Mark 10:2-12 is an uncomfortable passage in the modern Church. Sadly, when this Gospel is proclaimed, all across the United States well-meaning homilists will trip all over themselves trying not to offend anyone with Jesus plain, uncompromising words.
What is so offensive about it? Well, here is a bit of what Jesus says,
Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery. (Mark 10:11-12)
On any given Sunday, a little over a quarter of the Catholics gathered for Mass are divorced, 28% of them actually. You may be thinking, like me, “wow, that statistic is quite a bit lower than the general population” and it is. That’s a good thing. But that does not mean that our number is insignificant.
Just to recap, Jesus is pretty explicit in the Gospel that divorced and remarried people are committing adultery. According to his words, something like a quarter of the Church is publicly committing adultery. I don’t want you to hear this wrong. The reality is that some of those people are fantastic people. That is important.
I am not saying that people who get divorced and remarried are horrible people. I don’t think Jesus is saying that. If you, reading this, are currently in that situation, I am not saying that you are an awful person. They aren’t. You aren’t. It is, however, a terrible situation. But, the truth is a large percentage of the people gathered for Mass on any Sunday are also lovely people in dire situations. In addition to the quarter of the people who are divorced and remarried, about 20% of the men at Mass on any given Sunday are, statistically speaking, regular consumers of porn. 16% of the women are too. 6% of the people are alcoholics, and about 6% getting high on Marijuana. Again, a lot of these are really nice people.
We are all sinners. That is the truth. Every last one of us needs a savior. But, just because we are all sinners doesn’t mean that the Church should accept sin, even if wonderful people do it.
The Church has to teach what Jesus taught, even when it is hard. God did not come to save terrible people. He came to save us. Every one of us is precious to him. In his eyes we are all worth dying for. We are all Worth saving. What is he saving us from? Sin. Even sin that, by our modern standards, doesn’t seem so bad. That sin needs to be confronted. Even when it is uncomfortable. This Gospel passage is no exception.
Jesus does not waste any words. Everything he says is for us. Why does he give this hard teaching? Because, well, marriage is hard sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes it is. Life is busy. Money is tight. Our bodies age and hormones don’t pump out the same way they used to. The feelings change. Sometimes loving your spouse is not easy. Sometimes they are, objectively, a jerk, and sometimes you are too. All of that is true. Jesus knows this. He is literally in every moment of creation at the same time.
This is why Christ’s example is so important. In the book of Revelation, it is revealed that Christ is the groom, and the Church is his bride. When we see this, it completely changes the way we look at marriage. His example shows us that marriage is more than what you are getting out of the relationship and it is about more than “feeling alive.”
It is a choice that is much stronger and more meaningful than that. Sometimes love means suffering for the sake of another. Love is more about giving than it is about receiving. Sometimes love is a fight, not with the other person (although sometimes we do need to argue), but for the other person. And often, more often than they will tell you in marriage prep, the person you need to fight is yourself.
Mark 10:2-12 is tough. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to hear it. We need to be confronted by it, and we need to invite Jesus to speak into our lives through it.
There really isn’t space in this blog to get into detailed counsel, however, there are a few things I want to add.
If your considering marriage, take Jesus’ words to heart. The commitment you are making is for a lifetime. Pack humility and courage. You’ll need them.
If you are married and struggling, then don’t wait until the last resort to get help. Go to your parish, ask what resources they have, read books on healthy marriage, confront yourself, and pray for humility and patience. And pray for your spouse (I’m going to say this a couple of times.)
If you are divorced and not married, seek spiritual direction. Draw close to the Lord. Seek advice and counsel. Pray for your spouse. Even when it hurts, especially when it hurts. The Lord is faithful. He is still working, and he will work in and through this for your good still.
Lastly, if you are divorced and in a civil marriage, come to the Church, talk to your pastor, seek his counsel and guidance. Talk to the person you are living with and include them on your journey to come back into union with the Church. Be open to what God asks of you. He is faithful.