February 24th, 2017: God’s plan for marriage. Mark 10:1-12.
AIM: To contrast marriage with co-habitation.
We have just heard Jesus explaining God’s plan for marriage. Marriage in Jesus’ day was very different from marriage today. Engagements were often made by families while the couple were still children. Only some years later did the young people go through what was called betrothal. This confirmed the engagement and lasted one year. Betrothal could be terminated only by divorce, which in Jesus’ day was available only to men. Marriage followed after a year, and often consisted only in bringing the bride to the groom’s home after a wedding feast.
How different the whole marriage scene is today. In our country it is estimated that some eight million couples, engaged and non-engaged, are co-habiting: living together without marriage. Many people think that’s no big deal; but it is a big deal because marriage is a big deal. There are many reasons for co-habitation, including loneliness, fear, convenience, and lack of commitment. The commitment of co-habiting couples is fragile, and private. It can be terminated by either party at will.
One thing that has not changed, however, is this. Couples who follow God’s plan for marriage are abundantly blessed and happy. Because the commitment co-habiting couples make to one another is private, it is fragile. Either party can terminate it at will. In his parable of the house built on sand, which is washed away when a flood comes [Matt. 7:24-27], Jesus tells us to build our lives only on firm foundations. For people who wish to live together this means making a public promise to be faithful to one another, “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health” until death.
Couples who cohabit, without such a promise, are not bad people. They are good people who are not living as God intends. The Church wants to walk with them on a new path. This starts with a good Confession, the doorway to the graces needed to make changes that lead to increased joy and peace, in this life and in the next.
Living separately before marriage is a great way to grow in sacrifice, patience, and love, three qualities which constitute the firm foundation upon which any marriage according to God’s plan must be built. We pray for co-habiting couples, that they may see there is a better way. And we pray for married couples who struggle to be faithful to God’s plan, that they may receive from Him the strength to remain faithful to their marriage vows.