We all know people who have gotten divorced, even among those who call themselves conservative (the most beloved politician of American conservatives was divorced).
We all know of priests who have solemnly promised to be celibate who have broken that promise: sometimes criminally.
Broken vows can be tragic, but even more tragic would be for us to let go of our ideals and resign ourselves – as individuals, as a Church, and as humankind – to hopeless mediocrity.
And so in today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:3-12) our Lord challenges us with truth and with ideals about marriage and about celibacy.
Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”
He said in reply,
“Have you not read that from the beginning
the Creator 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,
man must not separate.”
They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?”
He said to them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
Moses allowed you to divorce your wives,
but from the beginning it was not so.
I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife
(unless the marriage is unlawful)
and marries another commits adultery.”
His disciples said to him,
“If that is the case of a man with his wife,
it is better not to marry.”
He answered, “Not all can accept this word,
but only those to whom that is granted.
Some are incapable of marriage
because they were born so;
some, because they were made so by others;
some, because they have renounced marriage
for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”
We must not let go of our ideals, neither the ideals of marriage nor of celibacy, even if we or others fall short.
When we fall short, we can and must come to the Father of mercies for the grace of forgiveness and for the grace to go forward as best we can in this world: faithful to his truth, faithful to the ideals he has given us, and thankful for his mercy.
(adapted from a previous post)