In one week we will start our Fortnight for Freedom.
I think we can safely simplify the religious-freedom threats by naming three “what-counts-as”-es: what counts as health care, what counts as a genuinely American immigration policy, and what counts as marriage.
Today let’s focus briefly on marriage, since our Lord teaches us about it in the gospel reading at today’s Holy Mass.
Apparently everyone agrees that marriage involves two things: 1) an expression of irrevocable consent, and 2) sexual intercourse.
Two distinctive characteristics of marriage, which make marriage marriage: Both parties publicly acknowledge their intention to share the conjugal life permanently. Then they actually do so. That’s a marriage.
Thing is: the Lord Jesus humbly and frankly points out for us that the simple and commonly understood facts about marriage clearly render divorce impossible. Divorce is impossible not simply as a matter of obedience to an external law given by God—though, of course, God, through the prophet Hosea, said: “I hate divorce.”
No, the impossibility of divorce is not just a matter of obeying God’s laws. It is more fundamentally a matter of genuine personal integrity.
I give myself to someone for life by words and then by conjugal deeds. I can’t go back on that without doing genuine violence to myself. To be married means a true physical union with my spouse.
I have to acknowledge the physical reality: My spouse has become a part of me and I a part of my spouse. Like two vines that have grown into each other on a trellis. If I try to pull myself loose, I will rip myself apart. I simply won’t be myself anymore.
What distinguishes marriage as marriage is not that it provides an automatic best friend. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Nor does marriage provide an automatic source of delight and enchantment. It might provide that; it might not. The truth is, sometimes marriage winds up being the heaviest cross that a person has to carry in life. Marriage has one simple distinguishing characteristic: “The two become one flesh.”
God, in His incomprehensible wisdom, made this simple and basic thing, marriage, to be a sign of salvation. God made marriage—commitment and physical union—for many reasons, some obvious, some beyond us. But He has revealed the most fundamental reason why He made us male and female: to give us an image of His loving union with us.
Unbreakable commitment. Inextricable physical intertwine-ment. Between man and woman. And between God and man in Christ.