The dream for many people is to marry their best friend for a successful and happy home. In fact, the advice is very common today: “marry your best friend”. The old adage is to be friends first before becoming lovers, and that a successful marriage is built on friendship. In relation to this, Dr John Gottman, a marriage expert and author of “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail”, says that: “deep friendship is the foundation of a happy marriage.” In his book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”, Gottman explains what this friendship should look like. For him, “deep friendship is borne out of respect for one another, knowledge of one another, and really enjoying spending time together. These are really the essential qualities of best friendship, and out of this foundation, shared interests and passions can be formed, leading to mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company. They tend to know each other intimately—they are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes and dreams. They have an abiding regard for each other and express this fondness not just in the big ways but in little ways day in and day out…” The hallmark of his claim is that faithful friendship is a prerequisite for a happy and long-lasting marriage.
Paralleled to the aforementioned, in today’s First Reading (Ecclesiasticus 6:5-17), the holy sage lays emphasis on friendship; for him, a faithful friendship is one of the great blessings of life. In his words, “A faithful friend is a sure shelter, whoever finds one has found a rare treasure. A faithful friend is something beyond price, there is no measuring his worth. A faithful friend is the elixir of life, and those who fear the Lord will find one.” Unfortunately, this is not the case in many marriages today – some marriages exist because the partner wants to satisfy his/her parent(s)’ request of earning the title of grandparent(s) before they die. Some marriages exist today because of the pressure on the female partner from her parents and relatives who are worried because she has overstayed in the home. Some marriages exist today because the rich parents of the lady influenced their daughter to marry a man from another rich family. Some marriages exist today out of “matchmaking”, probably because the male partner does not know how to approach a lady. Some marriages exist today because of the smartness of a gold-digger partner. Worst still, some marriages exist today because the male partner needed someone to cook for him and satisfy his personal needs, etc.; as such, he sees his wife as a maid “belonging to the kitchen, the living room, and the other room”. Sadly, most women who find themselves in these situations are often victims of domestic violence and sexual subjugation, which in many cases, are the reasons for broken homes today, or as it is called, divorce.
The problem of divorce has been a perennial issue for the Church and society over the centuries. Even our Lord Jesus Christ was also very concerned with this issue at his time, and that is why in today’s Gospel (Mark 10:1-12), when he was confronted with the issue of divorce, he spells it out clearly: “the man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.” Christ gave this teaching because the purpose of marriage is to develop an intimate, strong and lasting relationship based on mutual trust, love, and true friendship in order to form one mind, heart and body from two persons of the opposite sex. Little wonder He traced marriage to the very beginning; in his words, “from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.”
Dearest friends in Christ, we are called today to evaluate our friendship with one another, and more importantly, the friendship that exists in marital union. In a union where there is no friendship, the grace of Christ should be sought to create a true friendship. True friendship must be rooted in Christ; just as Ben Sira concludes in the first reading: “A faithful friend is the elixir of life, and those who fear the Lord will find one. Whoever fears the Lord makes true friends, for as a man is, so is his friend.” If our relationships turn sour or do not last, it because we focus too much on our selfish desires, leaving Christ (God) out of the picture. Therefore, we must open our hearts and minds to adhere to the teachings of Christ, and pray like today’s Psalmist (Psalm 118(119):12,16,18,27,34-35 ) “Guide me, Lord, in the path of your commands…Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes. I take delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word…”
©Rev. Fr. Chinaka J. Mbaeri, OSJ