Catholic marriage: no ‘expiration date’

Word Alive–Fr. Bel San Luis, SVD October 3, 2021 / 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Once a husband was examining his and wife’s marriage certificate. He looked at the back, trying to find something. Seeing what he was doing, the wife blurted, “What are you doing? You have been scrutinizing that marriage certificate for a long time already.” The husband replied, “Well, I’m trying to find out if there’s an expiration date!”

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In the gospel of this 27th Sunday, Jesus teaches empathically and firmly that marriage is monogamous, permanent and indissoluble. Marriage has no “expiration date.”

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He said, “From the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother and the two become one flesh. What God has united, man must not separate. The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery” (Mk 10, 6;9;11).

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This teaching of Christ is the basis of the Catholic Church’s doctrine against absolute divorce.

Admittedly, there are numerous trials and problems in monogamous marriage but they outweigh the problems of broken families and separated spouses.

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My personal experience as former director of high school students confirmed this. I had noticed that those who came from broken families developed problems like frequent misconducts, getting into troubles, failing in academics, unhappy, and so on. The main reason is due to lack of parental supervision and negligence.

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Aside from the traumatic experience of separation suffered by the couples and children, divorce, which is being passed in Congress, is a simplistic way of resolving marital problems. Couples who resort to divorce because one of the spouses is lazy, irresponsible, and a drunkard is only transferring his or her personal problems to another marital relationship. Recycling personal problems will lead to the same result of separation or divorce.

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What should be done is for couples to work out their problems and save their floundering marriage.

Spouses should learn to forgive and reconcile. Looking back, my parents were always arguing and fighting. This made us young siblings very sad. However, when our mother would leave the house and cool off with her spinster aunts, our father would feel sorry.

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He would look for her and once found, would entreat her to return home. Our ever patient and loving mother would give in and seeing her, made us exceedingly happy. If my parents failed to reconcile, we would have been a broken family and I would not have become priest. As the saying goes, “A happy and lasting marriage is the union of two forgivers.”

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There are other reasons which make the Christian teaching on marriage a hard pill to swallow at times. However, there are values in fidelity, sanctity, and God’s blessing that outweigh the difficulties of married life.

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In the evening of the couple’s life, may they say, “Lord, despite our problems, conflicts and difficulties, we’ve made it. We’ve followed your will in marriage. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.”

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THE LIGHTER SIDE. Once a teacher in English asked her sophomore class what’s the word denoting a marriage having many wives. A student answered, “Ma’am, polygamy.”

“Correct,” she said. “How about a marriage with two spouses? Another student replied, “Ma’am, bigamy.” “Correct.” The teacher said, “And how about a marriage with only one wife?”

A student raised his hand and blurted out, “Ma’am, MONOTONY!”

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Obviously, he meant “monogamy.” But his answer touches on a marital problem which is monotony.

One way of remedying it and other problems in marriage is joining renewal programs like Couples for Christ or Marriage Encounter. From my experience as spiritual director of various Marriage Encounter Weekends (MEW), many couples have been converted, discovering new ways of achieving a peaceful and happy marital relationship.

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