"Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?"
Divorce has been a problem for an awfully long time. In today's Gospel we see that it was prevalent in Jesus' day just as it is in ours. From the outset let it be understood that everyone acknowledges that not all marriages were made in heaven. But here's the part that we often fail to recognize- marriage itself was made in heaven.
This is key because we often treat marriage as if it is a human institution and, therefore, subject to change as we see fit. But marriage is divine in its origins. Our Lord tells us that here: "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, '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, no human being must separate," (vv. 4-6). If it is from God then only God can define the rules or make any changes.
We live in a time when we are quick to abandon our commitments for the sake of our convenience. We do this with marriage, children, clubs, communities, church, and even God. No relationship, or commitment, is safe from this tendency. We find ourselves asking the question of our text: can we divorce for any reason? The answer from our Lord is no. Man cannot separate what God has joined together. We may call it divorce. We may define that as free to remarry. But God says He hates divorce (Mal. 2:16). Furthermore, our Lord is telling us here, as is mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, that to remarry after divorce is not to contract a new marriage, but to live in adultery against the former marriage (see v. 9).
So what are we to do? We are to be reconciled to our spouses rather than divorce them. If this becomes impossible we may need to separate. While that may lead to a legal divorce, we must remember that in God's eyes we are still married. Therefore, we must remain single and celibate or be reconciled to our spouse (see 1 Co. 7:10,11). This sounds hard. But God promises to give us the necessary grace to do it. We just need to commit ourselves to the keeping of God's word.
This all may sound very harsh to those us us drenched in a modern divorce culture. But it really isn't. In fact, it's redemptive- to marriage, and all individuals involved.
God understands, and wants us to understand, that divorce is very painful. We must be very compassionate towards those undergoing it. In many ways it results in some becoming practical widows or orphans. We are to sensitively respond to this situation.
For the many who find themselves divorced, especially to those who did not want it to be so, take courage in God's abundant love and mercy. His prohibitions are meant for your protection, not for your punishment. He is a good Father who is always watching out for our best. Faith is required to obey. But blessings follow when we do. If reconciliation with your spouse is a possibility then pursue it. If not, then pray for them and ask God for His strength to walk the road before you. May you experience His abundant and never-ending grace as you do!