“Go and Call Your Husband”: What Enables a Marriage to Endure? | Dr. Peter Kahn | HPR
The unity of will between a husband and wife that God establishes is realized also through a life that is fully shared. A marriage is contracted as a result of the consent of the spouses, and this consent needs to be renewed each day.
“Go and call your husband,” said Jesus to her, “and come back here.” The woman answered, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right to say, ‘I have no husband’; for although you have had five, the one you now have is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.” (Jn 4: 16-18)
What is real in life? What is true? The Greek word for truth that St. John places on Jesus’ lips here, alethes, literally means “not hidden.” This is the truth to which an eyewitness attests. Jesus indicates that the reality of the situation was that this Samaritan woman was now living with someone who was not her husband.
Divorce and remarriage have certainly been in the spotlight with the upcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome later this year. The words of Jesus in Matthew 19 have received most of the attention:
Some Pharisees approached him, and to put him to the test they said, “Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever?” He answered, “Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and that he said: ‘This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh?’ They are no longer two, therefore, but one flesh. So then, what God has united, human beings must not divide.”
The text indicates that God is the one who joins a husband and wife together. Perhaps, though, by invoking the action of God, the Church just adds respectability to an essentially human institution. If a marriage is primarily something that we ourselves determine and contract, then it will seem quite reasonable to divorce and remarry. It can be unbearable to live with someone who continually antagonizes or dominates you, and it is surely unreasonable to expect the estranged parties to see out their years in loneliness.
If we are to offer a merciful response to the heartbreak that hits such a large proportion of marriages, then we need insight into the ways that God acts.