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Marriage and divorce


Gospel reading: Mt 19:3-12


Some Pharisees ap­proached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, 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, no human being must separate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

REFLECTION : What god has joined together

The point of contention in the dis­cussion about divorce is this: “When a man, after marrying a woman, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent [Hebrew erwat dabar], and he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her…” (Dt 24:1). Jewish rabbis, in Jesus’ time, differed concerning what was sufficient ground for divorce. Here Jesus points out that the law is not an order but a kind of concession. The expression “hardness of hearts” (Greek sklerokardia) refers to the Israelites’ incapacity to understand and obey God’s will. The Jews in Jesus’ time are not un­like their Israelite forebears. Jesus now repudiates this concession and points to the original will of the Creator: “What God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

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“The indissolubility… should not be viewed as a ‘yoke’ imposed on human­ity, but a ‘gift’ granted to those who are joined in marriage” (Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 62).

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