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MARRIAGE IN PERSPECTIVE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 27th Sunday of the Year, October 07, 2012
Gen. 2:18-24, Ps. 127, Heb. 2:9-11, Mark 10:2-16


"From the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.' ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Mark 10:6-9 NKJV)


Jesus said this in response to the question, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" (Mark 10:2). His answer is that it is not lawful, for from the beginning God created marriage so that the married couple might be one flesh, and what "God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Mark 10:9). It is for this that God created woman. And "the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'" (Gen. 2:18). A woman is the helper fit for a man. "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). This is marriage as it was created by God so that a man would not be alone (Gen. 2:18), and so that together they might have and raise children.


But we need to look at marriage within the full panorama of God's plan. Seen within this perspective, marriage is a good of this present age, but it will not exist in the age to come, in the fullness of the kingdom of God. There will be no marriage in the world of the resurrection. Marriage needs to be seen in perspective as a good only of the present, only of this present life, that will end when this life ends. So it is, for ‘the sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection" (Luke 20:34-36).


And in fact, not all the sons of this present age marry, for "there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it" (Matt. 19:12). "Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given" (Matt. 19:11). But yes, there are those who by the gift and grace of God are able to receive this, and they are those who respond in this present age to the call to live ahead of time the angelic life. They live already as those who will attain to the age of the resurrection will live-like angels, without wife or husband. They are a mirror for the whole Church of the life to come. They are eschatological signs, signs of the age to come, reminding everyone of his ultimate destiny. They try to live here below with a completely undivided heart, without marriage, without dividing their heart by falling in love with a woman, for they are in love only with God, with all their heart, without any division of heart, with an integral heart, completely dedicated to him. They are, in fact, united to God in a type of marriage with him. They have an exclusive nuptial relationship with God that excludes falling in love with anyone else, that excludes marriage.


The most complete treatment of marriage in the New Testament is the seventh chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians. Here St. Paul says that it is not necessary that everyone marry, and that it would, in fact, be better not to marry at all, but it is not a sin to marry, and those who are already married should stay married. But he encourages those who are single or widows to remain single if they can control their passions, because this is better, since this unmarried state enables them to have an undivided relationship with God and remain unentangled with the world. "It is well," he says, "for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband" (1 Cor. 7:1-2). His ideal is celibacy, but he realizes that not everyone can live this way, and so to prevent fornication each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. Marriage prevents fornication.


The husband and wife should not refuse each other but each should satisfy the other. "Do not refuse one another" (1 Cor. 7:5). But then he adds, "I say this by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each one has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another" (1 Cor. 7:6-7). His true desire is that all remain celibate as he is, but he permits marriage because it is necessary and because he knows that not everyone has the gift of celibacy.


But St. Paul counsels those who are single or widows not to marry if they can control their passions. But if they cannot control their desires, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion" (1 Cor. 7:8-9).


St. Paul would prefer that all were celibate, for marriage entangles one with the world and causes division of heart in our love for God. And he would prefer that we have a completely undivided heart in our love for God. "I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband" (1 Cor. 7:32-34). Marriage entangles one with the world and divides one's heart in one's relationship with God. This is why St. Paul prefers celibacy and desires that all be celibate like him, but he leaves each one to follow his own gift, for he knows that not all have the gift to be celibate.


Concerning fiancées, they may marry. It is not sin if they marry. "Let them marry-it is no sin" (1 Cor. 7:36). But it would be better if they do not marry. "He who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better" (1 Cor. 7:38). It would be better for them to remain celibates if they are able to do so, but marriage is also good and permitted.


Here then we see marriage in its New Testament perspective.

 

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