Read Joshua 24:1-13, Psalm 136 and Matthew 19:3-12 _“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. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” *(Matthew 19:5-6).*_
Personally, I see a connection between Jesus’ teaching on forgiving our neighbours seventy-seven times seven times and his teaching on divorce. One of my definition of marriage is: the happy union of a man and a woman who know how to forgive, or better put, the union of a man and a woman who are willing to bring out the best in each other.
There is no perfect human being in the world, but so long as people remain alive, growth takes place, something changes. Your spouse may not be the best human being, but if you are willing to create an enabling environment for him or her to grow, if you are willing to forgive, encourage and pray for him or her like a Mother or Father who never gives up on their child, that marriage is sure to work.
No one prays for unhappiness in marriage, no one prays to encounter a spouse who becomes a monster just after the wedding ceremony, but the truth is that the sustenance of your marriage depends on your ability to forgive him or her as many as seventy times seven. Once you start keeping records of offences, once your heart becomes a storage container of anger, you allow the devil to get a hold of the marriage.
Are you preparing for marriage, there is one question you must answer before saying “I do.” This all-important question is: “Can I forgive him or her no matter what?” If your answer is negative, then know that your marriage ended before it started. If I cannot forgive him or her, it means I am not marrying for better for worse, but for better only. Sadly, so many marriages are falling apart today from the beginning because they married for better only (for convenience).
Marriage should never be treated like an achievement (like a degree you acquire to earn the respect of others). It is a decision to literally die to self for the sake of the other. People who are selfish; people who lack the capacity to sacrifice for others are not suited for marriage. You do not marry so that someone will take care of you, complete you or provide for you. No, you marry so that you can take care of your spouse, complete him or her and even die for him or her.
From the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel passage, we can see that it is not the mind of God that any marriage should end in divorce. God did not design marriage as a temporary arrangement, but as a permanent bond; a life-time friendship. One of the qualities of love according to St. Paul is that “Love never ends.” You would agree with me that this teaching of Jesus is one of the most difficult to accept even in our day.
In fact, upon hearing what Jesus says about divorce, Peter was shocked. He said to Jesus: “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry” (Matthew 19:10). I think Peter was right. Some persons are just not cut out for marriage. Do not marry because your mates are married or because of parental pressure or to just to meet anyone’s expectation. Do not marry just to fulfil your sexual appetite; remain celibate and marry only because you are ready to love for better and for worse till death. You can still serve God and live a very happy and fulfilled life as a celibate.
*Is your marriage experiencing difficulties?* First, bear in mind that this is exactly what the devil wants. The thief who comes to steal, to kill and destroy knows how easy it is for him to increase evil and destroy whole populations if he succeeds in ending your marriage. The problem may be more than your spouse. Go to God in prayer.
Secondly, let love reign in your home, do not give fire for fire, do not return insult with insult. He or she may have faults, but show him or her so much love that the thought of seeking love anywhere else will not even arise.
Thirdly, seek the services of professional counsellors and therapists; persons who are trained just like doctors who treat sicknesses. Either you or your spouse may be suffering from serious mental illness or emotional imbalance. Allow the professionals do their job.
Fourthly, be willing to admit your own faults and take corrections. Don’t think you are a saint and everyone else is a devil. Don’t excuse yourself from blame. For example, you may have had some unresolved issues arising from your childhood experiences which you are not even conscious of. Ending this marriage will not solve your problem. Look inwards.
Fifthly, forgive. Take it that your spouse is the most stubborn kid and you are the best teacher in the universe; your job is to make this kid the greatest person the world has ever known.
Lastly, act quickly! Do not let even the smallest quarrel blow up. Do not allow things get out of hand. As St. Paul would say: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26).
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, increase my faithfulness, Amen.
*Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Friday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Joshua 24:1-13, Psalm 136 and Matthew 19:3-12).*