The author of the book of Sirach employs a realist’s lens to give insight to others about the mystery of friendship.
“No one is perfect…”
“Be wary of…”
“Don’t get hurt…”
“If you neglect these words, it’s your own dang fault…”
On the other hand, Jesus’ teaching looks at the situation through the lens of an idealist and applies it to a specific situation. He relates the passage from Genesis, “God made them male and female…,” to the controversy at hand and plays out its implications concerning divorce.
Most of us can name real people we know today who either have been divorced or are in the process of considering it. And many of us approach them with a realist’s eye: “No one is perfect…” “Stuff happens…” “Be wary of…” “Don’t get hurt…” Who wants to see one or both spouses continue to suffer? Not I.
Now, being more of an idealist myself, I wonder what good Jesus’ words are today? It would seem that the Catholic Church today tries to work both sides of the street in the sense that we promote the ideals of marriage by asking couples to enter into a period of fairly intense preparation before the ceremony. At the same time, the Church offers annulments to many whose marriages have broken apart for reasons.(Annulments do not claim that two people were never married and that the children, therefore, are illegitimate. Rather, they hold that the union forged did not have the wherewithal to be lived out sacramentally ‘until death’ as a sign of Christ’s love for the Church. Therefore, the sacramental union, and only that, is null and void.)
I wonder about a couple things in this context: First, has the Roman Church done enough to help heal the pains divorced persons feel? Have we either promoted the ideal of marriage in such a way that leaves divorced sisters or brothers slogging through shame OR have we defaulted to a contemporary realism that essentially trashes ideals, such as marriage manifesting the oneness of God.
In my pastoral experience, I would say that consistency in response is not what I see in the Church today. For my part, I would like to see pastors and pastoral ministers seek for more ways to promote the ideal of marriage in ways that do not damage those who have not lived or are not living up to this ideal AND to be pastorally sensitive to those suffering in difficult relationships without wrecking the ideal of marriage.
How do we do that today?
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