Today’s Gospel is a reminder that marriage is supposed to be a very serious life-long commitment. That’s evident from the marriage vows exchanged by a man and a woman when they stand before God in a church and their words are witnessed by a priest or deacon.
The words of consent are powerful and meaningful. Pope Francis wrote in Amoris Laetitia that the words of consent “cannot be reduced to the present; they involve a totality that includes the future: ‘until death do us part’” (no. 214).
The bride and groom declare their consent using one of the following formulas: (1) I (name) take you (name) to be my wife/husband. I promise to be faithful to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honor you all the days of my life (my emphasis), or (2) I (name) take you (name) for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part (my emphasis).
Accordingly, by promising in the presence of God and the Church to love each other faithfully for the rest of their lives – and to become one flesh – bride and groom form an unbreakable covenant. A couple marrying in Church and exchanging these vows before God must realize a church wedding is not just about having a beautiful setting for themselves, family and friends. This is why divorce and then re-marrying in Church, before God again, is so complicated, i.e., a difficult-to-acquire, if not impossible, annulment is required in most cases.
Nevertheless, when a husband or wife breaks his/her oath, especially in an extremely offensive and disloyal way, how is the one who keeps the oath to react? When does part of the “one flesh” rot away to destroy the innocent party? When does forgiveness become impossible when the guilty party simply wants to walk away – children or none? [Consider that the "one flesh" might be a child or children resulting from the union of the two.]
I don’t reference Canon Law here, or repeat Church teaching. I only suggest that the aggrieved spouse has an understandable argument and objection about not receiving the Eucharist – the Body of Christ – when remarrying without first acquiring an annulment from what some might call “wasted” flesh.
Today, perhaps too many people take swearing oaths lightly (e.g., some politicians). As with marriages, when we pledge allegiances (such as to our flag), there must be fidelity to those oaths/allegiances. Perhaps our marines give us the best example: Semper Fi. Our dogs do it so why can’t we.
Deacon David Pierce