YEAR B: HOMILY FOR FRIDAY OF THE 19TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: FORGIVENESS SUSTAINS MARRIAGE.
BY: Fr. Evaristus Abu
“I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I forgive you all that you have done, says the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 16:62-63)
Our first reading today from the book of Ezekiel chapter 16 is a rather moving and very graphic description of mankind in its relationship with God. Even though it was addressed to Jerusalem as a city, this passage perfectly mirrors our situation even as Christians. We have been very unfaithful to God; our religiousity is shallow and we have often prostituted ourselves with other gods. Yet, this passage concludes with a line of God’s assurance of forgiveness.
That as a human race, we are not yet extinct is a sign that God hasn’t given up on us yet; a sign that God hasn’t divorced the human race yet; a sign that God hasn’t stopped loving us.
Our Gospel passage contains what I may call the hardest teaching of Jesus Christ and coincidentally it comes just after Jesus taught another very hard topic; forgiveness. Jesus explained that in God’s mind, there is no room for divorce. Moses’ law was just a mere reflection of the people’s hardness of heart. Divorce, according to Jesus is equal to adultery and the only exception for divorce is “unchastity.” Biblical scholars have researched the original Greek word which is translated here as “unchastity” and they discovered Jesus was referring to an illegal marriage not necessarily “fornication.”
Just as Jesus’ teaching appears very hard to accept today, it was not an easy pill for his listeners to accept. In fact, his own disciples exclaimed: “if that is the case, then isn’t it better not to marry at all?” In other words, if marriage will trap me for life, why not I just stay away from it completely by opting for celibacy. To this Jesus responded, “not everyone can accept this teaching but only those to whom it is given.” Matthew 19:11.
Celibacy is a gift, it is a calling not meant for everyone. Celibacy is not an escape route from the commitment of marriage. Those who lack the gift of celibacy or misunderstand the celibate lifestyle as a ticket to freedom (moral irresponsibility) end up extremely frustrated, unhappy, never satisfied and most often drop out later in life. One who cannot be committed to just one person is not likely capable of being committed to the demands of celibacy.
So if celibacy is not a better option to marriage, how then are we to remain committed and happy in marriage for the rest of our lives? The answer is forgiveness. Before you consider divorce before you call your lawyer or even your priest to end what began in love, think of this passage in our first reading today; the fact that God is still there for us despite our imperfections. Be to your spouse what God is to the human race. Develop in your heart a kind of love that no fire can quench, a love that remains steadfast despite the hurts and pains which constantly come from your spouse.
The truth is that this love is not limited to married couples; even celibates must have this kind of love for the church and the people in other to remain true to their calling and their vows. A celibate who constantly nags and complains about his Bishop/superior or his parishioners is not so different from a man or woman who constantly nags about their spouse. Just as forgiveness sustains a marriage, the celibate who cannot forgive ends up dropping the habit someday.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, bless my vocation (marriage or celibate), fill my days with constant joy that I may never think of giving up on my commitments. Amen
*Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Friday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time: Bible Study: Ezekiel 16:1-63, Isaiah 12:2-6, Matthew 19:3-12).