“What God has joined together…” We honor this precious mystery of our faith in the weekend close to St. Francis of Assisi’s feast. This teaching is more than for married couples. It is a human truth. We are made for relationships. It is in our DNA. God dwells there with us drawing us together into “holy human communion.”
There is no secret to the reality that marriage and family life are sometimes difficult. Seems they always have been. Try Franciscan community life? Proof of the presence of God is that we do not shoot at each other more often. St. Francis’ sense of family came from another part of the Gospel of Mark. (3:31ff) When Jesus was told by his disciples that his mother and brothers were outside asking to see him. Jesus asked who his mother and brothers were? He concluded that ”family” — the mothers, brothers and sisters were those who do the will of God. We hear the word of God together, first through the intimacy of our parents. And we teach each other how to keep it.
The readings today give some basic premises and ideals for marriage. Right up front is the need for companionship: “It is not good for “the man” to be alone.” None of us! We are human and we are most ourselves when we are in love. As mammals…we are connected to the bodies of our mothers and fathers before birth. Genesis tells us that God provides a companion, one who is the equal of “the man.” In turn, the man leaves behind his birth community and becomes family to his wife.
Then it gets complicated. Pharisees attempt to test Jesus: “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” (There was usually no way for the wife to divorce her husband at that time.) Jesus responds with God’s deepest vision for us. “What God has joined together, no one must divide.” This is our truest human ideal. Life is messy and human factors sometimes make it not only difficult for the spouses to stay together. Many of our generation are from broken families. In his general audience of June 24, 2015, Pope Francis spoke about times when people must separate “to remove [a] spouse, or young children from the wounds caused by arrogance and violence, debasement and exploitation, estrangement and indifference.”
So many things from our culture and the economy take their toll on family life. Families around the globe are faced with such basic problems as homelessness, lack of food and safe drinking water, unemployment, insufficient education and so on. Internal issues such physical and mental health, or expectations developed during childhood, also contribute to the stresses of spouses and parents.
The issues are many. The solutions are not clear. The ideals of a lifelong marriage and a stable family are held up in the readings today as our most precious legacy. We humans struggle to reach those ideals. Our lives are complicated. But families untied together make safe place for children to grow and life to happen. We rely on God’s understanding and mercy. We also need to offer each other support. After all, we are all in this together. In our friary dining room in Wisconsin was a sign quoting someone — “We may not have it together we have it all.” “Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
Thanks for a wonderful celebration of St. Francis Day by all who helped from the lovely “Transitus” to the noon Mass of the feast and our Blessing of animals.
Adapted from Celebration’s 2015 reflection by Deacon Ross Beaudoin.