Marriage – The Way God Intended it to Be
October 5, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I (Genesis 2:18-24) Reading II (Hebrews 2:9-11)
Gospel (St. Mark 10:2-16)
In the readings this morning, we see the foundations of human society, we see the foundation of the Church being presented to us, and that foundation is marriage. God, from the very beginning, we are told in Sacred Scripture, made them male and female. And it tells us it is for this reason that a man should leave his mother and his father and cleave to his wife, and the two become one flesh.
Now when Our Lord is asked about this in the Gospel reading, the question is “Can a man divorce his wife?” Saint Matthew’s Gospel makes it even clearer and he adds, “…for any reason whatever?” We are told that He was being asked this as a test. You must understand that there were two different schools of thought at the time of Jesus, two primary schools of thought: one of Rabbi Gamaliel and one of Rabbi Hillel. Rabbi Hillel we would today probably label as a very left-wing liberal type. Rabbi Gamaliel, who was considered the greatest rabbi ever to live and the teacher of Saint Paul, was very strict with regard to the law. In Chapter 24 of the Book of Deuteronomy there is a prescript written by Moses allowing a man to write a bill of divorce and give it to his wife. So the question that they are really asking Jesus is “Where do you stand on this issue? Are you coming down with Rabbi Gamaliel, or are you coming down on the side of Rabbi Hillel?” And Jesus makes it clear that both of those are wrong. Rabbi Hillel and in fact in some of the rabbinic midrashes, as they are called (those are rabbinic commentaries on Scripture), on the very left-wing they would actually go so far as to basically suggest that if a woman were to burn the toast in the morning that would be cause enough because Moses said, “If a man finds something indecent in his wife, he can write her a bill of divorce.” I guess that is something unacceptable and that would be enough to get a divorce. Rabbi Gamaliel, on the other hand, said, “No, it is only in cases of adultery that you can get a divorce.” That is not what Jesus says.
Jesus tells us that we are to go back to the very beginning to what God intended in the garden, what God intended for humanity, and that is that God created them male and female. In the first reading which we heard from the second chapter of the Book of Genesis, we hear about God creating all the animals and bringing them to the man to see what the man will call each of them. It is in doing this that Adam recognizes that he is the only person God created at that time. None of the animals were persons. Regardless of what the unfortunate bumper sticker says, animals are not people too. Animals are animals, people are people, and the two shall never mix. But we have a very unfortunate group of people who are pretty confused about this these days, and the confusion gets worse. Not only did God not create an animal to be the helpmate for Adam, He did not create another man to be the helpmate for Adam either. He understood it was not good that the man would be alone, and He made a suitable partner for the man. There are many other things that would be unsuitable partners for the man, and the only suitable partner for the man is a woman – and that is all.
But what we must understand is that this beautiful reality of marriage which God has made for us is not only about the man and the woman who enter into marriage, but marriage is about Church, marriage is about society; marriage is the foundation for both. In the second reading, while it does not say specifically this point about Jesus, it is really made very clear that “in bringing many children to salvation, it was fitting that God should make their leader in the work of salvation perfect through suffering, and that He Who consecrates and they who are being consecrated would have one and the same Father” and so on. So we see that the work of salvation is really by analogy a work of marriage. Saint Paul makes it very clear in his Letter to the Ephesians when he tells us that Jesus Christ came into this world and He took to Himself a wife: the Church, the Bride of Christ. And so the Church then becomes a mother, giving birth to each one of us in a spiritual rebirth. And so that we see in the relationship of Christ to His Church, Saint Paul says, “That is understood only by understanding what marriage is really about: the union of a male and a female.”
We have in our day this diabolical movement – and that is the only thing it can be called – to allow what they are now suggesting should be homosexual marriages, two men or two women trying to enter into a union of marriage. Needless to say, this cannot work. The very first purpose of marriage is the procreation and education of children. This is not even a potential among two males or two females, and so it is something which is completely forbidden. This is not merely Church law, and it is not only natural law which is written in our hearts and in our minds – it is Divine Law. And because it is Divine Law, it can never change, ever. It does not matter how many judges in countries or states decide that it is okay to call two males or two females living together a family, they are not. We must be very clear about that. Two men can be very good friends; two women can be very good friends; they cannot be married and they cannot be a family. And it is a total violation of the dignity of a child to put them in a situation where they do not have a proper foundation of a mother and a father. To suggest that it is okay that Johnny has two daddies is a violation of that child, a violation of the rights and the dignity of that child. The same is true if you put a child with two women and say that Sally has two mommies. It totally violates everything of God’s creation and everything within ourselves, and worst of all, it violates the child.
Jesus called the children to Himself, and we in our society violate children. There is a huge problem, and it starts with the failure to recognize human dignity. It starts with the failure to recognize the dignity of Christian marriage and the dignity of the family. Today, more than anytime in human history, the family is under attack. I have said it many times before and I will say it again: The place where Satan has chosen to attack is at the very foundation, and the foundation of the family and the foundation of marriage is the woman. That is where Satan has attacked, telling lies that women are not equal, telling lies that women have to become like men to become equal to men. God created us male and female, He created both of us in His own image and likeness, and He created us equal. Thanks be to God! He created us different, but He created us equal. That must be made very clear.
If a woman does not believe that she is equal to a man because society does not treat her as an equal, she is buying the lie of Satan. Society, we have to remember, is ruled by Satan. The Lord made it clear 2,000 years ago when Satan offered to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus did not tell him that he did not have authority to offer Him all the kingdoms of the world; He accepted that as a reality. And we all know that wherever Satan reigns he requires human sacrifice, so it is pretty obvious who is the king of America as we continue to sacrifice our little babies to Satan everyday. We must understand that the violation of children begins with the violation of their mothers. If a woman is an object, so is her child. We continue to violate children because we continue in this society to violate women. We give them birth control pills and tell them that this is good for them and this is going to make them equal because they can be as irresponsible and ridiculous as men. Why? Because we do not want women acting like they are supposed to. We want to destroy marriage and we want to destroy the covenant of the family.
Contraception is the number one cause of divorce. If there is any question about it, just look at the statistics. Every single time a new contraceptive became available, starting back in the Nineteen-teens, the divorce rate jumped. The only difference in society at that time was a new contraceptive. If it is okay to be irresponsible and selfish with your spouse, then it is equally okay to be irresponsible and selfish with your neighbors or your secretaries or anybody else that you want. It is not acceptable. I was on an airplane once and a man who struggled with his sexual identity was sitting next to me. He asked me what I thought about what he was doing, because he announced to me that he had moved in with his boyfriend, so I had the glorious opportunity to tell him what I thought about what he was doing, and I did. He stopped me mid-sentence at one point and he asked me pointblank, “How many people in your parish do you think contracept?” I thought, “What does that have to do with anything?” I explained to him what the situation would be and he said, “Is it wrong if they do that?” I said, “It is a mortal sin.” He said, “Do you tell them that?” I said, “Yes, we tell them that.” He scratched his head and looked at me and said, “Well, you realize that if you would have said it was okay that they are not doing anything different than I am.” I said, “Well, that is not true. At least for them it is a male and a female.” But his point was that it is sterile, it is selfish. It is not about life. It is about the self and one’s own selfish pleasure. It is not an act of love.
God created the male and the female both in His image and likeness, and God is love. He created us to love and to be loved, not to use and to be used. It is time that we as Catholic people stand up for what it means, not only to be human, not only to be male and female, but to be married. It is time that we stop apologizing for having children. It is time that we stop having to hang our heads as though there is something wrong with being married because you are not out running around with somebody else. And it is time that we stand up for the dignity of the person and for the dignity of marriage. We have given into Satan when we start apologizing and waffling on what the family is about. We have given into Satan when we buy the lie that we are not equal. We have given into Satan when we suggest that it is okay to be selfish, and worst of all, when it is okay to be selfish in a covenant of love where two people have given themselves to each other as a gift – and then they try to take the gift back and make it selfish for their own pleasure. It is a total and complete violation of the vows of Christian marriage and of the dignity of the person and of the dignity of human sexuality.
God made us male and female for a reason, and it is not enough for us to sit back and say, “Well, personally, I do not accept homosexual marriages but I can’t say anything about these other people.” Yes, we can – and we must. They are not married. They can never be married. And anything that they do acting as though they are married is a mortal sin. We must be clear about this. For whatever sad reason, we seem to think it is okay if a boy and a girl live together before they get married. And once we decided that was okay, then it is okay if two men want to say they are married or if two women want to say they are married. As long as we have thrown holy matrimony out the window, anything goes. And it all revolves around the dignity of the woman because as long as a woman is going to be treated like an object everybody else is an object because we are equal. If a woman is made to be used, then so is a man. And if a child is no longer the product of love but a product of lust, then the child is not wanted for his own sake but for whatever selfish reason, and then the child is nothing but an object because both parents were treated as an object. The child is unwanted and the child is just a thing.
This goes directly contrary to what we see in Scripture and to what the teaching of the Church is, has always been, and will always be. These are truths which are inalienable. These are truths which are written in our hearts and in our minds, and it does not matter what anyone else says. Every single person in every single culture knows the truth in this regard – every last one. But we need to begin at least now to turn it around. And the turn around has to begin by first recognizing the dignity of the human person and acting upon that dignity. More than anyplace else, it must begin with those who are married. You must treat one another with dignity and with respect, and you must treat your children with dignity and respect. Your children will learn dignity and respect for other people by watching their parents. If you treat one another like objects, is there any reason why we should be surprised that your children treat others like objects? That is what they have learned that they are. That is what they have learned that a person of the opposite sex is because that is what they have seen modeled for them. It must begin with parents. It is time that married couples stand up for their own sacrament. It is time that we have to stop hanging our heads and apologizing that God has called us to what is right and natural and good. It is time that we stand up and say that it is good and it is holy and this is the Will of God. We must live it the way God intended it to be lived, and that is that two persons enter into a covenant of love and their souls are united in an unbreakable bond and that love must grow everyday. It is not about two people seeking themselves, but rather it is about two people finding themselves in the other. That is what it is about. But if you have no dignity, neither does your spouse, and neither do your children.
So read the first couple of chapters of Genesis. When God made the human person in the first chapter of Genesis, He saw that what He made was very good. He made us in His own image and likeness; that is where our dignity comes from. He put us together as male and female in a union which is holy, in a union which imitates the Trinity, in a union which imitates the love of Christ and His Church. That is the dignity God has called married couples to. Society is collapsing and the Church is in trouble because the foundation of both is being attacked, and that foundation is marriage. We must come to the aid of this beautiful sacrament. Those who live the sacrament must embrace it wholeheartedly and raise it up as God would intend and be that wall of defense against the attack of Satan so that the society will once again be stable and the Church will be well-founded on the foundation that God intended of a male and a female who grow together in love and have their souls united in a bond which is made by God – not by themselves – and is unbreakable by any human being in this world.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.