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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Permanency of Marriage

Jesus raises the bar on marriage, taking sides in the debate about divorce. Jewish men might write a writ of divorce, leaving the women vulnerable and destitute in their society. Our Lord would have none of it. Citing creation itself (Genesis 1:27 and 5:2), he asserts that men and women were made for each other and that God intended their union to last throughout life. This position in favor of permanence reflected the school of Shammai. An opposing view was espoused by the rabbinic school of Hillel, which permitted men to divorce their wives, even capriciously. This would be similar to the idea of no-fault divorce today.

Matthew 19:1-12

Mark 10:1-12

Jesus saw husbands and wives both culpable for failed marriages. The two in one flesh did not permit any wiggle room or escape clause. Both monogamy and marital permanence become traits of Christian marriages. Divorce would generally disappear from Christian circles until the Protestant Reformation.

While St. Paul would speak about celibacy as an eschatological sign of the kingdom, our Lord also associates his kingdom with marriage. His very first miraculous sign in his public ministry will be at the wedding feast of Cana. While some might suppose that Jesus only lightens the burdens placed upon people by the Pharisees, he actually adds to their weight. The reason why he seems more gentle and tolerant is because of his generosity in offering the mercy of heaven and divine grace. Remember that Jesus has taken away the option for divorce and says things like love those who hate you and forgive those who persecute you. He says that just to hate your brother is to violate the commandment against killing. Returning to this topic, at the Sermon on the Mount, he commands that even to look at a woman lustfully is the commission of adultery. The Mosaic Law, often referenced by St. Paul as burdensome, permitted a writ of divorce. Instead, Jesus substitutes an absolute prohibition, except for what is sometimes translated as “sexual immorality” or “adulterous.” These words fail to appreciate the magnitude of what Jesus is saying. The actual word used is PORNEA and in this context the New American renders it politely as “unlawful marriage,” but it probably means INCEST. Such marriages are not true marriages, the reason why the Church grants annulments, such unions are not sanctioned by God. However, if a marriage is genuine, then it will endure until the death of one of the spouses. Given the fact that it was a patriarchal society, divorce forced women to seek a new protector and source of support. In this sense, not only the man, but the woman was forced into adultery.