Blog & Pastor Letters

Marriage, Remarriage, and the Resurrection

11-10-2019Weekly ReflectionRev. Victor C. Yakubu

In March 2016, Pope Francis released a document entitled Amoris Laetitia about the family. In it, the pontiff discusses marriage and his position on divorced Catholics who remarry civilly. For a long time, the Church has always taught that those who separate after a Catholic sacramental marriage and remarry in the civil way, cannot receive Holy Communion. In Chapter eight, the pope indicated that this could change through "discernment regarding the possible access to the sacraments of some of those who are divorced and in a new union." He chose his words carefully for the understanding in the Catholic world and beyond. A whole series of dialogue continues whether remarried couples in the civil way can receive Holy Communion.

Prior to this exhortation by Pope Francis, there were two Synods of Bishops on the Family in October 2014 and in 2015 in Rome. The pope seems to indicate that his position in Amoris Laetitia is based on the fruits of these two synods. Many dioceses all over the Catholic world have been studying the exhortation carefully in order not to water down the centuries-old teaching of the Church. Remarried couples like any other Catholics, need salvation through the reception of the sacraments of the Church. But this does not mean that the teachings of the Church should be reduced to accommodate couples who do not remarry in the Church but choose to do so in the civil way. By not recognizing the importance of the sacrament of marriage, they alienate themselves from Holy Communion.

Such teachings are hard for the modern world to follow. At the time of Jesus, he was confronted with issues of this nature. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. They wanted Jesus to authenticate their myopic view of the other life. Jesus did not. The Sadducees followed the writings of Moses very strictly, interpreting the law conservatively, and yet, did not trust that there was a resurrection. They came to Jesus and tried to test him with the case of seven brothers who married the same woman. When the woman also died childless, who among the seven brothers will inherit her at the Resurrection? Jesus replied that at the resurrection, there is nothing like marriage and remarriage since only in this life all these happen. God is God of the living, and not God of the dead.

The first reading gives us a graphic description of how another set of seven brothers suffered martyrdom because they refused to eat pork in violation of their belief. The king had them punished, maltreated, and killed. These seven brothers believed in the resurrection to eternal life. Though they suffered in the hands of the king, they openly spoke how the King of the Universe will grant them entry into eternity at the 'resurrection.'

The resurrection to everlasting life is a teaching of Christ to his Church. For those who believe in Jesus, they shall share in his resurrection. As for those who remarry civilly without the blessing of the sacrament of marriage duly done in the Church, they need to reconsider their Christian practice. Pope Francis says the journey of pastoral accompaniment ends with the sacraments. Those who have remarried in the civil way need pastoral guidance towards blessing their remarriage into a sacramental union which allows them to participate worthily in Holy Communion.

The lesson for us this week is evident. Since we believe in the Risen Christ, it is our hope too to share in the resurrection to eternal life. Those who remarry in the civil way but want to share in the Eucharist at Mass ought to reconsider this pastoral necessity through a "journey of discernment" to arrive at the meaning of Christ's presence in his sacraments. Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia should be read carefully by 'couples' to understand the importance of their union. All Catholic should read it to understand that every decision we make carries some consequence discernible at the resurrection. The God who lives loves obedient children, and we start now or sink with the boat of disobedience. Keep praying!