Ezekiel 16:1-15, 60, 63

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, “Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her filthy crimes. Say, ‘The Lord says this: By origin and birth you belong to the land of Canaan. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. At birth, the very day you were born, there was no one to cut your navel-string, or wash you in cleansing water, or rub you with salt, or wrap you in napkins. No one leaned kindly over you to do anything like that for you. You were exposed in the open fields; you were as unloved as that on the day you were born.

“I saw you struggling in your blood as I was passing, and I said to you as you lay in your blood: Live, and grow like the grass of the fields. You developed, you grew, you reached marriageable age. Your breasts and your hair both grew, but you were quite naked. Then I saw you as I was passing. Your time had come, the time for love. I spread part of my cloak over you and covered your nakedness; I bound myself by oath, I made a covenant with you - it is the Lord who speaks - and you became mine. I bathed you in water, I washed the blood off you, I anointed you with oil. I gave you embroidered dresses, fine leather shoes, a linen headband and a cloak of silk. I loaded you with jewels, gave you bracelets for your wrists and a necklace for your throat. I gave you nose-ring and earrings; I put a beautiful diadem on your head. You were loaded with gold and silver, and dressed in fine linen and embroidered silks. Your food was the finest flour, honey and oil. You grew more and more beautiful; and you rose to be queen. The fame of your beauty spread through the nations, since it was perfect, because I had clothed you with my own splendour - it is the Lord who speaks.

“You have become infatuated with your own beauty; you have used your fame to make yourself a prostitute; you have offered your services to all comers. But I will remember the covenant that I made with you when you were a girl, and I will conclude a covenant with you that shall last for ever. So remember and be covered with shame, and in your confusion be reduced to silence, when I have pardoned you for all that you have done - it is the Lord who speaks.

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Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and to test him 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 must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body? They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.”

They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?” “It was because you so unteachable,” he said, “that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning. Now I say this to you: the man who divorces his wife - I am not speaking of fornication - and marries another, is guilty of adultery.”

The disciples said to him, “If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable 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 that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

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I remember a conversation that a friend had with her other friends. She asked them, “What if your husband has an affair with another woman?” Their immediate answer was, “Divorce loh!” There was no talk at all of talking things through, forgiveness and possible reconciliation.

On reading this, a good Catholic would probably shake his or her head and lament at the way things are now. But guess what? Things have always been like this, even back in Jesus’ time, which was why the issue of divorce was brought up to Jesus.

In the first reading, we see an incredible love that God has for his people. Likening his people to a vulgar, untamed girl, God has taken his people in, showered them with his love, and adorned her with the finest clothes and jewels, given her the best of the best in the world, making her the most beautiful bride of all.

But what happened after that? This beautiful bride naturally drew the attention of many other men, and using her beauty she charmed other men and prostituted herself out to them. Of course God would have been hurt, to see the woman he loved abuse his gifts to her, and to take her own body and misuse it. It was not just her own body that was being harmed, it was God’s as well, since he was now united with her in marriage.

What did God do? Did God divorce his wife and go and find another woman to be his bride? No, God honoured his marriage with his wife, took her back in, and forgave all of her sins and betrayal. What immense love God has for us! We can only sit there in silence and marvel at God’s love.

This is exactly what Jesus is calling married couples to do, should either partner betray the other partner in an affair or otherwise. Every Christian marriage is a sacramental marriage. What this means is that that marriage is a sign of God’s love for his people. That marriage between two Christians (Catholics and non-Catholics) is a reflection of God’s marriage to his people.

This is why when one Christian is married to another, they remain married “till death do us part”. No power on earth can dissolve the marriage between a Christian man and woman who have freely and knowingly chosen to be married, and understood what that marriage means.

No wonder then, that Jesus’ disciples said, “Wah! Liddat better not get married, man!” And Jesus agreed, telling them that, yes, if you cannot be sure of keeping the vows of marriage, then maybe you better remain celibate.

However, of special note is that priests and nuns don’t take the vow of celibacy simply because they cannot be sure of remaining faithful to their marriage vows. They have a different reason altogether for remaining celibate. They are what Jesus calls “eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”

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