Reflection on the Gospel of the Friday
In today’s gospel, Jesus stresses the importance of the sanctity of marriage. The Pharisees ask Jesus a question ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’. They had in mind Deuteronomy 24:1 where Moses allowed divorce if a man ‘finds something objectionable’ in his wife. Jesus points out that this is not the law of God (Deuteronomy 24:1) but something Moses allowed because of their rebellious nature. Such an accommodation is never to be regarded as divine law.
Jesus turned their test against them by quoting from Sacred Scripture, asking them if they did not know the passages from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. He asks them if they are willing to dispute what God has commanded in these passages and interprets the passages to mean there can be no division/divorce when God has joined a couple in marriage. God’s intention from creation is for man and woman to remain united.
Jesus praises those who choose celibacy as a way of life for the service of the Kingdom, or who accept the celibacy imposed on them because of a broken marriage which remains indissoluble. He reminds us however that this calls for special grace. When the disciples heard the Jesus’ teachings on this subject, some of them concluded the opposite extreme and concluded, though some were married including Peter that ‘It was better not to marry at all’.
Jesus calls some of his faithful to follow him in the celibate life as religious, consecrated virgins, bishops, priests, or lay people, giving up the goods and joys of marriage and family to focus more directly and exclusively on Jesus. Through this great gift of Celibacy, they thus give themselves with greater freedom to the service of Jesus and humanity.