of Creighton University's Online Ministries
August 12th, 2011
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Joshua 24:1-13 “…”And I sent the hornets ahead of you that drove them (the Amorites, Perizzites…) out of your way; it was not your sword or your bow.’…”
Psalm 136: 1-3, 16-18, 21-22, 24 “…And freed us from our foes, for his mercy endures forever…”
Matthew 19: 3-12 “…’I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.’ ...”
Saint Euplius (304 A.D.) Deacon and martyr, living in Sicily, he was tortured and beheaded by the edict of Diocletian ruling, for not renouncing his love of Jesus Christ. He had a book of the gospels with him when captured, which were forbidden reading. In another source it said he had the gospels within him, meaning he knew them by heart.
Today’s readings from the Word, the book that cost St. Euplius his life are rich and convicting for us too. In the first reading from Joshua we find a concise history following the journey God’s people took to get to the Promised Land; we know much of it by heart. Joshua starts with “Thus says the LORD” and begins the chronicle with Abraham and goes through the times with other leaders like Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Aaron to name a few. The LORD outlines all that he has done to help the people get to that point in their history. The road was hard, the people got discouraged, but in the end both were faithful to each other. The people understand blessings come when they serve the Lord, and likewise when they serve other gods they fall into ruin.
Then in the Gospel, we find Jesus being asked if it is lawful to divorce. As a reflection writer, there are some passages you’d rather not be assigned, this is one of them for me. My heart sank, as it was pretty much the only subject covered in the Gospel passage. Like all of us, we have friends and family who have divorced and some have remarried. The divorce rate in the U.S. is said to be at 50%, but it depends on which marriage (whether first, second or third marriage) and the percentage of divorce ranges from 41% to 74% according to a Divorce Rate website that cited two sources.
I kept picking up my assignment, and putting it back down again. People stay away from the topic of divorce; we all know how difficult it is for both people; and in a particular way for the children, no matter the age. I thought why me Lord, why did I get this day, these readings? Then I thought of my good Mom and Dad (God rest his soul); their marriage lasted until death parted them. It was hard for both of them. It lasted through lean financial times and through times where both people challenged the other in ways that have sent others to divorce court. I got to see them grow old together, content to hang out and just be, fewer and fewer words necessary. The good Lord took my Dad first ’cause we all knew he couldn’t have lived without her. Their friends’ marriages lasted too, who knows what challenges they faced? I felt bad that marriage did not seem to be on the same ground as their generation.
I kept stalling to write this reflection and then I started getting some encouragement. The readings for July 30th, read at Mass were from Matthew’s Gospel on the beheading of John the Baptist. I thought, John lost his head over speaking up on this subject, what’s my problem? And I read an article in the local newspaper that was addressing how hard divorce is on the adult children of the marriages that break up. I thought of my own cousin who is starting through a divorce and I thought of his almost grown children, one in post secondary education and the other at the end of her high school years. Their breakup is affecting the whole family, and yet I’ve felt so helpless. I started to wonder if there was something more I could do, or could have done?
I looked to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and I looked to Fr. Andy Alexander and he helped a lot. He said “Sometimes divorce is the necessary choice when it becomes clear to a person’s conscience that this marriage was not a sacrament, from the beginning, usually evidenced by the fact that it lacked the capacity to be a sacrament. For example, horrible infidelity or abuse, on the one hand, and simple but deep self-absorption, on the other, represent the kind of impediments to a sacramental marriage. And, the church has set up a process to examine a person’s petition regarding a non-sacramental marriage – the annulment process – to submit their judgment to a church tribunal who ultimately concurs with their judgment and says, in effect, that this was not a marriage which was a sacrament.”
Maybe we should be talking about divorce a little more, or at least helping each other cope with the strains of life today. Our world has become so materialistic, a long ways from how Jesus taught us to live. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked. When marriage is good, it is VERY good; and good for all. I am a recipient of that goodness, as I’m surrounded by growing families in my neighborhood. Jesus wants to help us, he loves the family. Let us pray to him for courage to make the self- sacrificing commitments in our marriages today; so that more marriages will reach “til death do us part”. Even St. Euplius encouraged me to keep writing as he would not denounce the Lord, or His good book of gospels, which went everywhere with him, and neither could I.
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