We know God gave Moses the ten commandments written on stone and one of those commands was not to covet. We also know Moses was given from heaven the more than 600 laws covering a variety of requirements so “the Israelite community “may live.” Many of those 600 laws were dealing with hygiene, relationships, fairness and yes even the ritual requirements when in the temple. I seriously doubt anyone other than the Pharisees strictly followed those 600 laws. It would be easier just to go to the temple and perform the required sin offering than follow 600 laws.
More than likely people did just what Jesus’ disciples did when they ate with “unclean that is unwashed hands.” When the Pharisees confronted Jesus with that particular “sin” of the disciples, Jesus commented how it was what comes out of us that makes us unclean. He then listed the evil that comes out of our hearts to satisfy our selfish desires. If human nature back then was like it is today we can be sure laws were ignored, debated and more likely modified to accommodate popular practice. So, are we free to make our decision of which of God given laws or church laws we will follow and which one we can ignore?
We see some of that give and take in today’s gospel when Jesus said, “Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of their hearts.” In one sense we have seen that desire to modify laws we believe are God given when the Supreme Court ruled a marriage between same sex couples was a legal marriage. Suddenly we have another definition of marriage which the Church totally disagrees defines a marriage. Are we today facing hardened hearts demanding a modification of God’s laws to satisfy societal changes?
Keep in mind that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “…love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind” adding “… and to our neighbor as we love ourselves” is the second greatest command (Mt,22:37,39). Is this broad definition of a commandment of God leaving too much for us to interpret? I have some very good friends in my life who have been friends for more than 40 years. They converted to Catholicism thirty years ago and they have often told me that the reason they love the Church is because it is clear on what is right and what is wrong. In this case their faith in the Church solidifies their desire for a clear definition even if a portion of society is critical of the church’s stance.
Does society have the right to redefine morality for Christianity to suit changing attitudes about things we took for granted as unalterable before God. The other side will argue that second command is equally in play and we must be misunderstanding love.
We know from research marriages are on the decline in the United States with more individual deciding to co-habitate rather than marry. We know from statistics Catholics divorce at the same rate as non-Catholics. I happen to believe those events are happening because married couples today fail to grasp the concept of how God designed marriage and love. I am also painfully aware that past generations also did not grasp the concept of marriage either. The generations of my parents and their parents had a lower rate of divorce because they endured within their marriages because divorce was not an option. Societal pressures about divorce were negative then as well as Church law defined it as a sin. Those pressures are no longer existing today.
If we look at divorce statistics, we will find that divorce is painful and leaves long lasting wounds. Statistics will also show us how marriages not lived by God’s concept creates another kind of heartache – a lack of fulfillment, lack of contentment and a separation from the one person we should be becoming one with.
Marriages are designed to reflect the self-sacrificing giving to the other not making sure my needs are being met. I believe that is why Jesus closes this gospel by telling us “unless we embrace the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Children embrace their situations and give of themselves without questions. Questions come later during adolescence but in those early development years children love and give of themselves wholeheartedly.
There is a reason Jesus ends that very hard dialogue about marriage and divorce with the reference to embracing the kingdom of God. For everything we seek in marriages, in our jobs in our relationships are never going satisfy that need in us to be loved. Nothing we seek will be as we expect them to be until we understand who we were created to be and why we exist.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created anew in Christ Jesus, so we could do the good things he has planned for us long ago.” (Eph. 2:10 NLT). Marriage is the normal state for most of us so let us first embrace the disciples call to give of self to the other. We are made in the image and likeness of God and are called to be dying to self so the other might live. Once we embrace our destiny to “conform to the image of Jesus Christ” (Rom.8:29) we can begin to understand how societal pressures will be never ending to move us away from God’s plan for our lives and ultimately confuse us into believing there is another way to being fulfilled other than God’s plan to give us a life full of joy.