Saturday, October 17, 2015

Mercy in the Face of Divorce

Suppose a man and woman marry in the Church, that is, they receive the sacrament of matrimony. Then ten or so years later, perhaps with kids in the interim, they divorce. A not uncommon scenario. Maybe one or both goes on to meet someone else, date, and enter into another marriage at the courthouse, or maybe not. Let's just stick to them being divorced civilly for now.

When the man and woman receive their divorce papers, what happens to the grace of sacrament? That is, what happens to the divine help that God has provided to each of them and both of them? (Because that is what grace is - a helping hand from God that allows one to do things that otherwise would be humanly difficult or impossible.) Does this grace disappear too? No. It remains there for either or both to take advantage of.

Back to those who remarry civilly. Of course, Church teaching regarding the permanance of marriage still recognizes the first marriage at continuing. This is said to impose a hardship on those who civilly remarry and that in mercy they should receive Holy Communion in order to obtain the graces therefrom.

It is right and good that they should receive grace. They need that grace. Very much. We all need God's help, especially in difficult circumstances.

But those who call for Communion for those who are civilly remarried are forgetting something. No, not the indissolubility of the marital bond. They -- and those who focus on the bond of marriage overlook this too -- they are forgetting the grace of the prior sacrament of matrimony. It is still there. When we speak of indissolubility, included in that is the indissolubility of matrimonial grace. No one can separate us from the love of God.

God offers us his mercy and grace if only we will accept it. He offers us his mercy and grace in a number of ways. Two ways in particular are -- the revealed teaching of the Church and in the sacraments. Church teaching on marriage, family and human sexuality are not a burden, they are not a bunch of harsh rules, they are the Good News of God, they are given us by Christ in his mercy through the Holy Spirit. The sacrament of marriage that is lifelong is not bondage, it is not a chain -- it is itself a mercy and a grace that frees those who receive it.

The problem is that like the other sacraments -- Confirmation being high on the list -- too many people take the gift of those graces and leave it unopened, or they open the gift, use it for a while, and then stick it in the back of the closet, where it sits unused.

The man and the woman who marry in the Church, only to divorce ten years later, ten years after that they still have those graces they received in the sacrament. They each only have to take them out of the closet. And it is there they will find the mercy and help they desire.

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