a day, a marriage takes a lifetime and a bit.