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Soul of marriage

Today’s readings: Genesis 2, 18-24; Hebrews 2, 9-11; Mark 10, 2-16.

There is a picture of marriage that is familiar to most of us and that in our culture has become a question of perception. The stability that was part and parcel of the institution of marriage is no longer a given, and this has led to, and is itself the consequence of, unstable relationships.

We all acknowledge that beneath the facade of what we see and what we speak about, there are often intense and long-lasting emotional struggles. Marriage takes place in the realm of the soul and it is only there that we can come to a deep and meaningful understanding of what marriage is about. Far from simply affirming doctrine and defending the indissolubility of marriage, what now we need to struggle for is the very soul of marriage.

Our tendency is to imagine marriage only in terms of interpersonal struggle and fulfilment. We forget that there is something mystifying about every marriage, and that is what the Scriptures, from Genesis to the gospel, call for. As long as we approach the issues and concerns about marriage from the legalistic standpoint, or from the standpoint of rights and obligations, we will be simply distancing ourselves from the true remedies.

The Second Vatican Council more than 50 years ago affirmed that it is the intimate partnership of life and love that constitutes the essence of marriage. This is far from the perception and understanding of marriage as a contract that still underpins the way the Church’s tribunals themselves operate. Perhaps this is why this way of working things out is becoming gradually outdated even in the Church itself, thanks to the reforms under way with Pope Francis and hopefully in the upcoming synod of bishops in Rome.

It is no small thing in marriage to struggle for its soul, transforming old and raw frustrations and emotional blocks until it is free of interference. Writer Thomas Moore, in his book The Soul of Sex, writes that this is the nature of the deep alchemy by which we rough and primitive individuals become people of refined sensibility capable of union with other humans.

The Pharisees in Mark’s gospel today approach Jesus on the issue from the standpoint of culture as they themselves had moulded it, discriminating in the name of God and religion. Their outlook was very distant from the order of things as created by God and as narrated in the book of Genesis. “It is not good that the man should be alone,” we read in Genesis.

It is this aloneness which frustrates, which distorts God’s own and original plan, and which betrays what we all were created for. It is this aloneness which dominates even in many of our marriages that start on the wrong foot and never succeed to develop according to the harmony which God willed from the beginning.

There are extraordinary insights to some of the most crucial issues we face today in the field of relationships. Jesus’s call is not simply a call to go back to some doctrine or law. It is a call to uncover the depths we all carry inside us, to explore deep down what Pascal had named the reasons of the heart.

Besides, drawing on new scientific discoveries about the human brain, there are hidden connections that determine our mood, stabilise and maintain our health, so that who we are and who we become depend on whom we love. In our preaching about marriage, at times we seem to be at a standstill when we talk about something that looks frozen in a legal framework without taking seriously into account relationships, friendship, affinity, sexuality and intimacy.

Marriage is also about soul mates. A soul mate is a person with whom one has a feeling of deep or natural affinity. We need more inspiring wisdom and empathy in exploring love and the mysteries of human relationships. It is this empathy that should help the Church uncover in this day and age what distorts God’s perspective and what can restitute to marriage whatever enhances our lives and fulfils the needs of our soul.

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