Friday, August 18, 2017
1) Opening prayer
Almighty and ever-living God,
your Spirit made us your children,
confident to call you Father.
Increase your Spirit within us
and bring us to our promised inheritance.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 19,3-12
Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and to put him to the test they said, 'Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever?'
He answered, 'Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh? They are no longer two, therefore, but one flesh. So then, what God has united, human beings must not divide.'
They said to him, 'Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?'
He said to them, 'It was because you were so hard-hearted, that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning. Now I say this to you: anyone who divorces his wife -- I am not speaking of an illicit marriage -- and marries another, is guilty of adultery.'
The disciples said to him, 'If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry.'
But he replied, 'It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born so from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.'
• Context. Up to chapter 18 Matthew has shown how the discourses of Jesus have marked the different phases of the progressive constitution and formation of the community of disciples around their Master. Now in chapter 19, 1 this small group withdraws from the territory of Galilee and arrives in the territories of Judaea. The call of Jesus that involves his disciples advances more until the decisive choice: the acceptance or rejection of the person of Jesus. Such a phase takes place along the road that leads to Jerusalem (chapters 19-20), and finally with the arrival in the city and to the Temple (chapters 21-23). All the encounters that Jesus experiences in the course of these chapters take place along this journey from Galilee to Jerusalem.
• The encounter with the Pharisees. Passing through Trans-Jordanian (19, 1) the first encounter is with the Pharisees and the theme of the discussion of Jesus with them becomes a reason for reflection for the group of the disciples. The question of the Pharisees concerns divorce and places Jesus in difficulty, particularly, the more solid and stable reality for every Jewish community. The intervention of the Pharisees wants to accuse Jesus because of his teaching. It is a question of a true process: Matthew considers it as “testing him”, “a way of tempting him”. The question is really a crucial one: “Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatsoever?” (19, 3). The awkward malicious attempt of the Pharisees to interpret the text of DT 24, 1 to place Jesus in difficulty does not escape the attention of the reader: “Suppose a man has taken a wife and consummated the marriage, but she has not pleased him and he has found some impropriety of which to accuse her, he has, therefore, made out a writ of divorce for her and handed it to her and then dismissed her from his house”. This text had given place, throughout the centuries, to innumerable discussions: to admit divorce for any reason whatsoever; to request a minimum of bad behaviour, a true adultery.
• It is God who unites. Jesus responds to the Pharisees having recourse to Gn 1, 17: 2, 24, which presents the question about the primary will of God, the Creator. The love that unites man to woman, comes from God and because of its origin, it unifies and cannot be separated. If Jesus quotes Gn 2, 24: “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife and they become one flesh” (19, 5), it is because he wants to underline a particular and absolute principle: it is the creating will of God that unites man and woman. When a man and a woman unite together in marriage, it is God who unites them; the term “coniugi” - couple – comes from the verb joined together, to unite, that is to say, that the joining together of the two partners sexually is the effect of the creative word of God. The response of Jesus to the Pharisees reaches its summit: marriage is indissoluble from its original constitution. Jesus continues this time drawing from Ml 2, 13-16: to repudiate the wife is to break the covenant with God and according to the prophets this covenant has to be lived, above all, by the spouses in their conjugal union (Ho 1-3; Is 1, 21-26; Jr 2, 2; 3, 1.6-12; Ez 16; 23; Is 54, 6-10; 60-62). The response of Jesus appears as a contradiction to the Law of Moses which grants the possibility to grant a writ of divorce. To motivate his response Jesus reminds the Pharisees: if Moses gave this possibility it is because you were so hardhearted (v. 8), more concrete, because of your indocility to the Word of God. The Law of Gn 1, 26; 2, 24 had never been modified, but Moses was obliged to adapt it to an attitude of indocility. The first marriage was not annulled by adultery. To contemporary man and particularly, to the ecclesial community the word of Jesus clearly says that there should be no divorces; and, just the same, we see that there are; in pastoral life the divorced persons are accepted, to whom the possibility of entering into the Kingdom is always open. The reaction of the disciples is immediate: “If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry” (v. 10). The response of Jesus continues to sustain the indissolubility of matrimony, impossible for the human mentality but possible for God. The eunuch of whom Jesus speaks is not the one who is unable to generate but the one, who separated from his wife, continues to live in continence, he remains faithful to the first conjugal bond: he is an eunuch as regards all other women.
4) Personal questions
• As regards marriage do we know how to accept the teaching of Jesus with simplicity, without adapting it to our own legitimate choices to be comfortable?
• The evangelical passage has reminded us that the design of the Father on man and on woman is a wonderful project of love. Are you aware that love has an essential law: it implies the total and full gift of one’s own person to the other?
5) Concluding Prayer
God, create in me a clean heart,
renew within me a resolute spirit,
do not thrust me away from your presence,
do not take away from me your spirit of holiness. (Ps 51,10-11)