Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Joshua 24:1-13; Matthew 19:3-12)
If we ask a Jew what is the first commandment, we are likely to receive a surprising answer. She probably will not say, “I am the Lord, your God; you shall not have strange gods before me.” Nor will she say, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all you heart and soul.” No, Jews regularly look to Genesis One for the answer to this question: “Be fruitful and multiply.” For Jews God’s primary command is to marry and to have a family. For this reason Jesus comments that his statement about celibacy in today’s gospel will be difficult to accept.
Jesus also goes back to Genesis in defending the indissolubility of marriage. He extrapolates from Genesis Two which says that in marriage a man and a woman become one flesh. His point is that this union is not to be fractured. The Pharisees have inquired of Jesus exceptions to the rule about the indissolubility of marriage. So far Jesus has indicated that there are none. But now he makes an allowance. One can be exempted from the obligation to marry and have children for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
Does this mean that people who do not marry or become a religious are somehow defying God’s will? We ask this question from concern of those who have never met “Mr. or Ms. Right.” Jesus would not condemn them. He would only urge them to live for the Kingdom of God by praying and assisting the needy.