'Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.' Sunday Reflections, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Pope Benedict with young friends [See Mark 12:14]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Mark 10:2-16 [or Mk 10:2-12] (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

Some Pharisees came, and to test Jesus they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’
Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’
[People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.]
Pope Benedict answers questions of children

I will be observing this Sunday this year in Esztergom, Hungary, at the European Council meeting of Worldwide Marriage Encounter with which I have been involved since 1981, initially in Canada and then from 1984 until last year in the Philippines and now in Ireland. The most important reality that I have come to see very clearly through Marriage Encounter is that the relationship between husband and wife in the Sacrament of Matrimony is the foundation of the Christian family.

About thirteen years ago we in Worldwide Marriage Encounter in Bacolod City, Philippines, held a family day. One of the last activities was for the pre-teen children. They were asked to share what they loved most about their parents. One boy, aged about ten or eleven, told us that what he loved most about his parents was that they were always together.

He didn't mean, of course, that they were tied to each other 24/7. But he saw that for his father and mother the most important reality in their lives was to be husband and wife. And he felt drawn into the love that they had for each other. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. In today's gospel Jesus is quoting from the First Reading, Genesis 2:18-24.

In my closing remarks at the family day I picked up on what the boy had said and pointed out that he had articulated that the foundation of the family is the relationship between husband and wife. If that relationship is sound the other relationships in the family will normally be sound too. Children won't feel left out but rather drawn into the love their parents have for each other, the very love that brought them into life in the first place. In God's plan, it is as husband and wife that a man and a woman are called to become father and mother. It is God's plan that their children be drawn into the love they have for one another. This is the foundation of the family. And perhaps this can give us some idea of the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity where the Father, Son and Holy Spirit draw us into the circle of their life, having given us life through our parents.

A young journalist, a single man, happened to be present at our family day that afternoon and approached me afterwards. He had never heard marriage being described that way before and really wanted to know more. It was truly an experience of hearing the Good News for him.

It is God who joins together a man and a woman when they exchange their marriage vows. In the Sacrament of Matrimony they are giving Jesus Christ himself to each other. This is far more than a 'blessing by the priest', as so many misunderstand the Sacrament. It is the bride and groom who confer the sacrament on each other, who give Jesus himself to each other. This is such a profound and sacred union, as Jesus teaches us so clearly today: Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. Today's gospel is very clear on that. Jesus spells out what the sin of adultery is: Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.

So often in visiting Catholic schools in the Philippines I was struck by the fact that so many students in their teens knew by heart the words that the bride and groom exchange: For better, for worse; for richer . . . These words, etched into their hearts, express their deep-down sense of the words of Jesus in the gospel today, 'God made them male and female' . . . so they are no longer two but one flesh. They also express their dreams and aspirations for their own future, dreams and aspirations that have been placed in their hearts by God himself. It is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.

Prayer Before a Meal, Adriaen van Ostaede [Web Gallery of Art]


Worldwide Marriage Encounter

Worldwide Marriage Encounter is the largest pro-marriage organization in the world and promotes Weekend experiences for couples who want to make their good marriage even better.

North America      Ireland      Philippines


Retrouvaille is the name of a programme designed to help heal and renew marriages. The French word Retrouvaille, simply means 'rediscovery'. The programme offers the chance to rediscover yourself, your spouse, and a loving relationship in your marriage.


This website gives links to information about Retrouvaille weekends in different European countries, in the USA and in the Philippines.


Enrico and Chiara: 
loving spouses and parents, witnesses to joy

Enrico and Chiara Corbella

I am grateful to Worldwide Marriage Encounter Philippines for this inspiring story. It was written by  Marie Meaney and appeared originally in Crisis Magazine.

In worldly terms, Chiara Corbella’s life (1984 - 2012) was not a success story: two children dying shortly after birth, herself ravaged by an aggressive cancer, which killed her at the young age of 28, leaving a beloved husband and a small son behind. This is not the kind of material dreams are made of. Yet when one listens to the testimonies of her friends, husband, and spiritual director, and hears more about her story and looks at her radiating, beautiful face on photographs and in video clips, one can’t help but feel that hers was an extraordinary life. Each saint has a special charisma, a particular theme, some facet of God, which he reflects, due to his particular character, call and story. Hers, I’d say, is to be a witness to joy in the face of great adversity, the kind which makes the heart overflow despite the sorrow over loss and death.

The full article on Enrico and Chiara and their children is here.  Google 'Chiara Corbello' or 'Chiara Corbello Petrillo' to discover much more about God's love for all of us through couples like Enrico and Chiara.

The cause for the beatification of Chiara was opened last July in the Diocese of Rome.


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