Catholic marriage 101: A homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Untilshutterstock_134395223 our first reading today, everything God had made he found to be good. Today is our first “not good” – God says it is not good for man to be alone.

Marriage is important.  First pages of the bible talk about the first couple. Last pages about the marriage feast of heaven. Jesus’ first miracle: was at a wedding.  Marriage is important to God.

Since our readings are about marriage today, I want to give a Catholic teaching 101 on marriage because there is a lot of confusion here.  What follows are the requirements for a Catholic person’s marriage to be considered valid in the eyes of the Church/ in the eyes of Jesus:

  1. No impediments –  there can be nothing “in the way” of a marital bond from forming.  Let me quickly explain each:
    1. You can’t be related…
    2. Disparity of cult.
    3. Previous marriage/ “prior bond”
    4. Priestly ordination or religious profession
    5. Impotence
    6. No love
    7. Tip for a good marriage:  Always make sure there are no impediments–that there is nothing in the way–of being true and faithful and giving yourself to your spouse every day
  1. Form
    1. A Catholic must be married in a church before a priest or deacon, unless there is special permission
    2. This is because we get all our sacraments in the church building. The building is a symbol for something much bigger–the Body of Christ. We live our lives and especially our vocations in the Body of Christ, not outside of it. Yesterday I married a couple right here. They knelt before Jesus, the one who brought them together, and they dedicated, consecrated their lives to that sames Jesus as they knelt in front of them.  Their first meal was at the table of the Lord.  People say, “Why do I have to get married in the church?” I say–“Why wouldn’t you want to?”
    3. A Catholic married outside the church is not in a valid marriage and should not receive communion, unless the couple is living as brother and sister.
    4. Tip for a good marriage:  Always live as a couple in the church, involved and practicing in its ministries, etc
  2. Consent (“consent makes marriage” consensus facit nuptias)
    1. You have to know what you’re getting into, want it, and declare it freely
      1. Capacity – must have the ability to assume rights of marriage (no drinking that day, addictions to various things that could compromise the marriage)
      2. Intellect – one must understand what marriage really is and what it’s responsibilities are. For example, you can’t go in thinking “any marriage is endable”
      3. Will – you cannot be pressured into it
    2. Tip for a good marriage:  Give your YES to your spouse every day. Pray your vows every day in prayer.

Now, some things to clarify–

  1. There is no such thing as Catholic divorce.  Jesus says marriage is permanent, till death do us part.  What God has joined, no one can separate.  We don’t make that rule; Jesus did. It probably wasn’t politically correct to say that during his days, either.
  2. Now, an annulment comes along when one of the three things above–one of those three criteria for the sacrament of marriage to be real–was missing.
  3. An annulment is the church’s way of saying:  You got a bad deal.  And you shouldn’t be stuck in it forever.
  4. An annulment does not cost money.  It is a healing process for those who need it.
  5. Non-Catholics are not bound by the rules above and we recognize their marriages as valid, unless there is an annulment granted.  We don’t make them play by our rules, so to speak.
  6. If you’re divorced but not remarried, you can receive communion so long as you are otherwise in a state of grace.  Sometimes divorces happen and it is out of the control of one of the parties who wishes it didn’t happen.  If you are divorced and remarried without an annulment, you should not receive communion because of the sixth commandment.
  7. I am happy to help you if you need to “make things right” in this department.  It is worth it.

Some of these sayings are hard.  Marriage is sometimes hard.  But it is beautiful.