Fr Paul reads from Matthew’s Gospel (19:3-12) in which the Pharisees test Jesus with questions about divorce and marriage.
Today’s Gospel is interesting, Fr Paul notes, because initially it is the Pharisees who come to Jesus and they put a test to him about marriage and divorce. As we hear, Jesus quotes the passages from Genesis; the Creator, making them male and female; and, then, quoting further from the scriptures of the Old Testament; and, that’s why a man must leave father and mother and cling to his wife.
As this test continues and Jesus gives his teaching it turns out that the disciples, the ones closest to Jesus, are amazed at what Jesus is teaching. It signals for them a sense of shock. Hence, their question, it is not advisable to marry? Jesus goes on and talks about those who can accept to live in various ways… ‘let anyone accept this who can’. Jesus talks about those who can marry and accept that as the way they can live out their lives. Fr Paul says, we also see here, towards the end of the Gospel, the arguments that have always been put forward in relation to celibacy. Celibacy is a way of imitating Jesus himself, who chose not to marry. From the 3rd Century in our Church, celibacy has been seen a symbol of total dedication to God and so we are seeing these different models of life being talked about here by Jesus. It is also acknowledging that, sadly, as we experience in our own family and amongst our friends, that a marriage often cannot be lived out in the best possible circumstances and so divorce becomes a reality.
Today, for our reflection, Fr Paul says, we might pray not only for all married couples, but also for those who have experienced divorce in their lives; we might pray for those who are single; for those who have fulfilled a vocation in the single life; and we might also pray for those who are trying to live out the celibate life through priesthood or religious life; So with the words of the Gospel, today we pray for all those people and for the other intentions we have.