A princess on the run, royalty become refugee. It was a dark time, the conflict was going badly, and it seemed like all would be lost. Her father sent her out of danger, in spite of a commitment she made to a young man, because he wanted her to go somewhere safe. As she traveled the road, she saw a vision of the future, of her son and her husband. The vision made her stop: if she continued on her way, this reality had no chance of happening. She would miss out on her destiny; she realized that turning away from her destiny wouldn’t only make her life unlivable, but also make the future of others a darker place without her. So she turned back, back toward danger, back toward death. It was tempting to take the ship to the undying lands, to be safe and be together with her beloved father forever. But her destiny was to accept mortality and eventual death for the sake of her beloved, She was Arwen, beloved of Aragorn. Her choice made a difference, maybe not in the saga of the Ring, but in the time after that when she would help establish a kingdom of justice and peace.
In Jesus’ day, wives were a commodity. A deal between two man: the groom and the bride’s father, arranged for the right price and the right family connection. Don’t think this culture existed so long ago, arranged marriages were the norm happened up to around 1800 and in this country. Love had nothing to do with it, although if the couple feel in love with each other eventually that was nice. The contract could be broken for several reasons, a man could put away his wife if she wasn’t a good cook.
Jesus takes his audience back to an earlier standard: where two become one. He never claimed men were from Mars and women were from Venus. Jesus reminded his audience that we were meant to be together, body and soul, two halves of a whole, and the idea of dividing that was as unthinkable as casually lopping off a body part. It’s an ideal, I know, but we have to have ideals to work toward in our lives; the role of marriage isn’t about providing for a set of wants, it’s about building a home based on a divine model. This model of relationship isn’t just for married people: it’s the relationship we have as a Church with Christ.
It is not a virtue to perpetuate a vice: one person cannot be faithful to a covenant the other has already broken. For two human beings, both have to be committed the same way for it to work from the beginning to the end. Human relationships end, and although we should understand how they go wrong or how they fail to measure up to the standard, it’s not about finding blame. We know we’re imperfect; we don’t have to beat ourselves up needlessly about that.
Our metaphor for the relationship between Christ and the church is the marriage relationship. Christ is the role model of the perfect spouse for all of us: perfectly loving, perfectly giving, perfectly faithful. We can count on God, we can count on Christ being part of us in spite of anything we may do. We are not a commodity in God’s eyes, and God shouldn’t be a commodity in ours.
Like Arwen’s destiny was to be with Aragorn, our destiny is to be with Christ. We need to look for the flashes of insight as we travel through the woods, the glimpses of where we will be. Christ gives himself to us completely every time we celebrate the eucharist. Christ is always faithful, no matter what, we can depend on that. Our challenge of living our faith is how we respond to Christ’s fidelity to us, how we accept our destiny to be one with Him, and live our lives according to His pattern.