We could approach today’s readings with the same attitude as the Pharisees in the reading we just heard.
They asked Jesus a question about divorce - a question designed to trip Him up so they could accuse Him of rejecting the law of Moses. We could take Jesus’ response as a simple “no” and move on with our lives.
However, this reading means so much more. It’s not simply about a rule; it takes us back to the very beginning of humanity and to the deepest meaning of who we are as people created by God.
What I want to briefly talk about in this homily is something St. John Paul II spent 129 of his Wednesday General audiences speaking about during the first 5 years he was pope. This teaching has become known as the Theology of the Body. What we heard Jesus say today is the starting point for a powerful examination of human love and sexuality, and what it means for us.
So, let’s look at Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees question. It is like many of his responses to their attempts at trapping him - it goes deeper than they ever intended.
They ask Jesus, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” After asking them what Moses, the great prophet and lawgiver, said about it - He allowed it - Jesus does something interesting. He goes back to humanity’s original state before sin:
Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.
“… from the beginning of creation …”
What Jesus wants us to see is that God had something in mind when He created us. Yes, we can’t escape the fact that the only world we’ve known is one with sin - where none of us are perfect and we experience separation from God and others, and even from ourselves; but that wasn’t the original plan.
Look at our first reading from that part of the book of Genesis. God says of Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” So much powerful truth is packed into that one sentence. Adam is living in paradise. He is in a relationship with God; he lives in harmony with the world around him; but something isn’t yet complete. He is somehow still alone.
That tells us that we are made for communion.
This need to not be alone, to be with another, comes from our Creator. The Bible tells us that God created mankind “in his image.” We reflect the relationship of persons that exists in the Holy Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are forever giving themselves in love. We are made with a desire for that same kind of love.
Because “it is not good for the man to be alone,” God created the woman - and as soon as Adam and Eve see each other, they know that they were made for each other. We say that phrase a lot, meaning that two people are “soulmates” or something, but in this case it is actually true.
The first man and first woman see in each other what they would miss on their own. They are meant to live a life of self-giving love, just like God does, and so reveal God through their love. Humanity reveals the very nature of God through our relationships.
From our perspective, we could look at this and say, “They don’t know what relationships are really like. Jesus is being naive or idealistic.” Far from it.
That first human couple and that first marriage was free from the problems that we face now. Without sin they were completely selfless. Their bodies reflected their souls, and so they could look at each other without shame, possesiveness, or lust. All they saw was the one they freely chose to love. That is why Jesus - and the Church - comes down against divorce: it’s not part of the plan.
Where does that leave us? Divorce exists. Lust and infidelity exist.
Like the Pharisees, we are being called back to our original state. We can’t change the mistakes we’ve made or undo the wounds given to us by others, but we can choose to live a life of self-giving love.
Those of you who are married can recommit yourselves to the vows you made on your wedding day. Ask God for help in being patient and forgiving. Don’t be afraid to ask for forgiveness when it’s necessary. Your marriage is an icon of the Trinity. Let it be seen.
Single people can give of themselves as well - serving the poor, helping family and friends, laying down their lives for others.
All of us can reject sins that lead us away from real love; things like: pornography, masturbation, and lust.
What St. John Paul II pointed out in these readings is not unrealistic. It looks at the world, and our relationships, the way that God does. With His help, we can love like Him.
For a very short summary of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, check out Theology of the Body In One Hour by Jason Evert.