Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Marriage
The current failure rate of marriages in our country has reached the stage where it needs to be viewed with serious concern. Our readings today touch on this important aspect of a Christian response to life's situations..

Genesis 2: 18-24:‚  The principal point of the Old Testament reading we have just heard is not the story of the creation of women - most authorities regard this as allegorical; rather is it to emphasise the complementary characters of man and woman.

Hebrews 2: 9-11:‚  The role of Jesus, as expressed by the unknown author of this Letter, is to set an example for all people to follow as they seek to lead their lives in partnership with the Father.

Mark 10: 2-16:‚  The subject of marriage and divorce has occupied the 'social engineers' of society for ever and a day, and the question posed by the Jewish leaders to Christ is no different to the current social mentality on the subject.

Point 1:- It is now estimated that 50% of marriages end in divorce or separation. The impact of this on the children is catastrophic. As they mature and look back on their unhappy experiences as children of unhappy marriages and broken relationships, many are reluctant to make a definitive commitment to marriage and parenthood. They are, however, prepared to form liaisons and to live with a partner indefinitely. The family unit, it would seem, is in a state of crisis and the future of marriage is in doubt. At least, that is what the current crop of 'social engineers' would tell us.

As always, however, there is another side to the coin and other observers tell us that the scene is not so cut and dried. Most people still marry, however cautious they have become about it; and of those who do break up, the majority come back for a second try. The break down of these second attempts is higher than in those who only marry once. The majority of people are waiting longer to have children; but, once they do, the children appear to be loved more intensely than in days gone by when children were not always genuinely wanted, but just happened! So, all in all, there are still positives about marriage leading a big majority of people to see it as the best state in which to release emotional energy, express love and to raise children.

Point 2: There will always be radicals in every society who argue that there are alternatives to marriage; but, for the majority, marriage continues to be the normal, and virtually, the ultimate style of sexual relationship and parenthood. Because of this understanding of marriage, one can easily understand the widespread opposition to those who would wish to have same sex unions regarded as marriage. Such partnerships may require legal protection associated with traditional marriage - for example, property rights - but, they can never present the complete picture of authentic marriage involving, as it does, procreation and education of the family.

The principal point of the Old Testament reading we have just heard is not the story of the creation of women - most authorities regard this as allegorical; rather is it to emphasise the complementary characters of man and woman. Fulfilment for either is achieved in the coming together of the two, not merely in the physical sense, but in the sense that, together, they round out each other's personality; together they develop a unity that finds ultimate expression when the two, literally, become one. And this oneness is not only expressed in terms of copulation but in procreation and parenthood.. Then do the two, literally, become two in one flesh. In parenthood, husband and wife achieve their ultimate dignity through being co-operators with the Creator in the work of life. In this sense, marriage is seen to be a vocation and not merely the legalisation of a relationship. Relationships do not need to be legalised! They need to be responsible and are founded on love and trust.. This sense of "vocation" to marriage is clearly stated in today's Gospel and is as real as a vocation to the Priesthood or to the Religious Life - What God has united, no man should divide. The risk inherent in every marriage can be lessened by this sense of vocation - a recognition of being called by God to co-operate with Him in the work of life. Procreators and Parents! - creating and educating on behalf of! We often hear that it takes two to make a marriage. In point of fact it take three - God together with husband and wife. Human nature being what it is, it can happen that God's help is not always sought in the resolution of problems; or couples make mistakes in their choice of partner. As a result, insoluble situations arise. In such cases we need to acknowledge that whilst God expects us to deal with the difficult, he does not demand the impossible. Then, we are left with making the best of a bad bargain, while we still get on with our overall vocation to "know, love and serve God".

Conclusion: It is good to see marriage no longer regarded as legalised sex where the operative words were "rights" for the husband and "duties" for the wife; or as compulsive child-bearing; a clean house, well dressed children, a pay cheque at the right time and respectability in society, regardless of the sham and pretence existing in the home, are no longer seen as adequate in today's world. Nor does it match the Church's teaching on marriage. Today's expectation is based on a love and trust freely and unreservedly given and returned. As with every vocation, the vocation of marriage involves dedication and commitment.

Scriptural reference:- I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:1-3)