13 August 2010 Friday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time
Ezekiel 16, 59-63; Isaiah 12, 2-6; Matthew 19, 3-12
The great Filipino hero, Dr. Jose Rizal said, “Whoever does not look back at his origins, will not be able to reach his destiny.” The Lord, particularly, in the first reading today reminds us to look back at our personal history and see how He has dealt with us from the beginning. Using the image of a girl to refer to Jerusalem, He narrates to Ezekiel what he has to “make known” to her. The Lord reminds Jerusalem of her beginnings. In the past, she was from the Land of Promise, but when she was born, she was abandoned and “thrown out on the ground as something loathsome.” The Lord then took pity and adopted her. He gave her the things she needed to restore her dignity. But in the end, she was “captivated by her own beauty” and used it like a “harlot” to be possessed by others, other than the One who actually loves her.
Jesus in the Gospel also looks back at the history of laws to answer the questions of the Pharisees about divorce. During the time of Moses, he allowed divorce because of their hardness of hearts. But now, Jesus restores the original purpose of marriage: in the beginning, the bond between husband and wife, has always been unbreakable because a commitment is sacred. Unless of course, as He qualifies, “when the marriage is unlawful.”
In our Christian faith, our relationships are to be patterned from the relationship of God and His people. In the first reading, God will still say to Jerusalem, the ‘harlot’:
“Yet, I will remember the covenant I made with you, and I will set up an everlasting covenant with you, that you may remember and be covered with confusion, and that you may be utterly silenced for shame when I pardon you for all you have done.”
And thus in the Gospel, Jesus restores faithfulness as a primary value in relationships.
Peter’s remark is our natural remark: “If that is the case, it is better not to marry.” Rephrase it today, “Marriage should be open to divorce, just in case, it wouldn’t work out.” So you have advocates of divorce.
But Jesus said, “Not all can accept this word but only those to whom that is granted.” In other words, marriage is not a vocation for everybody. Those who can’t, should not. Or, those who are not ready, even if the couple has already a child with them, they or their parents should not force then to marry. It is important that those who marry are mature enough to carry out their commitment. Conversely, those who decide not to marry and freely choose celibate life, should do so, but should also keep what he has first of all promised. No one has the right to ridicule such choice.
And why? Because our relationships should mirror the relationship of God and his people. In the marriage rite, the image used is this: “Love your wife/husband, as Christ loves His Church.” In celibate life, the image is the same. Except one’s love is not exclusive but inclusive of all.
Isn’t it that the Jerusalem in the first reading is like us, the Church? Our unfaithfulness to God does not need proof: we know how we have sold ourselves to our inordinate desires. But God continues to love us, hoping that His undying love will make us realize that the most worthy of relationships are from those who remain steadfast and constant to us.
Faithfulness is an appeal to a loftier value or to humanity’s higher ability to determine themselves freely and not be encumbered by our emotions or the desire to escape from pain. Why? Because even God experienced the pain we undergo in relationships. To reach our destiny, as Rizal points out, we have to accept and reconcile with the past, in order to move on.
Faithfulness is sometimes difficult to defend when others appeal to a lower level of value. But ask the people who advocate for divorce: at the very core of their confusion, they actually want someone to stick to them, no matter how opinionated and proud they are. It would be hurting for them to look back, that in the beginning, they were nothing.