Human beings have organised themselves in many different ways; in tribal groups, monarchies, republics and the United Nations. Yet the one basic structure they did not choose – it was given to them – is the family.
This Sunday we read the description in the Book of Genesis of its origin. ‘A man leaves his mother and father and joins himself to his wife and they become one body.’ They create something new. This is now their doing. But it is also God’s doing. The new couple are fulfilling God’s plan. They bring children into the world – each child a new and wonderful individual, a child of God and a child of its parents. No wonder there is excitement on their wedding day and all their relatives and friends gather to cheer them on.
A new family is a new creation, a capsule of God’s plan. His people are made up of countless families, stamped with the divine image of the Trinity and setting out to reflect his glory in the beauty and integrity of their lives.
That is the plan. Alas, the reality is often different as men and women toss and turn and find themselves in unhappy marriages and want to get out. The Church is slowly learning to be more compassionate and helpful to those who cannot go on in their marriage. She still insists on holding up the ideal of marriage as Jesus gives it today in the gospel of Mark. But she is also quietly putting aside rigour and dealing gently with her sons and daughters.
But there is much to be said. While being compassionate the Church also calls us to believe. A marriage may look impossible from the troubled explanation given to a priest or counsellor, but the Christian message is always one of believing even when we cannot see, even when things look impossible. That is the faith, the risk and the joy of marriage. Abraham set out ‘without knowing where he was going’ (Heb 11:8), and sometimes we are asked to trust that a marriage can survive the turbulence of the present in the belief that a deeper level of union among the partners is just round the corner. There are no rules to govern this. Each case will be different. But we should not rush to seek the easy solution.
This is where prayer and the cross come in. We cannot say, ‘this is your cross’ quickly or easily. We are called to be highly sensitive and discerning. In the end it will be a matter of conscience, of really listening to my heart. Maybe I really should get out of this marriage for a number of reasons. But maybe the Lord is asking me to believe and persevere and the light dawns and a new joy appears.
3 October 2021 Sunday 27B Gen 2:18-24 Heb 2:9-11 Mark 10:2-16