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Indissolubility is a necessity of love not a precept

There are situations in which both spouses are wondering, with good reason, whether it is still worthwhile to insist on trying to fix a relationship gone bad and that is proving to be irremediably broken. 

They don’t love each other any more, there are character incompatibilities, annoyances, they speak only to offend and even the children are involved in the failure of the parents. 

What sense has it to go on living together? Does God demand the extension of what is torture is a torture? Is it not better for everyone to go his or her own way and rebuild a life? 

Human logic answers these questions without hesitation: divorce is better. If so, for many couples who have strained relationships after a few years of marriage, is living together still advisable? If things do not go well, why not let go.

In no field, more than sexual ethics is man tempted to make his own morals, and so the salt of the gospel proposal is often made insipid by many buts, ifs, howevers and depends.

 Today’s gospel sheds light into this moral darkness of ours. 

It is surprising that the Pharisees address to Jesus the question, “Is it right for a husband to divorce his wife?” (v. 2). Like all Jews, without exception, the members of this sect had no doubts about the lawfulness of divorce, as the Old Testament contemplated the possibility of a second marriage. 

The Jews believed that divorce, in certain situations, is not only a right, but a duty. The rabbis taught that the first commandment given by God is that of procreation, “Be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28).

They considered this duty so fundamental that, if children were not born of a marriage, the husband had to send his wife back to have children by another woman.

Jesus takes a position of breaking  this traditional conception of his people and resolutely proclaims that no divorce is part of the plan of God. Divorce has been introduced by humans and is a destructive attempt on the work of the Lord, who united man and woman in only one flesh.

Faced with the harsh and uncompromising position of the Master, not only the Pharisees, but also the disciples are puzzled, almost appalled. Having entered the house, they question him on the subject. 

But Jesus reaffirms: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against his wife” and adds: “the woman who divorces her husband and marries another also commits adultery” (vv. 11-12). This statement establishes a phenomenon unheard of until then—the perfect equality of rights and duties of man and woman.

How to interpret it?

Christ has not imposed a new law, more severe than that of Moses. He has only invoked God’s original plan that does not include divorce.

The goal is high, but the footsteps of men are often uncertain. Since only God knows the weaknesses of each, no one can stand in judgment of their brethren; no one has the right to assess guilt and pronounce sentences.

 One must always approach concrete situations with caution. Each sister or brother must be understood, accompanied, helped so that one can give the best of oneself.

To show oneself understanding and patient does not mean softening the demands of the gospel or adapt ing them to the current morality.

• Father Fernando Armellini CMF
Claretian Publications