October 3, 2018
At the parish where I assist—St. Bernadette—we regularly celebrate people’s anniversaries each month. People are called upon to share their anniversary date and the number of years they have been married. There is great joy for couples who announce that it is their second or fifth or tenth anniversary. There is some laughter when a particular couple forgets or contradicts each other about the number of years they have been married! And there is always deep admiration for the couples who announce that they have been married for 40 or 50 or even 60 years. There is not a person in the parish who does not know that these years have been borne not without challenge, and there is a respectful admiration that these couples have managed to be together through “thick and thin.” Given the times in which we live today, we also know that there are people in the church who were a couple, but are no longer; it might be due to the death of a spouse, but it might also be due to separation and divorce. Like all couples preparing for marriage, they had looked forward to a future of life and love, but ultimately found that their dreams did not come true.
Given the varied experiences of people in a parish today, the readings for this weekend remind us of the lofty plan that God has for married life, but also of our human frailty and our inability to live up to the ideals set before us, not only of married life in particular, but of human life in general. Interestingly, the passage about marriage and divorce that we read in the tenth chapter of Mark’s gospel today includes other “hard” sayings. Not only does Jesus exclude divorce, but he also indicates that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he or she accepts it like a little child. This means, of course, to be able to trust in God and God’s ways—a difficult enterprise for most of us who want to be in control of our lives. Further, he reminds the disciples three different times in this chapter about how hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God. Indeed, Peter is so perplexed with Jesus’ insistence on this point that he asks, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus’ reply is a heartening one for us in the face of all three of these “hard” teachings: “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God” (Mk 10:27).
Marriages that endure, we know, are not without trials and tribulations, providing many opportunities for couples to place their trust in each other and in God. This can seem, at times, impossible. Marriages that do not endure, we also know, generate their own particular pains and sufferings, which may make trust in God even more difficult in the experience of broken trust with another. This also can seem to be impossible. But, at these moments when the cross is present, we stand in hope of the resurrection and in the hope that God can make all things new.