Jesus And Marriage
Sermon by Father Roger J. Landry
Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts
Catholics are accustomed to asking themselves, "What would
Jesus do?" in their situations or "What would Jesus say?" The
answers to those questions generally make clear for us what we
in turn should do or say.
I think those questions are important ones to ask with regard to
the question of whether same-sex couples should be allowed to
marry. What would Jesus say if he were to testify up on Capitol
Hill on the matter?
To ask this question is not to imply that one needs to have
recourse to religious arguments in the debate. Most people,
however, including non-Christians, will find in Jesusıs
testimony about marriage a crisp and clear presentation of what
is already recognizable by reason.
One day Jesus was asked about the meaning of marriage and the
possibility of divorce. His reply is as relevant to the question
of same-sex marriage as it was to the original query. He took
marriage back to creation and described the nature of marriage
and its essential properties:
"In the beginning 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" (Mt 19:4-6).
In this concise response, Jesus mentions four things pertinent
to our debate.
1) In the beginning, God made them male and female.
God never acts by chance and hence he made us male and female,
and not male and male, for a reason. There is great meaning to
masculinity and femininity. The most profound reason of all is
to help us grow in the image of God.
In the first book of the Bible, we read, "God created man in his
image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he
created them" (Gen 1:27). God is a communion of persons in love,
wherein Father and Son love each other in such a way that their
love "generates" a third person, the Holy Spirit, who is the
fruit of their mutual love.
God created the human person male and female to exist as a
communion of persons in love in such a way that their love would
similarly be capable of generating a third person, a child. In
this way, man and woman together would also image God the
Creator, by participating with him in the act of the creation of
another human person.
Same-sex relationships are not capable of bearing this image of
2) "For this reason a man shall leave his father and
mother and be joined to his wife."
Because of how he is made ("for this reason"), a man leaves his
parents and clings, not to whomever he wishes, but to a wife.
His masculinity is directed by his Creator to anotherıs
femininity (and vice versa).
This is because one of the essential truths of masculinity is
the manıs capacity for fatherhood, which can only be naturally
fulfilled when joined to a womanıs capacity for motherhood.
A crucial element in accepting "who we are" as male or female is
to recognize this innate maternal or paternal potential. A
crucial element in accepting another in love is to recognize the
otherıs maternal or paternal potential. Same-sex couples, in
this respect, neither accept the full meaning of who they are or
who their partner is.
3) " And the two shall become one flesh. So they are no
longer two, but one flesh."
Jesus says that marriage is meant to bring about a one-flesh
union. This is not a romantic metaphor, however beautiful it is.
It also refers to more than the temporary union of bodies that
occurs in the act of sexual intercourse, which is not a
It refers to the marriage of their flesh in a child who is a
symbol and a fruit of their loving union. The husband and wife
become one flesh in the child.
The reason why the Church has always said that there is a
two-fold purpose to conjugal relations unity and procreation
is because for there to be a true unity between husband and wife
in the act of making love, there needs to be the openness to
their becoming truly one flesh in a child.
To will against a child is to will against real union between
the spouses, because it involves rejecting the other personıs
paternal or maternal potential in the very act made for it by
God. Such a rejection is the opposite of the full mutual
acceptance required by love.
Same-sex couples are incapable of this type of natural one-flesh
union in a child. As a result, same-sex couples often try to
divorce sex from its procreative potential and meaning. Once
this is done, however, sex is also divorced from real union and
Rather than "making love," such gay sex (like heterosexual
contraceptive sex) often becomes the mutual use of another for
sexual pleasure, which will begin to corrode whatever love may
be present between the couple.
4) "What God has joined, let no one separate."
God has joined man and woman in marriage. To try to make
marriage a man-less or a woman-less institution (as it would be
for same-sex couples) will bring disastrous consequences and
confusion. All of society and particularly our children will
Among the consequences will be:
a) The meaning of masculinity and femininity will be distorted,
as they will no longer be seen as necessarily complementary and
ordered to each other.
b) The meaning of marriage will obviously change and bring about
a transvaluation in the meaning of a family. Marriage will
become primarily for the satisfaction of adult desires, not for
children. Permanently fatherless or motherless families will
become more common and this will harm children raised in such
c) The homosexual idea of the meaning of sex divorced from any
procreative meaning, or even from any male-female
complementarity will become the bottom-line of public school
sex-ed curricula, because any heterosexual idea of sexuality
will be "discriminatory" against gays and their newly-invented "rights." It will become harder for our children that ever
before to perceive the essential connection between love,
marriage, sex and children.
To try to separate what God has joined in marriage is to
separate us from the truth about who we are as male and female
and whom we are called to be and will bring great harm.
What would Jesus do and say?
Jesus "came to give witness to the truth" (Jn 18:37) and his
truth is unchanging.
What he taught about the meaning of our masculinity and
femininity, its relation to marriage, and the relation of
marriage to the family, is something that gives believers and
unbelievers alike a greater foundation for what we can already
perceive by reason and common sense.
For believers, however, what Jesus would do or say is always a
motivation for our own action. Jesusı followers are called to
make his testimony resonate "from the housetops" (Mt 10:27). May
we do and say as he did!