Friday in the 19th Week of the Year, August 16, 2019 

Marriage: Faithful Living in God’s Love 
Joshua’s address to the people inculcates two points: first, God is the God of the history of his people and the people are what they are and where they are by the grace of a God who took pity on them and loved them; second, the promised land they now live in is God-given and belongs to God. Cannot the same be said of us, God’s people today? Are not the land we live in and the earth we “possess” a trust of God? Is even the Church not something we do not possess, but only provisional for a people on the march in hope to their true promised land?
God reveals some qualities of his own love in the love of husband and wife. It is a love that reveals, in which a person discloses himself to another person as intimately as possible. It is a love that accepts the other person as he or she is and is willing to share everything together. It is a love that sacrifices all self-interests for the partner. It is a faithful love. It is also a love that is creative, that brings out the best in the other person. Is this not an image of God’s love and, conversely, is God’s Trinitarian love and his love for us not the model of all human love? 

1 Reading: Joshua 24:1-13
Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaders, their judges and their officers. When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: In times past your fathers, down to Terah, father of Abraham and Nahor, dwelt beyond the River and served other gods. But I brought your father Abraham from the region beyond the River and led him through the entire land of Canaan. I made his descendants numerous, and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I assigned the mountain region of Seir in which to settle, while Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. “Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and smote Egypt with the prodigies which I wrought in her midst. Afterward I led you out of Egypt, and when you reached the sea, the Egyptians pursued your fathers to the Red Sea with chariots and horsemen. Because they cried out to the LORD, he put darkness between your people and the Egyptians, upon whom he brought the sea so that it engulfed them. After you witnessed what I did to Egypt, and dwelt a long time in the desert, I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I delivered them into your power. You took possession of their land, and I destroyed them, the two kings of the Amorites, before you. Then Balak, son of Zippor, king of Moab, prepared to war against Israel. He summoned Balaam, son of Beor, to curse you; but I would not listen to Balaam. On the contrary, he had to bless you, and I saved you from him. Once you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho, the men of Jericho fought against you, but I delivered them also into your power. And I sent the hornets ahead of you that drove them (the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites) out of your way; it was not your sword or your bow. “I gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities that you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.” 

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 136:1-3, 16-18, 21-22 and 24
R. His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever;
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his mercy endures forever;
Give thanks to the LORD of lords,
for his mercy endures forever. R.

Who led his people through the wilderness,
for his mercy endures forever;
Who smote great kings,
for his mercy endures forever;
And slew powerful kings,
for his mercy endures forever. R.

And made their land a heritage,
for his mercy endures forever;
The heritage of Israel his servant,
for his mercy endures forever;
And freed us from our foes,
for his mercy endures forever. R.

Alleluia: cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:13
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Receive the word of god, not as the word of men,
but, as it truly is, the word of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia. 

Gospel: Matthew 19:3-12
Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” 

Jesus’ teaching on divorce goes back to Genesis itself and shows little room for exceptions. Moses allowed divorce and remarriage under certain circumstances, but Jesus rescinds the Mosaic teaching.
In New Testament teaching, marriage is definitive and its dissolution rescinded. Matthew does allow of one exception over that of the other Synoptics. Divorce was permitted in the case of ‘pomeia’ (Geek for “lewd conduct”), but we are left to conjecture as to what exactly is meant, perhaps some form of illicit union. The basic teaching is clear. Jesus wishes to restore marriage to its status as a lifelong commitment.
As to the disciples’ comment that, if such be the case, it would be better not to marry, Jesus responds that celibacy is indeed a commendable state when undertaken in the interests of the kingdom of God.
In today’s reading from Joshua, the Hebrews are reminded of all that Yahweh had done for them, from the time of Abraham to the present. The demands that God makes of us in the matter of marriage also spring from his love and concern. There is no denying the fact that divorce in today’s culture is a great scourge, a veritable destroyer of family values. We are wrong in seeing the church’s teaching on marriage as too narrow. This is a teaching that comes from Christ himself. 

What God has joined together, let no one separate. Husband and wife are one, and they have promised to be one in sickness and health, in good days and in bad days. May God keep them united and may he bless you all, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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