First Reading: Ezk 16:1-15. 60. 63; Psalm: Is 12. R. v. 1d; Gospel: Mt 19:3-12
THE DIGNITY OF MARRIAGE
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
“Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.” (Mat 19:9)
A young man once asked me: “Father, Jesus said that a man cannot divorce his wife except in the case of adultery. Why then is the Catholic Church against divorce even on the basis of adultery?”
The confusion in this passage that many do experience lies on the multiplicity of translation. Firstly, we need to understand that the New Testament was originally written in Greek. In this Greek version of the New Testament, the word used for “unchastity” in the aforementioned verse was porneia. Now, different biblical translations have interpreted porneia to mean “sexual immorality”, “illicit marriage”, “unchastity” or “adultery” as was translated in the Bible of this young man who inquired about this verse of the scriptures. But porneia is perfectly translated as “sexual immorality” or “unchastity.” So Jesus was saying that a man could divorce his wife only on the ground of sexual immorality or unchastity. What then did Jesus mean by this?
Jesus was not approving divorce by this statement. This was why he had to explain to the Pharisees that the reason Moses permitted divorce was because of their hardness of heart. But that the plan of God from the beginning was that man and woman should be joined together in marriage which was why he made them male and female. And that what God has joined together, man must not put asunder. In Leviticus 18:6-18, the Greek word porneia is explained as ‘incest’ which is a sin of sexual immorality or unchastity. Hence, Jesus was saying that no one should divorce his wife except in the case of incest or any other immoral or unlawful union.
In the Canon law of the Catholic Church, marriages can be annulled on the ground of unlawful union or in the case of marriages invalidly contracted. Annulment is a judgment by ecclesiastical tribunal that a marriage was invalidly contracted and so the couple can remarry. Marriages can be annulled when there is error of person, force, wilful exclusion of children, or when it involves blood relations, et cetera. This is because these unions are unlawful and immoral. Marriage is a divine mandate and the Church respects and upholds it just as Jesus did in the gospel of today. Couples therefore should not treat each other however they feel in marriage.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, bless all Christian marriages with faithfulness and fidelity. Amen.