Fr. Peter Patrick’s Homily for Sunday, October 3, 2021:

“Happily ever after” is the dream of every couple when they get married–until death do they part. To some, the dream comes true, but others end up with a painful divorce. According to a divorce statistics survey on Religion and Divorce, posted on lawyer.com: “If you’re an evangelical Christian adult who has been married, there’s a 26 percent likelihood that you’ve been divorced—compared to a 28 percent chance for Catholics and a 38 percent chance for non-Christians” (https://www.wf-lawyers.com › divorce-statistics-and-facts-2020).

You may wonder what happens to that first love and the vows the couple took. Many times when I meet with people who are struggling with their marriages, I ask them to go back and reflect on their marriage vows. “I, N., take you, N., for my lawful husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part” (Order of celebrating matrimony). On the wedding day, the couple is so excited about the ceremony that they often fail to reflect on the vows. When faced with any difficulties, they struggle to persevere. 

Today’s first reading from the book of Genesis says, “The LORD God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.’” From the beginning God instituted marriage between man and woman and gave them authority to go and multiply. All of us are a product of such a union. Marriage is as difficult now as it was in Jesus’ time. As we hear in today’s Gospel, “The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, ‘Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?’” They were testing Jesus, but He never missed an opportunity to teach them. They said Moses permitted divorce, which he did because of the Israelites’ selfish interests. But Jesus told them, “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female inseparable.”

That doesn’t mean one should live in an abusive marriage, which is one of the reasons for permitting annulments. One of the things that confuses people is the difference between annulment and divorce. A divorce is a legal matter. It is a declaration by the state that a marriage has ended. The Church does not grant divorce to end a marriage. The Church may grant an annulment after a marriage has broken up. It’s a statement that after a serious investigation by the Church’s authorities that a couple are not obligated to each other under God because there was something seriously lacking in their commitment from the beginning. 

As Christians, it is our duty to pray for all those who have been divorced and any children involved, rather than judging them. It was their wish to live happily ever after. Let us continue praying for all married couples–especially those struggling with their marriages–and those who have gone through the pain of divorce.      

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