Tag Archives: Marriage

Homily – Sunday OT 27B – The Bond of Marriage

This is a repeat of my homily from 2015, but I felt it was worth republishing.


Gn 2:7, 15, 28-24
Ps 128       R. May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
Heb 2:9-11
Mk 10:2-16


Once again, in today’s Gospel, we find the Pharisees placing their trust in their education and intelligence, and trying to trick Jesus. You see, the question they put to Jesus — Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? — was a trick, a double edged sword.

If Jesus said no, then He’d be disagreeing with what Moses taught, and that would make Him a blasphemer. If He said yes, then He’d have to choose His interpretation. That’s because the Pharisees themselves were divided on the matter. Some taught that a man could divorce his wife only for reasons of adultery; others that he could divorce his wife if she angered him (say, if she burned supper or broken something); and still others that he could divorce her simply because he didn’t want her any more. If Jesus answered yes, He’d have to choose one camp and have the other two as enemies. The Pharisees thought they had Jesus in a corner.

But, like in all other attempts to trick Him, Jesus outsmarts them. Instead of answering their question about divorce, Jesus speaks to them about Marriage: But from the beginning of 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 they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate (Mk 10:6-9).

Instead of debating whether divorce was lawful or not, Jesus teaches about the meaning and reality of Marriage, and though His answer was short, He makes some very important points.

In making reference to the text of Genesis we heard in the first reading today, Jesus roots His answer in the will of God. God created man and woman, and He created them not for divorce but for partnership and union: This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh… Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh (Gn 2:23, 24).

By creating Eve from the rib of Adam, God created her as an equal: a partner not merely because she is of the same nature and being as Adam, but because she is his equal in matter and dignity. She comes from the same piece of clay, and the rib, being close to the heart, places them side by side, and not one above the other. Therefore, Jesus reminds the Pharisees of the dignity God gave women, and that women aren’t property that can be dismissed when no longer wanted.

In creating man and woman as equals and for partnership, their union as husband and wife isn’t a mere human experience: it’s God’s plan. Therefore, He is the one who binds them to one another in the union of Marriage.

The Church has always understood that in the exchange of vows to each other, a bride and groom give themselves to each other as gifts. They offer each other as a mutual exchange of persons: ‘I give myself to you as husband, and I receive you as wife’, and vice versa. And it’s this mutual gift of self to the other that makes Marriage a sacred covenant, because it’s done in totality: total self for life. The Council Fathers of Vatican II put it in this way:

The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other, a relationship arises which by divine will … is a lasting one. ~

Through this union they experience the meaning of their oneness and attain to it with growing perfection day by day. As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them (Cf. Pius XI, Casti Connubii) (GS, 48 – emphasis added).

By making appeal to God’s plan in creation, this is what Jesus brings into the discussion. Just like Jesus can’t separate His humanity from His divinity, nor can I separate myself into two people, neither can husband and wife break the union they have established through their mutual gift of self. That’s why Jesus concludes, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate (Mk 10:8). And why He insists that anyone who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mk 10:11-12).

Now over the years (and even in our own day!) many have misunderstood this truth about Marriage. Some have used it to keep people in abuse. The Church has never taught that someone has stay in an abusive relationship. In our Gospel passage, Jesus didn’t condemn separation; He condemned remarriage after divorce. Sometimes it may be necessary for someone in an abusive Marriage to live apart from their spouse. This is a sad and painful reality of our sinfulness. But such a separation doesn’t break the marital bond between the two; separated spouses are to continue to understand themselves as married, and to not attempt remarriage. And nor does legal divorce break the bond between husband and wife.

In some cases, though, the consent upon which the mutual exchange was built can be defective; that is, one or both people didn’t truly give themselves to each other. In such cases, the union can be declared null. That’s what we call a ‘declaration of nullity’ (wrongfully called an ‘annulment’); it’s not the Catholic version of divorce, but a declaration that, after careful study of the relationship, the bond of Marriage was never established; it was invalid. If a Marriage is declared ‘null’, then both parties are free to remarry.

This is the reality of Marriage: through the exchange of vows, a man and a woman are joined to each other so as to become one, and this union is for life. This was God’s plan in creating us male and female, that the two should come together for a communion of life and love. And this is a sacred union, one that reflects the Trinity and our union with Jesus (Eph 5:32); and one that’s revealed most beautifully in the Incarnation of Christ and in His Death on the Cross.

Let us pray today, then, for all married couples, especially those experiencing difficulties; for those preparing for Marriage; and for all the Bishops participating in the Synod on the Family, which opens today. Amen.

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Homily – Sunday OT 2 C

Wedding mosaic


Is 62:1-5
Ps 96      R/. Declare the marvellous works of the Lord among all the peoples.
1 Cor 12:4-11
Jn 2:1-11


After a short theological introduction, the Gospel of John recounts the first week of Jesus’ public life. On each day, we encounter a different testimony about Jesus: first, it was John the Baptist (twice), then Andrew, then Philip and Nathanael, and then, three days later, Jesus Himself. The first week begins with anonymity and ends with a Marriage feast on the seventh day. This is no accident! John purposefully structured it this way to say something profound about who Jesus is and what He’s here to do.

And John also filled this Marriage scene with a lot of symbolism. In fact, there is so much symbolism here that it’s impossible for me to cover it all even in a long homily, so I’ll spare you that and focus on just a few key points.

Now, the Marriage feast Jesus is attending isn’t just a setting during in which John tells a story about a miracle. It’s actually the reverse: the Marriage feast is the story! And the miracle serves to point to the nature of this feast.

You see, John begins his Gospel with the Wedding Feast at Cana and ends his Book of Revelation with the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (cf. Rev 19:7). In doing so, he frames the relationship of Christ and His Church in a marital context, and he presents the Kingdom of God as a wedding feast. At Cana, John isn’t merely telling us that Jesus and His mother and disciples attended a banquet. No, he’s using an image that we understand to teach us about God’s plan for humanity: we’re to be united with Him as in a Marriage, and when this union is fulfilled — when Christ returns in glory—, our life with and in God will be like a Marriage feast. This isn’t a new image: we find it in the Song of Songs, the Psalms, and in Isaiah, as we heard in the first reading: …as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder shall marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you (Is 62:5).

Now in the Jewish tradition, a Marriage was celebrated by seven days of feasting. This required a lot of supplies, so you can imagine that when the wine ran out, it would’ve been embarrassing. It meant they hadn’t planned properly or perhaps that they were too poor to supply adequately for their guests. Either way, it would’ve been a moment of shame for the host and the newlyweds: shame when there should be rejoicing.

Well, isn’t this much like our own condition? We, the crown of God’s creation, are insufficient for our own fulfilment. In itself, humanity can’t reach the goal for which God created it: we’re incapable of uniting ourselves to God. Our sinfulness has emptied us dry; our fallen human nature is inadequate to supply for the feast of the Kingdom. This is what Mary brought to Jesus’ attention: they have no wine (Jn 2:3).

Now, water can be seen here as a symbol of human nature: in itself, it’s good and it brings us life, but it’s not enough to satisfy us; it leaves us empty. We see this ever more clearly as society becomes more and more secular. Humanity is finite: we’re mortal, and left to ourselves we have no hope, no joy in this life, only pleasure and distraction.

There’s a wonderful scene in the movie Babette’s Feast where we see this quite clearly. Babette, a Catholic, had put on a banquet of the finest French cuisine for about a dozen people. The guests, who were Protestant Puritans, attended reluctantly but decided they shouldn’t enjoy these ‘pleasures of the flesh’. Having had only wine with the meal, they were relieved to see water served before the last course. Now in this particular scene, we see one of the women eagerly sip from her water only to find, with great displeasure, that it’s flavourless and unsatisfying, so she promptly puts down the water and takes up her glass of wine with a smile.

With Cana, John reminds us that our fallen nature is bland and unsatisfying; we need God in order to be fulfilled, to be joyful, to have ‘flavour’ (cf. Mt 5:13). And this is what Jesus does. In these eleven verses, John manages to summarise the Incarnation: Christ has come to fulfill humanity. The Catechism says,

The sign of water turned into wine … announces the Hour of Jesus’ glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ (CCC 1335).

And so, through this passage, John also begins his teaching on the Eucharist. He tells us that Jesus didn’t just give them wine, but that He gave them the best wine, and lots of it! You see, Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly (Jn 10:10), and John teaches us that it’s through the Eucharist that Jesus gives us this gift of abundant life: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (Jn 6:53).

By receiving Holy Communion in a state of grace and by spending time in Adoration, we acknowledge that our wine has run out, and that we need Jesus’ help. Through His grace, the water of our human frailty is changed into the wine of the Kingdom, and our lives are transformed into a sign of God’s glory, so that His love might be revealed in and through us and that others might come to believe in Him. Because, just as the new wine at Cana was shared with all present, so too is the new wine of our life in Christ to be shared with the world. This is our mission; this is how we build the Kingdom of God. May Jesus turn our water into wine so that His glory may be revealed in us. Amen.

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Homily, Sunday OT 27 B – The Bond of Marriage


Gn 2:7, 15, 28-24
Ps 128       R. May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.
Heb 2:9-11
Mk 10:2-16


Once again, in today’s Gospel, we find the Pharisees placing their trust in their education and intelligence, and trying to trick Jesus. You see, the question they put to Jesus — Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? — was a trick, a double edged sword.

If Jesus said no, then He’d be disagreeing with what Moses taught, and that would make Him a blasphemer. If He said yes, then He’d have to choose His interpretation. That’s because the Pharisees themselves were divided on the matter. Some taught that a man could divorce his wife only for reasons of adultery; others that he could divorce his wife if she angered him (say, if she burned supper or broken something); and still others that he could divorce her simply because he didn’t want her any more. If Jesus answered yes, He’d have to choose one camp and have the other two as enemies. The Pharisees thought they had Jesus in a corner.

marriage-indissolubleBut, like in all other attempts to trick Him, Jesus outsmarts them. Instead of answering their question about divorce, Jesus speaks to them about Marriage: But from the beginning of 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 they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate (Mk 10:6-9).

Instead of debating whether divorce was lawful or not, Jesus teaches about the meaning and reality of Marriage, and though His answer was short, He makes some very important points.

In making reference to the text of Genesis we heard in the first reading today, Jesus roots His answer in the will of God. God created man and woman, and He created them not for divorce but for partnership and union: This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh… Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh (Gn 2:23, 24).

By creating Eve from the rib of Adam, God created her as an equal: a partner not merely because she is of the same nature and being as Adam, but because she is his equal in matter and dignity. She comes from the same piece of clay, and the rib, being close to the heart, places them side by side, and not one above the other. Therefore, Jesus reminds the Pharisees of the dignity God gave women, and that women aren’t property that can be dismissed when no longer wanted.

In creating man and woman as equals and for partnership, their union as husband and wife isn’t a mere human experience: it’s God’s plan. Therefore, He is the one who binds them to one another in the union of Marriage.

The Church has always understood that in the exchange of vows to each other, a bride and groom give themselves to each other as gifts. They offer each other as a mutual exchange of persons: ‘I give myself to you as husband, and I receive you as wife’, and vice versa. And it’s this mutual gift of self to the other that makes Marriage a sacred covenant, because it’s done in totality: total self for life. The Council Fathers of Vatican II put it in this way:

The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other, a relationship arises which by divine will … is a lasting one. ~

Through this union they experience the meaning of their oneness and attain to it with growing perfection day by day. As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them (Cf. Pius XI, Casti Connubii) (GS, 48 – emphasis added).

By making appeal to God’s plan in creation, this is what Jesus brings into the discussion. Just like Jesus can’t separate His humanity from His divinity, nor can I separate myself into two people, neither can husband and wife break the union they have established through their mutual gift of self. That’s why Jesus concludes, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate (Mk 10:8). And why He insists that anyone who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mk 10:11-12).

Now over the years (and even in our own day!) many have misunderstood this truth about Marriage. Some have used it to keep people in abuse. The Church has never taught that someone has stay in an abusive relationship. In our Gospel passage, Jesus didn’t condemn separation; He condemned remarriage after divorce. Sometimes it may be necessary for someone in an abusive Marriage to live apart from their spouse. This is a sad and painful reality of our sinfulness. But such a separation doesn’t break the marital bond between the two; separated spouses are to continue to understand themselves as married, and to not attempt remarriage. And nor does legal divorce break the bond between husband and wife.

In some cases, though, the consent upon which the mutual exchange was built can be defective; that is, one or both people didn’t truly give themselves to each other. In such cases, the union can be declared null. That’s what we call a ‘declaration of nullity’ (wrongfully called an ‘annulment’); it’s not the Catholic version of divorce, but a declaration that, after careful study of the relationship, the bond of Marriage was never established; it was invalid. If a Marriage is declared ‘null’, then both parties are free to remarry.

This is the reality of Marriage: through the exchange of vows, a man and a woman are joined to each other so as to become one, and this union is for life. This was God’s plan in creating us male and female, that the two should come together for a communion of life and love. And this is a sacred union, one that reflects the Trinity and our union with Jesus (Eph 5:32); and one that’s revealed most beautifully in the Incarnation of Christ and in His Death on the Cross.

Let us pray today, then, for all married couples, especially those experiencing difficulties; for those preparing for Marriage; and for all the Bishops participating in the Synod on the Family, which opens today. Amen.

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Vatican Council II – Revisiting its Documents: Sacrosanctum Concilium Part XVII

A multi-part series honouring the Vatican Council II by reviewing its documents.  We continue with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

Part XVII: Chapter III: The Other Sacraments and the Sacramentals, continued

Taking up where we left of a couple of weeks ago, we continue with the Council’s examination of the Sacraments, dealing now with specific Sacraments, namely Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick.

As we already noted, the Council asked that the rite of Baptism for infants be revised to reflect more specifically “that those to be baptised are infants” (no. 67). This new rite should include appropriate options for when several children are being baptised, as well as a shorter rite for use in mission countries or in danger of death when clergy is not readily available (no. 68). Yes, in specific situations (especially in danger of death!), lay people are authorised to baptise. This is because, as we saw in Part IV, “it is really Christ Himself who baptizes” (no. 7). In fact, because of this, anyone, even an atheist can baptise in danger of death, so long as the intention is there and the proper words are used (I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit).

Likewise the rite of Confirmation is to be revised in order that its connection to Baptism and Christian Initiation is made more visible. For this, the Council Fathers directed that “candidates … renew their baptismal promises just before they are confirmed” (no. 71).

The rite for the Sacrament of Penance (also known as Confession) is also to be revised to “more clearly express both the nature and effect of the sacrament” (no. 72). While the act of confessing sins committed is necessary for the Sacrament, the focus of this intimate encounter with Christ is not sin, but rather His mercy and love. And penance — whether in relation to Confession, Lent, etc. — is not punishment, but an act of love; an act of love offered to increase our desire to avoid sin, to strengthen repentance, and to make reparation for sins.

The Council Fathers also called for a renewed understanding of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick: it “is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death” (no. 73). Like Penance, the Anointing of the Sick is a Sacrament of healing, specifically for the seriously ill and the elderly. This Sacrament may be repeated as often as necessary.

In the context of impending death, the Anointing of the Sick is combined with Confession and Viaticum to create what is commonly called “the Last Rites”. (Viaticum is Latin for ‘go with you’, referring to the Eucharist as our food for the final journey.)

Continuing with the remaining Sacraments, those that we refer to as Sacraments of service to the community (Marriage and Holy Orders), the Council Fathers called for a revision of both of these rites as well (nos. 76-79), so that the nature and purpose of each Sacrament might be better signified and explained. This included provisions that the Nuptial Blessing and the Prayer of Consecration at ordination could henceforth be said in the mother tongue so that those present might better understand the meaning of these Sacraments (cf. nos. 76, 78). (To be continued…)

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