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Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Sacramental Marriage

Sunday August 2, 2015
A Reflection on John 6:24-35 N.A.B.

By: Larry T

Moses and the Hebrews received the Law from God at Mount Sinai somewhere around 1230 B.C. Thereafter the Hebrews knew Moses as the leader of their exodus from Egypt, the Law giver, the provider of manna in the desert, and someone who had been on intimate speaking terms with God. Moses was the greatest of all prophets; he was a colossal figure in Hebrew thought. By the time Jesus began his public ministry in 27 A.D. the Hebrews had been living according to Mosaic Law for nearly one-thousand two-hundred and sixty years. The tension between Moses and the Law (age-old tradition) and Jesus (new revelation) is evident in this Sunday’s Gospel reading.

24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25 And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
27 Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
28 So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
30 So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?
31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32 So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. 

– John 6:24-35 N.A.B.

It is important to note that in John’s Gospel the term “the Jews” didn’t necessarily refer to people of the Jewish faith; the author frequently used this term to mean people who rejected Jesus and his teachings. Since this interchange was with “the crowd” and not with “the Jews”, this group hadn’t rejected Jesus; they were willing to listen and learn. But Jesus was claiming to be greater than Moses! How could that be? Moses was larger than life! They had no intention of turning their backs on one-thousand two-hundred and sixty years of belief without a convincing sign from God.

This crowd eventually did receive the sign they were seeking: Jesus’ death and bodily resurrection. In the theology of John’s Gospel, it is clear that the Law given to Moses and the Hebrews in 1230 B.C. was not set aside by Jesus, but brought to perfection in Him. But, does the crowd in this Sunday’s Gospel reading deserve criticism for interrogating Jesus thoroughly before altering their faith?

In the two-thousand years since the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles on Pentecost, the Spirit has guided the liturgy, the Magisterium, theologians, and the Christian faithful through heresy and controversy to the truth that is God. We forget that such things as the development of the sacraments sometimes took centuries.

In his book, Doors to the Sacred, A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church, Joseph Martos wrote: “Relatively early in the history of Christianity, marriage was regarded as a sacrament in the broad sense, but it was only in the twelfth century that it came to be regarded as a sacrament in the same sense as baptism and the other official sacraments. In fact, before the eleventh century there was no such thing as a Christian wedding ceremony in the Latin Church, and throughout the Middle Ages there was no single church ritual for solemnizing marriages between Christians.”

All along, church officials had struggled with calling marriage an official sacrament because it existed before the coming of Christ; therefore it could hardly be said to be a purely Christian institution like the other sacraments. So, church leaders were content to rely primarily on civil governments to regulate marriage and divorce between Christians and non-Christians alike. That marriage was always intended to be a union between a man and a woman was never in dispute.

Had the Holy Spirit not guided the twelfth century church leaders into elevating marriage to a sacrament on the same level as baptism and the other sacraments, it would have remained a simple civil affair.

Today another crowd has gathered; the faces have changed, but what we have in common with the throng in today’s Gospel reading is that we, too, are being pressured to set aside Sacred Scripture and thousands of years of faith history. But the demand to change our belief doesn’t concern Moses, it concerns marriage, and the demand is not coming from God, instead it is coming from a worldly society that is trying to elevate itself above God.

Like the crowd in today’s reading, we need an unmistakable sign from God before we change our belief concerning sacramental marriage. Rulings from civil authorities and societal pressures are not signs from God! Such a signal must come from God through the leaders of our modern Church functioning under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Lacking that sign, we must do everything possible to preserve the sanctity of sacramental marriage as has been defined by the Catholic Church ever since the twelfth century.