Matthew 5:27-32

Jesus said to his disciples: "You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If you right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.

It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

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It has sometimes been said that the Catholic Church does not move with the times and is therefore not in touch with reality. Unfortunately, saying something like that directly implies that Jesus was not in touch with reality.

As you can see in today's gospel reading: everyone who divorces his wife … makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

The Catholic Church is only following what Jesus teaches, and what he teaches is relevant for all time. It was only when a certain King Henry VIII decided that he wanted to divorce his wife to marry another woman so as to have a male heir that the divorce and remarriage was allowed in some Christian groups. Unfortunately that was not something the Pope at that time could allow, nor could the Pope today allow it.

Such a teaching of the Church has nothing to do with moving with the times, but it has everything to do with obedience to Christ. In fact, I would say that the Church is more in touch with reality because of this teaching than those who claim that divorce is good.

One look at the world today tells you that divorce is not healthy for the family. True, there might be exceptions to the rule, but these are exactly that - exceptions. If it were the rule, then we must be able to say that divorce is healthy for every family in order for it to be healthy for the society, which is clearly not true. The reverse, rather, is true, that if every married couple were to remain true to each other, it would be healthy for the society.

But going further than that, Jesus, and the Church, actually reach further back in time to creation itself - when Man was created for God, and Woman was created for Man. Man represented the whole of humanity, and there was… is… a special bond between God and Mankind. This bond is reflected in the bond between Man and Woman. A special covenant, which is exactly what the entire Scriptures is about.

In the Catholic Church today, we now know that the covenant between man and woman in a marriage is meant to reflect the covenant between God and Man. This is what is meant by a sacramental marriage, for a sacrament means a sign of God's love, a tangible sign of God's love through something physical. This is common in all the sacraments.

Thus whatever God has united, no man can divide, and that includes the Pope. A man who is married to a woman stays married to her until one of them passes from this mortal realm. Even if they obtain a civil divorce, they are still married to each other in the eyes of God. Consequently, if either of them engage in sexual intercourse (whether within or without another civil marriage) with another person, they are committing adultery, and involving the other person at that.

How can this be? This teaching is too hard for us to bear… that's what many of us say. But all of Jesus' teachings are hard to accept, unless we surrender our understanding to God. What is harder to accept than Jesus' teachings is that once we understand them, it necessitates a change in the way we think and the way we live. That's the hardest part, but that's what repenting is all about. 

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