Author: MirosЕ‚aw Rucki,
"Love One Another!" 13/2009 → Suffering and Love
The LORD said to me: Give your love to a woman beloved of a paramour, an adulteress; Even as the LORD loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods”
These words are not directed exclusively at the Jews. If, through Jesus, we are heirs of the promise given to Abraham; if, through faith, we are his descendants, then the words of the Prophet Hosea apply also to us: “God loves you; and yet you mock your marriage vows.” For, if other faithless behaviors, such horoscopes, superstitions, addictions, etc. constitute an offence against God, so too are marital infidelity and the denial of the indissolubility of marriage.
The Sacrament of Matrimony is not the whimsical brainchild of priests. Jesus Christ Himself established the sacrament, when He stated, “What God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mat 19:6). It is absolutely clear, then, that it is God who joins the married couple; and He never puts them asunder. If marriages fall apart, this occurs against His will, for God unites a man and a woman within the indissoluble bond of marriage.
The question, which most disturbs people today, is whether a deserted spouse has the right to remarry. Our human reasoning tells us that since the marriage has broken down, it is no longer valid. Since my husband or wife has broken faith with me, I am therefore free. But that is man’s reasoning, not God’s.
Let us return to the Book of the Prophet Hosea. This prophet had a most unusual mission. He was required to marry a harlot and remain faithful to her in marriage; and the children resulting from her acts of harlotry, he was to take as his own (Hos 1:2). Hosea’s conduct toward his wife is meant to illustrate the conduct of God toward His faithless people, who, despite the covenant they made with Him, fell into the practice of idolatry. We see that just as Hosea kept faith with his harlot wife, so God remained faithful to Israel.
There is another interesting thread to this story. God instructed Hosea to fall in love with, and marry, yet another prostitute. Knowing her past, he had no marital relations with her (Hos 3:3), even though they lived together after they were married. The book does not tell us if Hosea eventually divorced his first wife (Mosaic law allowed for such a course of action) or if he took her back as his second wife (this was also permissible in the cultural context of the Middle East). All we know is that Hosea did not “consummate” the second union, that is, he did not engage in sexual relations with his second wife.
Needless to say, Hosea’s life was exceptional, for it serves to illustrate the nature of God. God keeps faith with us even when we are faithless and betray Him. The problem here is that when we break our covenant and break faith with God, He can no longer be present in our lives, for, as Saint Paul tells us, “if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim 2:12-13). We cannot expect God to deny Himself. We cannot expect Jesus to stop being Jesus. That is why we must reckon with the fact that in closing off our lives from God, we deprive ourselves of the possibility of His presence and support, although He never stops loving us.
The example of the Prophet Hosea makes us keenly aware that we are all susceptible to betrayal. Upon entering into marriage, we take a certain risk and must reckon with the possibility that our spouse, being a sinful person, will betray us. By abiding in Christ, remaining in a state of sanctifying grace, and practicing the virtue of purity, the married couple ensure that they will remain faithful to each other and know the joy that flows from their union. But what happens when our spouse does betray us?
Consider the example of Christ. From the very beginning He knew that one of his friends would betray Him. He even knew who it would be. Yet despite this, He gave him a chance by embracing him as one of His apostles, that is, as one of his intimates. Jesus always knew that He would be betrayed. His awareness of this fact never left him; and yet
He kept faith to the very end. Why? Because He could not deny Himself! He was love incarnate, and love casts out fear. He is love, and love never seeks after its own. He is love, and love is prepared for everything (cf. 1 Cor 13). Jesus simply could not respond to Judas in any other way than by love.
No one is saying this is easy. Remaining faithful to someone who has betrayed us is immensely difficult; but it is expected of Christ’s disciples. Christ Himself pledges His help to anyone whose faith is put to the test (Heb 2:18). In his first letter, Saint Peter presents us with this simple injunction: “he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I am holy” (1 Pet 1:15-16).
If we belong to Christ’s Church and consider ourselves his disciples, we submit to the authority of Saint Peter successors. Rather than seek to justify our actions in the manner of, “since I have been betrayed, I am entitled to betray as well,” we ought to take care to keep faith with God. We ought to keep faith with the person to whom we have bound ourselves in the Sacrament of Matrimony and to Christ who is present in this sacrament. We ought not to have sexual relations with another person, be it in lasting relationships or in casual ones. We must strive to be faithful to Christ, for then we can count on the fulfillment of the promise: “This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim 2:11-12).