Ed Peters, Marriage and Me

“To me, though, the whole thing is rather simple: either holy Communion is Who the Church says it is or it isn’t; either typical divorce and remarriage by Catholics constitutes objective grave sin (nb: no one is reading souls here, rather, one is noting public conduct) or it doesn’t; and, either those manifestly remaining in objective grave sin are prohibited from reception of holy Communion, or they aren’t.”

  From Ed Peter’s blog

This conversation has been floating about in the blogosphere for quite some time.  I have avoided the dialogue because I have some very specific feelings about this conversation that come from a deeply personal place.  Actually, it is a personal place that I ran into earlier today while watching The Other Woman.  My kid was sleeping and I decided it was a good time to watch an actual movie; you know, while I had the time off.  I like Natalie Portman and Lisa Kudrow, who did a great job in a serious role, by the way.  When you are a kid from a broken home, movies about the subject matter obviously always bring up emotional reactions. 

This is one of those conversations I would really always prefer to avoid.  For one, I’m not perfect and it is not even remotely fair for me to expect anyone else to be.  I say the Our Father near constantly, in hopes that I spend every day in forgiveness, for the amount I need to be forgiven.  I’m also completely non-confrontational, to an extreme.  But the biggest difficulty is that divorce is everywhere and no matter how many specialists write books about dealing with divorce or healing from divorce, no one wants to admit that it is an actual problem.  We say:  “so and so is having a problem dealing with divorce”, but divorce itself is never a problem.  The problem is that divorce fractures identity, permanently. 

What is identity?  Whether we like it or not, our identity is family.  There is no smaller unit of society than family.  We make decisions to distance ourselves from family; this relates our identity to family.  We make decisions to continue traditions; this relates our identity to family.  Whatever we do, who we are is where we came from and who we grow to be is a direct result of who we are.  As Christians our family is greater than our immediate family, because we call God Father; “Our Father who art in heaven” (Matt 6:9).  Our identity is also shaped by how we define God as constant; “For I am the Lord, and I change not: and you the sons of Jacob are not consumed.”  (Mal 3:16)  This is further impacted by a Son, so perfect he gave his life for ours, in perfect harmony with his Father; “The words that I speak to you, I speak not of myself. But the Father who abideth in me, he doth the works.”  (John 14:10)  So, the Father is eternal and thereby eternally begetting the Son, who reciprocates this in his constant Sonship to the Father, both through the Holy Spirit, who is the breath of life emanating from the Father to the Son and reciprocated from the Son to the Father; “When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” (John 20:22)

This destruction of family identity is what makes God recoil in his conversation with Malachi:  ” And you ask, “Why?” Because Yahweh stands as witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have broken faith, even though she was your partner and your wife by covenant.  Did he not create a single being, having flesh and the breath of life? And what does this single being seek? God — given offspring! Have respect for your own life then, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.  For I hate divorce, says Yahweh” (Mal 2:14-16)  Which Jesus reiterates:  “Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matt 19:8)  God didn’t create two people in Eden; he created man and from man he built woman.  “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deut 6:4)  Genesis states “Let us make man to our image and likeness.” (Gen 1:26)  Paul considers the image and likeness:  “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh. This is a great sacrament; but I speak in regard to Christ and the church.” (Eph 5:31-32)

The magnitude of this reality is unfathomable.  Our image is not alone that we have a soul, but that we are one and in our oneness we can give our life to and for another.  But this is a joyous reality, not one that should arouse anger in the discussion of the indissolubility of marriage, as it often does.  The reality is that the Eucharist is Christ and the Godhead is constant and if we are to be the light of life to the world, we must be constant, both in marriage and in Eucharist.  Any denial of the indissolubility of marriage denies the constancy of the Trinity, which is a denial of God.  Any denial of the solemnity of the Eucharist, denies the gift of eternal life, which also denies God.  Our calling out, if you will, is to be the city on a hill, the light of the world, the salt of the earth; the visible reality of the life of God.  To be this reality merely confirms God’s eternal mercy, which often appears as judgment, but is in fact “Love and Mercy itself”  (Divine Mercy prayer) and the only hope of any person who ever turned his back on someone else in any situation.

Hosea is perhaps my favorite book in the bible.  “Therefore, behold I will allure her, and will lead her into the wilderness: and I will speak to her heart. And I will give her vinedressers out of the same place, and the valley of Achor for an opening of hope: and she shall sing there according to the days of her youth, and according to the days of her coming up out of the land of Egypt.  And it shall be in that day, saith the Lord, That she shall call me: My husband, and she shall call me no more Baali. And I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and she shall no more remember their name. And in that day I will make a covenant with them, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of the air, and with the creeping things of the earth: and I will destroy the bow, and the sword, and war out of the land: and I will make them sleep secure. And I will espouse thee to me for ever: and I will espouse thee to me in justice, and judgment, and in mercy, and in commiserations.  (Mal 2: 14-19)

God is always calling us to contrition, because he will never abandon us.  The message we need to be living is that there is a covenantal marriage reality, but we need to come to a deeper understanding of what that is to be able to share it.  The greatest gift we can offer our family is the beauty of marriage.  There are marriages that never existed due to one factor or another, but without clarity on what marriage is, this can never be determined.  We can not let our family live like this, especially in this Advent season, “know that he is near, right at the gates.” (Matt 24:33) 

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