HOMILY 27 SUNDAY O.T. (B)
6/7 Oct 2018
A man was observing the golden jubilee of his wedding. He was asked his secret. He responded, "On my wedding day, Joan's father gave me a watch. Across the face of it, he had printed, "Say something nice to Joan.'"
Did Jesus know of the teachings of the Greek philosopher Plato who lived 400 years before Him? There is speculation Jesus spoke Greek. If He did, He surely would have applauded Plato's writing on marriage. The Ancient Greek philosopher taught that man and woman are but half of their original size. Genuine happiness only arrives when the two halves in question find each other and marry. Thus they help each other reach full growth. Marriage then should not shrink one's personality. The contrary, according to one of the greatest minds we know of, is the case. Marriage should double one's own person and spirit in its fullest sense. Courtship, said a sage, is dreaming happy dreams together and a good marriage is bringing them down to earth and watching them come true.
First the bad news. Everyone here is aware of the alarming statistics on divorce. Oklahoma has some of the worst statistics for marriage in the country. On average, nearly 60% of all first marriages will end in divorce within the first 5 years, regardless of religious affiliation or marriage preparation. In the last 5 years, 70% of all divorce decrees in America has had one common word on them? Know what that word is? You might think, adultery; or communications, or finances. Nope. Try as you might, you probably won’t think of the common word. Here it. The common word: Facebook. That is a sad commentary on our society. That social media is leading to divorce in our society because it has become a god to many in our society.
But, in any case, these are no longer academic numbers, for most of us have family members who are divorced. The dreadful plague has hit our own homes. In Joseph Donder's words, we have all witnessed too often in marriage: "hopes not fulfilled, prayers not heard, efforts in vain, promises unrealized, frustration, disaster, a curse instead of a blessing, death instead of life."
Now the good news. Arthur Tonne reports that a study reveals that but one out of fifty-seven marriages ended in divorce among husbands and wives that worshipped at church consistently. Even more amazing was the finding that only one marriage in five hundred concluded in divorce in couples where there is organized Scripture reading and prayer. To paraphrase the Servant of God, Fr Patrick Peyton, the husband and wife who pray together have an above-average chance of staying together.
St. Mark's Gospel today reveals that God made the law prohibiting divorce. But Tonne's figures reveal He also appears determined to do His part to assist couples who give Him the serious attention He deserves. Public worship and private study and prayer over the Scriptures strike me as good marriage insurance. The most hard-nosed insurance broker would advise bride and groom to invest in same from day one. When this Gospel begins, the Teacher is in the territory which is today's Jordan. The Lord was preaching out in the open fields. The synagogues were too small to hold the crowds who wanted to hear Him. This tells you of His popularity and effectiveness as a preacher.
The Lord's prohibition on divorce is found not merely here in St. Mark's Gospel. One can also discover it in the Gospel of St. Luke and, for emphasis, two different times in St. Matthew. Some may wish He did not condemn divorce, but the written record shows He did. And St Paul clearly understood that point, for he underlines the prohibition in his own letters. Divorce disturbed the Christ. In His day, it was more common than the common cold. No attorneys nor judges were required. A divorce became a fact before one could say, "Going, going, gone." Marriage for the Christ means undivided loyalty. One commentator has observed that our culture teaches husband and wife to ask, "What's in it for me?" But Jesus wants them to ask each other, "What's in it for us?" Married people rush to ask, "How can I complete myself in this union?" But the Christ, according to St. Mark, wishes them to ask, "How can we complete ourselves?"
Some self-anointed experts advise couples to inquire, "How can I serve my wife?" and "How can I serve my husband?" But the real question is, "How can we serve each other?" Albert Schweitzer sums up the point this way: "The only ones who will be really happy are those who have sought and found out how to serve." If couples learn to treat the other the way they treat their own selves, their marriage will become more attractive. Each must say, "I will do more than belong, I will participate. I will do more than care, I will help. I will do more than believe, I will practice. I will do more than be fair, I will be kind. I will do more than be friendly, I will be a friend. I will do more than forgive, I will love."