This Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 10:2-16) gives me a chance to make a few points about the
glorious sacrament of Holy Matrimony in my homily and this bulletin reflection:
“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.”
First, when asked about marriage, Jesus clearly refers to what Genesis says. In
Genesis, Yahweh reveals that He created male and female to be one. “And the two
shall become one flesh” represents the union that we call marriage. So, right away, in
the first book of the Bible, God defines marriage as being between a man and a
woman. Nature defines it that way, too. Jesus confirms Revelation and nature when
he says in this Gospel that marriage is between a male and a female. So, in the current
discussion on marriage, it’s important to be able to cite Mark 10.
Second, when does the man and woman become one flesh? In other words, when are
they officially married? When I ask engaged couples preparing for marriage this
question, almost all of them guess that it’s when the couple comes together in the
marital (conjugal) act. That would seem to be what the Lord is saying because it
sounds like a physical act for the two to become one flesh.
But, and this is really important to understand the difference between the Church’s
approach to marriage and sex versus the world’s, the two become one flesh when they
exchange their vows (consent) of marriage. They promise their lives to the other in
front of God and witnesses, and become one in soul, mind, and heart. It is at that
moment that “they are no longer two but one flesh”. They are no longer two ‘me’s’,
but one ‘we’. Their relationship is now sacred and holy. The physical act of sexual
union is sacred, indeed, and is reserved for the sacred relationships of matrimony. It
symbolizes the spiritual and sacred union that’s already in place, strengthens the
existing bond, and allows the couple to procreate, another huge aspect of marriage
that God reveals in Genesis (“be fruitful and multiply”).
Third, Jesus elevates matrimony to the level of a sacrament when He says, “what God
has joined together”. Like all of the sacraments, marriage is a sacred act (“an
efficacious sign of grace” – Catechism of the Catholic Church). In marriage prep, we
focus half of our energy on whether God is calling them to be married…if His plan is
to join them together. Is He really calling them to say these sacred words (or ones
similar to them) and become one flesh?
“I take you to be my (spouse). I promise to be true to you in good times and in
bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life”
–Sincerely in Christ,