This Thing Called Marriage (A Reflection by Fr. Ogoe, based on Mark 10:2-10)


A man and a woman can be friends, and usually this is helpful in a number of ways. As long as they remain friends – just friends – there is little trouble, if any at all. The moment the two decide that they are in love, and therefore, want to belong to each other through the thing called “marriage”, everything changes. Everything changes because the thing called marriage is a completely unique form of friendship. Not every friendship is marriage, but every marriage is friendship, or at least ought to be friendship. You can be friends with anybody of your choice, but you cannot just marry “anybody” of your choice.

There is a commandment to love our neighbor – and even our enemy (imagine that!) – (cf. Mk 12:31), but there is no commandment to be friends with them. In the same way, there is no commandment to marry every person you love; because to want to marry another person is to take love and friendship to another – and very different – level. You can basically love whoever you want to love, and likewise be friends with whoever you want. BUT you CANNOT marry “whoever” you want. You can always love others but you cannot always marry them. Not all friendship should or can end in marriage. And not all love for your neighbor should lead you to marry them. You are free to be friends with any person you choose to, but you are not equally free to call any person your wife or husband. This seems pretty clear, hopefully.

Marriage takes friendship to another level. It is a unique game of love with its own set of rules, principles and boundaries. The beauty of marriage is in its fundamental distinction from all other forms of “friendship” and human relationships. It would not be an exaggeration to state that whenever marriage is in question, the future of humanity is being decided for better or for worse. And again, whenever we name marriage, we decide the future of love. This would imply that the thing called marriage is not to be taken lightly, approached casually or for that matter, treated superficially. Whenever, a man and a woman want to marry, the stakes are higher than we are sometimes made to think.

The stakes are high, as we have noted, because marriage will decide the future of the world. More importantly, the stakes in marriage are high because the Creator is a key player in the game. He is the most important stakeholder in the thing we call marriage. It would be safe to affirm that God is “not interested” whether we decide to paint our house white or blue. But we can be sure that he is absolutely interested in any discussion or decision that has to do with marriage, because as the Book of Genesis points out, the whole concept of marriage is God’s idea. Although marriage is a human institution, God is its author.

He alone, therefore, can legislate on matters relating to the essence of marriage. Authors of books are usually the best persons to explain the content of their work. Experts may review the work, but ultimately there is no substitute for the author. Similarly, no one (man or woman) has power to attempt to change the nature of marriage, except God who is its author. In Genesis 2:18-24, the Sacred Writer tells us that it was God who played the central role in getting Adam and Eve together. He created them, blessed them and offered them the gift of uniting their lives as husband and wife. God, therefore, is an indispensable constant in the marriage equation. If you subtract God from marriage, what is left is anything but marriage. God is not “anti-love” as some seem to believe. He is the fullness of love. Through marriage he calls humanity to be a part of the love story.

The fact that God is the sole legislator in matters concerning the nature of love is confirmed in the Gospels. In Mark 10:2-10 for example, some Pharisees test Jesus on the issue of divorce. In his reply, the Lord does not mince words, for he tells them that divorce was the result of the waywardness of their hearts. The Lord then sets forth the fundamental nature of marriage. I doing so, Christ was defining marriage according to the original plan of God. Indeed, in his conversation with the Pharisees, he not only defined marriage, but he pointed out its parameters. Moreover, in setting the parameters for marriage he drew a red line, so to speak, which we cannot cross. One is free to talk about marriage, write about it, offer ideas, and so forth, but there are lines one cannot cross. One cannot redefine marriage such that the new definition contradicts the Divine Legislators definition. If this were to happen, we would have some explanation to do before God one day. Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees clearly showed that it was beyond Moses’ authority to redefine marriage. In our days too, Jesus would tell us that the definition of marriage is not in the hands of any individual or group to determine. It is not in the hands, certainly, of politicians to manipulate the meaning of marriage.

The beauty of marriage, as we have pointed out, lies in its uniquely profound distinction from all other forms of human relationship. God certainly wants married couples to be happy and fulfilled. But this would happen when humanity respects the boundaries and the rules of the game. God is a key stakeholder in this thing called marriage. Let men and women who feel called to this noble life seek the counsel of the Lord and give him the place that is his due. It is the surest way to marital fulfillment. And it is the safest path open to humanity. God bless married couples. God bless those who are considering marriage, and may God strengthen and comfort those for whom, unfortunately, marriage has been a painful experience.

Invitation to prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your gift of human love. Thank you for the institution of marriage. Forgive us the sins which hurt the meaning of marriage. Make me an instrument of love, peace and unity. I acknowledge your lordship over the marriage institution. Help us to respond worthily to the marriage call. Amen.

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