6th Sunday of Easter

As Catholics living in the twenty-first century our faith has been much affected by the Second Vatican Council. The Council, which began in 1962, clarified and codified a lot of things. Sadly, as human beings, we all read things into the Council documents that weren’t really there. Also, as human beings, a lot of us were resistant to some of the things that the Council said. Some of us still are.

 

As an adult convert, the modern Catholic Church is the only Church I’ve ever belonged to. Some of the things that the rest of you grew up with are very foreign to me. My mass has always been in English. In my experience, the priest has always faced the congregation. Joining the Church in 1968, all the big changes had already taken place before I ever set foot into a Catholic Church.

 

Because the Church works so slowly, it’s almost fifty years since Vatican II and some Catholics are still resisting some of the so-called “new” things. Ironically, my life has been more affected by one of the Vatican II reforms than most of you. That would be the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate. If not for the Council, I wouldn’t have a clerical vocation, or a job.

 

Church Councils don’t happen very often. Vatican II was the twenty-first Church Council in the 2,000 year history of the Church. Historically Church Councils have been called to deal with controversy and heresy. The very first Council took place in Jerusalem around 50 AD. It was called the Council of Jerusalem and we read about it today in the first reading.

 

The issue with the council was whether you had to be an observant Jew in order to be a Christian. More importantly, at least for the men, was whether you had to be circumcised to follow Christ. Obviously, the Jewish converts were much more agreeable to this than the Gentiles. It was a big deal and threatened the future of the new Church. So, the Apostles agreed to meet and discuss the issue.

 

As we know, the Gentiles won the argument. The only requirement to join the new Church was to abstain from certain foods and from unlawful marriage. “If you keep free of these things, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.” Notice that the Apostles said “It’s the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us…” In 50 AD, and in 2016, our leaders are guided by the Spirit.

 

Here we are, twenty centuries later, and we’re faced once again with the issue of unlawful marriage. It’s funny how things keep coming around. Just this week our Missouri legislature failed to address religious freedom. After all these centuries, marriage is still a contentious issue.

 

Here at Saint John Nepomuk we have a lot of weddings. These are “lawful marriages”, the only kind that the Church recognizes. Thanks to Vatican II, this is an issue for me, just as it is for all Catholic clergy. Don’t get me wrong. If a couple chooses to have a civil union, that’s not my concern. Whether it’s a man and a woman, two men, or two women, the Church doesn’t recognize a civil union as a sacrament. It’s just a contract. And without a sacramental marriage, a couple living together as man and wife are committing a mortal sin.

 

And no matter what the Supreme Court says, no matter what the Missouri legislature says, if you show up at Saint John Nepomuk wanting an unlawful marriage, I won’t do it. You’ll have to go somewhere else. Given the political climate in the United States today, I suppose there’s a good chance that I might be sued or even arrested. Who knows? But, regardless of the consequences, I’ll still refuse. I don’t think the Scriptures could be more plain. It’s right there in today’s first reading. “If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.”

 

Now, some of you may not care what happens to me.   And that’s ok. A lot of better people than me have suffered for their faith. I’d be proud to be in their company. Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

 

I will keep Jesus’ word; no matter what. That’s all there is to it. Because of my vocation, I’m in a position where some day I may have to put up or shut up. That’s not a surprise to me. I knew what I was getting in to when I was ordained.

 

But, what about you? Chances are you’ll never be in a position where you have to take such a serious stand. But we’re coming up on an important election. I can’t tell you who to vote for and I wouldn’t expect you to vote for a candidate just because I told you to. In fact, what you do at the polls is between you and God. But I would suggest that you think seriously about the consequences of your decision.

 

Little by little we’re losing our religious freedom. If we don’t pay attention one day we may wake up and find that our beliefs are illegal. It’s happening already. Please take this seriously. Most of our ancestors, including the Bohemians who built this church, came to the United States for religious freedom. It would be a shame if all their efforts were in vain.

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11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This weekend’s homily:

We walk by faith and not by sight. That’s what Saint Paul says in today’s second reading. And, he’s right. And not just in the spiritual sense that you might be thinking. When we physically walk, when we put one foot in front of the other to get from here to there, we walk by faith. We have faith we won’t fall on our faces. We have faith we won’t get struck by lighting or hit by a car. Without faith we couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Faith is crucial to our existence.

Of course, Paul IS talking about spiritual faith. Our faith, which we call the Catholic faith, expects us to believe a lot of things that we can’t believe by sight. Last week we celebrated the Body and Blood of Christ as we receive them in the Eucharist. They look like bread and wine. They smell like bread and wine. They taste like bread and wine, but our faith tells us otherwise.

Two weeks ago we celebrated the Holy Trinity, one God, three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can’t understand that intellectually. We must have faith.

In just a little while I’ll be marrying a couple here at Saint John’s. I’ll remind them that a sacramental marriage isn’t just permission for them to live together. We believe that there will be an actual change in them, making them one. It’s another one of those things that we have to see through our faith. They won’t look any different. They’ll still be the same people, but there will be an actual change and the longer they’re together, the more obvious that will be. Those of us who have been married for a long time know it’s true.

There are some other things that our faith teaches. Some are hard to accept just using our puny human minds. Some are a little more obvious. Here are some things that our Church teaches us.

  • Abortion is ALWAYS wrong.
  • The use of artificial birth control is a sin.
  • Cohabitation outside of marriage is a sin.
  • Marriage is only to be between a man and a woman.
  • Homosexual acts are always sinful.
  • You’re supposed to go to mass every week.
  • You should receive the sacrament of reconciliation on a regular basis.
  • The Ten Commandments are not suggestions.

I could go on, but here’s the thing. You can attend mass every week at a lot of Catholic parishes and you would never know these things are part of the faith. Why not? Easy. A lot of priests and deacons don’t like to talk about sin. We don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. We don’t want to make anybody mad. God forbid you should stop giving to the church because the truth hits too close to home. Of course, we also don’t want to face our own sins.

All these things are like the mustard seeds that Jesus talks about in the Gospel. They can start small but they can grow very large. See, there’s this guy called Satan. You may remember him. You used to hear a lot about him. But he’s clever. He’s managed to convince a lot of us that he’s not around anymore. Trust me, he is. And like that little mustard seed, once he gets into your life, he’s hard to get rid of. A good public relations man will tell you that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but in Satan’s case he’s done an amazing job of keeping himself out of the limelight. Evidence of his work is all around us, but so many of us just don’t believe he exists. But, I digress.

Jesus didn’t tell this story to teach us about agriculture. He told it to teach us about faith. We have to have it. Everybody has it. Even atheists have faith. It may be misguided, but it’s THEIR faith. They have faith that this life is all there is. Lucky for them, God still loves them like He loves each one of us.

So these seeds we have can be good or bad. Whatever they are, by living our lives we sow these seeds. What we have to ask ourselves is whether we’re sowing good seeds or bad. What kind of faith are we showing to the people around us? It’s not an easy question to face and even harder to answer.

 

 

40 Myths About the Catholic Church–“Annulments”

“The Church makes such a big deal about marriage, but anyone with enough money can buy an annulment.”

This statement contains two basic errors.  First, let’s start with a fact.  The Church does not have the authority to “cancel” a marriage.  Technically there’s no such thing as an annulment.  That’s why I put the word in quotes in the title.  When the deacon or priest says that what God has joined, man cannot separate, we mean what we say.  Marriage is until death do us part.  What the Church can and does do is issue a declaration of nullity.  What it means is that the marriage wasn’t valid in the first place.  It’s more than just a matter of semantics.  There’s a BIG difference.

Before we go any further, let’s make a distinction between civil marriage and sacramental marriage.  They aren’t one and the same though they’re usually performed at the same time.  The civil marriage is a contract.  It gives the parties rights and privileges as defined by law.  (Insurance, joint-ownership of property, etc.)

A sacramental marriage was created by God.  It is a sacrament.  It is permanent.  It makes a material change in the couple.  “The two become one.”  Whether a sacramental marriage is valid or not, any children of the marriage are legitimate.  Having a marriage declared null has no bearing on the kids.  That’s covered under the civil marriage laws.

What does it take to make a valid marriage?  Three things:

  • Capacity
  • Consent
  • Form

This isn’t a technical treatise.  You can find the nuts and bolts elsewhere.  But, it’s not hard to see that if one or both parties doesn’t have the capacity to enter into a lifelong agreement, it can’t be a valid marriage.  For example, an alcoholic isn’t the best candidate for matrimony.  Someone suffering from a mental illness, depending on its severity, might not have the necessary capacity.   I always remind the happy couple that if I detect that they’ve been drinking on the way to church, there will be no marriage that day.

Consent means just what it says.  Both parties have to be willing, of their own free will, to enter into the sacrament.  If Dad’s pointing a shotgun at the potential groom’s head, we may not have valid consent.  There are other more subtle cases where consent might not be freely given.

Finally, there’s form.  This is usually a simple one.  If a baptized Catholic is married in a non-Catholic church without the proper permissions, that’s a defect of form.  If the person performing the ceremony failed to do the proper paperwork, or if it’s a Catholic wedding and the deacon or priest failed to get the proper permissions and dispensations, that’s a defect of form.

If any of the three components of a valid, sacramental marriage is missing, the Church may give a declaration of nullity.  Notice I said “may”, not “will”.  There is a process that must be gone through and sometimes it can be lengthy and complicated.  Every request isn’t granted.  No matter how miserable you may be now, if your marriage was valid then it’s valid now.  No do-overs!  What now?  Am I stuck?  No.  The first thing to consider is counseling.  If all three elements were present on the day of the wedding, there’s no reason to think that the marriage can’t be saved.

iOne thing that people often misunderstand is that it’s not a sin to get a civil divorce.  Divorced Catholics are in full communion with the Church.  It’s when one decides to get married again that we get into difficulties.  What God has joined together, no man may separate.

Now, about the cost.  Yes, a declaration of nullity costs money.  A “defect of form” case costs less than a full-blown investigation.  Somebody has to pay for all that paperwork.  On the other hand, no one may be turned away because they can’t afford the fee.  After all, the Church is all about charity.

But what about rich people like the Kennedys or Frank Sinatra?  I repeat, you can’t buy a declaration of nullity.  That’s what the Church teaches.  Has any individual Bishop ever accepted a “donation” from a rich person and put a little pressure on the marriage tribunal?  I don’t know.  But we’re all human and I suppose anything’s possible.  But look at Henry VIII.  He had boatloads of money and power.  He went straight to Pope Clement VII to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon declared null so he could marry Anne Boleyn in the hopes of having a male child.  The Pope refused and Henry started his own church.  The rest is history.

To sum it up, the Church can’t void a marriage.  She can declare that the marriage wasn’t valid in the first place.  There is a small cost for the process but paying extra won’t help you get a valid marriage declared null.  Personally, I have no intention of ever getting personally involved in the process, but I do know some of the men on the local tribunal.  I have no doubt that they are sincere and dedicated.  I’m sure that if you tried to bribe them, their reaction would be swift and not pretty.

  • Faith (complicatedkate.com)

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Before I left on retreat some of you asked me to share my experience with you when I got back, so here goes.  How many of you have ever gone on a retreat?  Good.  Most of you have a general idea of how things go.  It’s a time to get away from the daily grind and to focus on what God’s trying to tell us.  The Trappist Abbey at Gesthemani, Kentucky is a walled community on several hundred acres about 45 minutes south of Louisville.

 

It’s a silent retreat in keeping with the monk’s mostly-silent lifestyle.  There’s a half hour presentation each morning and there’s a spiritual director available, but most of the time it’s just you and God.  Brother Christian, the retreat master told us that one of the misconceptions about the monks is that the stone wall around the place is to keep people out.  It’s actually there to keep the noise out.  It does a pretty good job.  They don’t watch television and they don’t listen to the radio.  To them, that’s just noise that they don’t need.

 

When I go there, and this was my ninth year, I usually have something in mind that I want to pray and think about.  Sometimes that works out but most of the time God hits me with something very different.  Among other things, I was hoping for some help with this weekend’s homily.  Unless you’ve been asleep for the last few minutes, you know that the first reading and the Gospel today are about marriage.  I WILL get to that in just a few minutes.  But there was one idea, one concept that kept coming up over and over again during the four days I was at the Abbey.

 

I keep a retreat notebook.  The first thing I did when I got to Gesthemani was to look at my notes from last year.  One thing that Father told us last year was that God is telling us that there’s only one version He wants of us, but we keep insisting on being someone else.   We’re all part of God’s plan as long as we do His will.  He told us that a saint is someone who has realized who he really is.

This year’s retreat master, Brother Christian, spoke to us the first day on the monastic life.  A monk’s life consists of work, prayer, and spiritual reading.  They work, making cheese, fudge, and fruitcake to make the money they need so they have time for the other two.  They work four hours per day.  They’re in church eight times a day, singing and praying, starting at 3:15 in the morning.  The rest of their time is free to read and study, with the emphasis on spiritual reading.  They’re usually in bed by 8:00.  Through spiritual reading, he said, you become who you are.  You become as holy as it’s possible for you to be, WHERE YOU ARE.  We’re all monks to some extent.  Some of us are just better at it than others.

On Tuesday afternoon I picked up a book in the library written by a Baptist minister.  The book was on Celtic prayer.  Being a good Irishman I thought I should check it out.  Besides, I wanted to see what this protestant had to say about a basically Catholic version of spirituality.  He seemed to be very surprised to learn about practices that Catholics have known about for centuries and that you and I take for granted.

The author says we’re not supposed to be somebody else. God already made that other person.  He says that God never does the same thing twice.  He quotes a Jewish rabbi who said, “At the last judgment I shall not be asked  ‘Why were you not Abraham?  Why were you not Moses?  I shall be asked why were you not [yourself]?”  I started seeing a definite pattern in what God was telling me.

I won’t bore you with any more details except to say that every talk I heard, every book I picked up, and even an audio program I listened to while I was walking in the woods came to the same conclusion.  God doesn’t want us to be a second-rate copy of someone else.  He wants to be a first-rate version of ourselves.

Brother Christian pointed out that we’re all closer to perfection than we realize because perfection is different for each one of us.  If my idea of perfection is to be a world-class triathlete, I’ll never make it.  But if my idea of perfection is to be the best husband, the best father, the best grandfather, and the best deacon that I can be, I can do that.  That’s my perfection.  And that’s what God wants.  It’s up to you to spend time in prayer and reflection to find out what God wants you to be.  Then do your best to be that person.

I had lunch Friday with a friend of mine who just graduated from a Baptist seminary.  He’s going to sell his house and move his family to a little town in Wyoming to start a new church.  The population of the town is 80% Mormon.  You have to understand one thing about Mormons.  They’re DEDICATED to their church.  If a Mormon decides to leave the church they’ll be shunned by family members and friends and probably lose their job since most of the businesses in the town are owned by Mormons.

That’s the environment my friend is moving into.  No, thank you!  But he’s convinced that’s what God wants him to do and he’s doing it.  He’s been going to school and planning for this for the last ten years.  What if he fails?  The last Baptist church there did go out of business.  If that’s what God wants him to do, and clearly he believes it is, and if he gives it his best shot, which he will, then, win or lose, he’s doing God’s will and he’s being the best version of himself he can be.

So, what’s any of this have to do with today’s readings about marriage?  According to Matthew Kelly, the Australian writer and speaker, “the purpose of marriage is two people getting together encouraging, challenging, and helping each other to become the best versions of themselves that they can be, then raising children to become the best versions of themselves.  Marriage is God’s tool in most people’s lives to create holiness.”

The first reading ends, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.”  In the Gospel Jesus quotes this reading to the Pharisees and adds that “what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”  That’s what God tells us about marriage and yet people say our Church is “controversial” in saying that marriage must be between a man and a woman, and that it lasts until death.

I’m very blessed.  I have a wife who supports most everything I do.  [She was a little iffy about the Vespa, but I know she was wanting me to not get squished by a semi truck.]  She puts up with a lot being a deacon’s wife.  She supports me in my ministry and didn’t give me a problem about leaving our parish of over thirty years to take this assignment.  But most of all she pushes me to be the best that I can be.  And I try to return the favor.  That’s what husbands and wives are supposed to do.  After all, we are one flesh.  What’s good for me is good for her, and vice versa.

So many people live together today without being married.  They pretend that it’s ok.  But, how can you have a proper relationship with God if your second most important relationship is founded on sin? It’s impossible.

 

What did I learn from my retreat?  I learned that I should always pack a sweatshirt no matter how warm it is when I leave home.  More important, I learned that I need to spend more time in prayer and spiritual reading.  I learned that God doesn’t want me to be Saint Francis of Assissi, or Bishop Sheen, or Cardinal Dolan.  He’s done them already.  He wants me to be the best Mike Buckley I can be and he wants you to be the best you that you can be.  And I learned that the only way to find out what that means is to spend time in prayer and spiritual reading.  We can’t hear God if we don’t listen.

Remember “Shacking up”?

I don’t eavesdrop.  I think it’s rude.  But when you’re in a restaurant and the people at the next table speak loudly enough for everyone in the place to hear, it’s hard to ignore them.  The loud-talkers in question were two young women, maybe late twenties or early thirties.  One of them had just broken up with her live-in boyfriend.

This is the part where I hate to make myself seem like an old codger, but I remember when that particular living arrangement was called “shacking up” and those who chose that lifestyle tended to keep it to themselves, not broadcast it for strangers to hear.  It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago.

Here’s the thing, the jilted party, we’ll call her Ann for the sake of brevity, was very upset that her former roommate/lover had dumped her.  She couldn’t understand how he could just up and walk away.  But, isn’t that the nature of the unmarried relationship?  Other than a few pieces of furniture, there is no commitment.  In fact, studies show that roughly 50% of people living in sin never get married.  [Note:  You don’t hear the term “living in sin” very often anymore and my using it might offend some.  Maybe, if we called it what it is more often, it might not be thought of as just another lifestyle.  Sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin.]

So, our friend Ann shouldn’t have been so shocked.  Her lifestyle choice has no more chance of success than a coin toss.  But wait, there’s more!  Of the cohabitators who do finally tie the knot, more than 3/4 of those marriages fail.  In other words, the chances of Ann’s little premarital love nest developing into a life-long relationship are around 1 in 10.

Sadly, this isn’t the picture portrayed in TV and movies.  From their standpoint, it’s all fun and games.  The process goes like this:

Meet a guy; jump into bed; move in together; fall in love (maybe); have a baby or two; get married.  If you doubt any of this, check out CBS’ line-up of sit coms.  Is it any wonder that talking about cohabitation is no longer taboo.  You would be surprised how many couples approach me for marriage preparation with both parties giving the same address.  You would also be surprised at how shocked they are when I suggest that this might be a problem.

On the other hand, how much do we discourage this particular variety of sin when the test we give them to determine their compatibility includes a special section for “cohabiting couples”?  I guess I’m ranting here because I’m the guy who’s charged with convincing them that what they’re doing is wrong even when everyone else (often including their parents) is telling them it’s OK.  I end up looking like the bad guy.

I believe we clergy, given the privilege of preaching the Gospel have let our people down.  When was the last time you heard a homily on this subject.  [Hint:  The last time I preached on extramarital sex, two couples who heard the homily decided to get married.]  So I guess I’ll keep preaching about it and counseling engaged couples on it, and one-by-one, maybe make a difference.

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #12 Catholic Marriage

 Sexual love is a Catholic thing.  Christ raised marriage to the level of a sacrament.  Marriage is not the    sacrament of washing dishes.  Christopher West.

“Hold on a minute, deacon.  Marriage isn’t just a Catholic thing.  Every church does marriage.”  That’s a good point.  It’s true that every faith tradition celebrates marriage.  In fact, the Catholic Church recognizes every church marriage as being valid.  We believe that marriage is a sacrament.  In fact, it was the very first sacrament.  Adam and Eve were married in the Garden of Eden.

Plus, we can’t forget about civil marriage.  Even if you tied the knot in Las Vegas with the ceremony conducted by a pirate or an Elvis look-alike, in the eyes of the law, you are married.  In the eyes of the Church, not so much.  Every church marriage is also a civil marriage.  As a Catholic deacon, I’m empowered by the Church to celebrate the sacrament and I’m empowered by the state of Missouri to perform the civil marriage.  I am not empowered to celebrate a wedding in an Elvis costume.  Alb and dalmatic are the only choice.

So, what’s so special about a Catholic marriage?  Well, for one thing, it’s permanent.  Once you’re married in the Catholic Church, you’re married for life.  Even if you get a civil divorce, you’re still married in the eyes of God and the Church.  That’s why you don’t just walk into a Catholic Church and announce that you’d like to be married tomorrow.  We want to to all we can to you make sure (1) that you’re ready to be married and (2) that you’ve found the right person to spend the rest of your life with.  Normally this process takes from six to twelve months.

I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of the process in this short post.  I’m taking a course on marriage preparation at the local seminary and the class runs from February to early May.  I can only hit the high points here.  The main points are the two in the last paragraph.  Please understand that we want you to be married (to the right person).  We want you to stay together for life.  We want you to practice your Catholic faith together.  If you aren’t both Catholics, we want you (the Catholic party) to practice your Catholic faith.  How your spouse expresses their faith is always up to them.  We do ask the Catholic party to agree to try to raise any children as Catholics.

Let’s spend just a few words on those children.  The reason God created marriage was so that a husband and wife, together, will have and raise children.  I know all the jokes about Catholics having huge families.  That used to be true.  Today, sadly, even Catholic husbands and wives feel like it’s up to them to decide how many kids they want to have and when to have them.  If God created marriage for the purpose of raising a family, I’m not sure where we got the idea that we could introduce man-made chemicals into our wives’ bodies to interfere with God’s plan.  That’s just wrong!

There are natural ways to plan on when we want to have kids.  In fact, it’s called “Natural Family Planning”.  It involves no chemicals, no financial cost, and no risk to the mother.  What it does involve is planning and sometimes sacrifice.  There are just a few days each month when the wife must say “no” to her husband.  What makes it all work is the husband’s willingness to set aside his sexual urges on those days.  It also requires that the husband and wife actually talk to each other about something more important than the daily news.  I might mention that couples who practice NFP have a substantially lower divorce rate than other couples (2.3%).  That alone should make it every couple’s first choice.

To sum it all up.  Marriage is a sacrament created by God.  You get married to care for your spouse and to raise children.  Marriage is “until death do us part”.  Jesus put his stamp of approval on marriage when He decided to be born of a married woman.  He didn’t have to do that but He obviously thought it was not a good thing for the Son of God to be raised by a single mother.

What makes Catholic marriage special is that we go to great lengths to make sure that this is the proper step for the couple at this time, that they really know and love each other, and that they’re prepared to go the distance.  Catholic weddings are performed in church, not in a park or a casino, or on top of a hill somewhere among the trees.  As Mr. West said above, “Christ raised marriage to the level of a sacrament.”  What more appropriate place to celebrate the sacrament than in God’s house?

Catholic marriage is forever and that’s really, really cool.

I say to you, whoever divorces his wife
(unless the marriage is unlawful)
and marries another commits adultery.”

This passage from Matthew’s Gospel seems simple enough.  If a marriage is lawful, it’s forever.  There are no practice marriages or trial marriages.  Marriage is exactly what it appears to be, a permanent union between a man and a woman.

Marriage has been in the news lately because of Judge Vaughn’s ruling in California last week that in spite of the clear wishes of 7 million voters, same-sex “marriage” is now legal in that state.

I just finished a course this summer on Canon Law, particularly the laws governing marriage and baptism.  Not once in ten hours of classes did father say anything about marriage between two men or two women.

Here’s the thing, eventually the Supreme Court is going to rule on what constitutes a civil marriage.  Whatever they decide has nothing to do with sacramental marriage.  Jesus made that very clear.

This Gospel passage also explains the issue of annulments, a practice of the Church that’s always been controversial.  If marriage is forever, how can the Church “annul” a marriage.  Isn’t it just a way for the Church to get more money?

The short answer is no.  Jesus says “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife( unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”  Unless the marriage is unlawful.

The Church doesn’t nullify a marriage, it declares, under certain circumstances that the marriage wasn’t lawful in the first place which is exactly what the Gospel says today.  I’m not going to try to give you a course on Canon Law.  It’s very complicated and I don’t expect any of you will ever need to use it.  But you will hear the comments from non-Catholics, and maybe even some Catholics criticizing the Church’s rules on marriage.

This one sentence from this one Gospel should be enough.  Jesus said “no divorces” but He also allowed for the fact that some folks attempt marriage and fail.  God, in His mercy makes allowances for those failures.