Readings: James 5:9-12, Ps. 103:1-4,8-9,11-12, Mark 10:1-12

“Do not grumble, brethren, against one another, that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the doors.” (James 5:9)

In today’s first reading, St. James says: “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. There is no need to swear. For our ‘yes’ to be ‘yes’, we must be ready to stand by our promises, whether in good times or in bad. In other words, these words of St. James apply to marriage. Marriage is a lifetime of letting your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. Is this easy? No. However, this is exactly God’s plan for your marriage.

As Jesus explains in today’s Gospel passage, divorce is not God’s plan for any marriage. Jesus’ disciples were shocked to hear this from Jesus. When they got to the house, they asked Jesus about his stand on divorce. They hoped Jesus would shift grounds or give some exceptions, but Jesus equated divorce to adultery. In other words, marriage is a permanent bond such that anyone who is divorced is committing adultery with their new spouse. How can we avoid divorce? These are the lessons we shall consider today:

1. Never Make A Promise You Don’t Intend to Keep: For our ‘Yes’ to be ‘Yes’, we must be careful when making important (lifetime) decisions. Here are some quotes to ponder: “Promise is a big word. It either makes you a hero or a liar.” “It is not what you promise; it’s what you deliver that matters.” “Don’t make promises you can’t keep. It is better to be honest and direct than to risk damaging your relationships with broken promises.” Some couples do not take the time to reflect deeply on the marriage vows (promises); they are more concerned about the glamour of the wedding ceremony. Meanwhile, some have made plans to quit even before entering into the marriage. Before making any promise, ask yourself: “Am I ready to follow through? If things do not go as I expect (or plan), will I still be faithful? If I discover that the man (or woman) I married is a beast, will my “yes” remain “yes”?

2. Do Not Grumble Against Others: What does it mean? The word ‘grumble’ (Greek: ‘stengazo’) means to groan, sigh, or express discontent. In today’s First Reading, James urges believers to refrain from criticising, judging, or speaking ill of one another. The reason for this warning is that when we judge and condemn others, we are implying that God made a mistake in creating or allowing someone to be a certain way. What is St. James teaching us here? Accept people the way they are. Stop trying to change your spouse, your children or anyone at all. Everybody is unique; no two persons (not even identical twins) can think or behave alike. There will always be something you don’t like about someone, and you can do nothing to change that. Many marriages have ended today because spouses wanted to change their partners (force them to behave in a certain way). Stop trying to change your spouse. If you love their good sides, learn to love their bad sides. You are imperfect; you have bad sides that nobody can live with or change. You will only be disappointed if you hope to find a perfect person by divorcing your spouse.

3. Learn From God; He is Compassionate and Gracious: Today’s Psalm sings about God’s compassion. What is the meaning of compassion? Compassion is a deep feeling of concern and kindness towards others suffering, struggling, or in need. It involves understanding and sharing the feelings of others and being moved to help or support them in some way. Compassion is about being present, listening, and offering support. Compassion is deeper than feeling sorry for someone; it is empathy (the ability to feel their pains as if yours), kindness, concern and active engagement (activities you do to alleviate someone’s suffering). Is it possible to be compassionate to your spouse and still think of divorcing them? It is like a doctor killing a patient because he feels the patient is very sick. Instead of leaving the marriage, why not become the doctor to your spouse? The Psalm says: “As far as the east is from the west, so far from us does God remove our transgressions.” Forgiveness is the lifeblood of any marriage.

4. Marriage Sustains the Human Race: Marriage is so important that when God took our human flesh, He ordered Joseph to marry Mary even though Mary conceived without conjugal relations. Every child needs a father (male) and a mother (female) for their psychological development. Jesus’ teaching on divorce was aimed at stopping the abuse of marriage in those days, whereby man was only required to present a certificate to dispose of his wife. Men were changing wives as people changed clothes; Jesus fought for women. Unfortunately, these abuses have become the order of the day. No one wants to commit to another; we want to ‘use’ and dump – women have become reduced to objects of sexual satisfaction and men, objects of economic survival. What if there is domestic violence? Should the spouses remain? No, but while you leave for a safe environment to protect your life, rehabilitate your spouse and mend the marriage as soon as possible. Divorce appears like a quick fix, but it comes with untold consequences.  

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, give me the grace to see my faults and learn to live in peace with others. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.

Remember, amid all challenges, choose to be happy. Live with a positive mindset and believe in God’s plan for you. God bless you abundantly. (Friday of week 7 in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: James 5:9-12, Ps. 103:1-4,8-9,11-12, Mark 10:1-12).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu