The book of Sirach (15:15-20) reminds us of a very clear point: it’s not always easy to follow God’s commandments, but if we want to really live, if we want to live with God forever, we have to follow the commandments. There are many options in life. Many times the evil or wrong thing is very appealing, but that does not mean we should choose it. It would be a lot of fun to drive down Eisenhower Blvd here in Johnstown at 90mph but it would also be very dangerous. The state has issued speed limits to keep everybody safe. So with the commandments. Our Lord makes this point: “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)
It’s pretty simple: follow the commandments. Is it always easy? No. It’s not, and it is in fact impossible on our own power. We need to be forgiven when we sin and we need the strength to not fall into sin again. We need food for the battle. We receive this in the Sacrament of Confession and the Eucharist.
Our Lord does not eliminate the 10 commandments, but He expands upon them. The Council of Trent reminds us that our Lord “ was given to men as a redeemer in whom they are to trust, but also as a lawgiver whom they are to obey” (De justificatione, can. 21).
Our Lord is very clear: “whoever divorces his wife—unless the marriage is unlawful—causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5: 32) what is this exception? It seems our Lord was speaking about illegitimate marriages, such as relatives married to each other. (The NAB translation, which is read at Mass, uses the word “unlawful” rather than translating this “except on grounds of unchastity”)
It’s interesting to note that in Holy Matrimony it is the man and the woman who effect the Sacrament. The Priest or Deacon witnesses and gives the blessing of the Church. The Church places such great trust and responsibility on this man and this woman that it is their presence and their words in the presence of the Church’s minister that make this Sacrament take place!
Married couples who tragically separate are still bound in the marital covenant. The spouses have two choices: remain single and chaste or seek reconciliation. There is no second marriage. An annulment is not a catholic divorce but a declaration by the church that the marriage never really took place. This clear belief was held for the first 1500 years of Christianity, and the idea of a second marriage was never viewed as possible. Martin Luther and some others did not like this, so they introduced other ideas here. The marriage bond lasts until one of the spouses dies. Catholics are bound to be married in the church, and a marriage outside the church is not a sacramental marriage. So if that applies to you or anybody you know, please talk with your priest in order to find a remedy for the situation.
A lifelong union between a man and a woman is impossible without the help of God! That is why it is necessary for a couple who wish to live together as a couple to enter into the Sacramental of Matrimony, and not simply a legal document given by the state. I saw the cover of Johnstown Magazine that suggested novel wedding locations. In this day and age a novel wedding venue is the parish church! The modern day rebellion is to be a faithful Catholic! Marriage is a covenant between a man and woman for life, and they consecrate their lives to God through their faithful love toward each other. This love is so pure, so open, so trusting, that it takes the form of a third person who emerges 9 months later! Marriage is an image of the Trinity on earth. God makes a commitment to create a soul every time conception happens, and in all this we can see how contraception is so gravely wrong and so opposed to the sacrament of matrimony. If there is contraception in your life, get rid of it. Use Natural Family Planning (helpful also for couples struggling to conceive), and I promise that the marriage will be exponentially better. Couples who use contraception have a very high divorce rate and couples who use NFP have a divorce rate of something like 1%. As the family goes, so goes society. We need strong families more than ever! Marriage is not a disposable thing, regardless of what the culture tries to tell us.
Our Lord gives a very clear warning about the danger of impure looks—that is looking and desiring illicitly. One thing that has deeply wounded many people and wounded and even destroyed many marriages and families is the scourge of pornography.
Pornography is a terrible thing that has wrecked so many souls and so many relationships. If this affects you, bring this to the Sacrament of Confession and seek to find healing in Christ: prayer and fasting are very powerful ways to find healing. Bring the wound to the light of Christ in order for it to be healed. Spending time with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and praying the Rosary everyday are powerful ways to find true authentic freedom and intimacy. Our Lord has created our senses to see and to experience Him and His love (see Bishop Paul Loverde’s Letter “Bought With a Price” on more about this).
In spending time in Eucharistic adoration, in coming to Confession, and in praying the Rosary, we are opening up the wounded areas to the healing power of God’s mercy. Parents and grandparents: protect your children—don’t let them get online without your supervision. Frequent confession, reception of Holy Communion (always we must be in the state of grace to receive), devotion to our Lady, a spirit of prayer and mortification, guarding our senses, fleeing from occasions of sin, and avoiding idleness are the path to true freedom in Christ and to avoid sins of the flesh.
“There is need for a crusade of manliness and purity to counteract and undo the savage work of those who think that man is a beast. And that crusade is a matter for you.” (St Josemaria Escriva, The Way 121)
Our Lord does not give license to do whatever we want as the book of Sirach reminds us. True freedom is choosing to do the right thing. True freedom is having the strength to say “no” to sin, “no” to evil, no matter how enticing it seems at the time. Secularism wants us to think that freedom is ignoring God and creating our own moral code. That is license, and this total independence from truth and reality only leads to one state: hell.
The commandments are difficult, but they are necessary. We do not follow the commandments relying only on our own power, but we need the grace of God to help us. Our Lord tells us to follow the commandments because that is the path to heaven.
Again, if you are in the sad situation of a separation from your spouse, pray and continue to live a single and chaste life. Pray a lot for reconciliation and remember the marriage bond lasts until death. In obeying the commandments we conform every aspect of our lives to God’s will. The Sacraments are powerful channels of God’s grace and we should receive them often. The more we conform our lives to obeying our redeemer’s laws, the more we will enter into His heart where there is true peace and freedom, and the strength to overcome every possible difficulty and suffering. Apart from Him there is salvation. Saint Joseph, most chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary, pray for us!