Ill Matched Lovers,
Painted by Quentin Masseys (1466-1530),
Painted circa 1520,
Oil on panel
© The National Gallery of Art, Washington

Ill Matched Lovers,
Painted by Quentin Masseys (1466-1530),
Painted circa 1520,
Oil on panel
© The National Gallery of Art, Washington

Gospel of 24 May 2024

Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?

Mark 10:1-12

Jesus came to the district of Judaea and the far side of the Jordan. And again crowds gathered round him, and again he taught them, as his custom was. Some Pharisees approached him and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But 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.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘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.’

Reflection on the painting

As we reflect on today's Gospel passage, we're reminded of Jesus' journey towards Jerusalem, where the weight of the cross awaits him. Along the way, he continues to teach, and once again, the Pharisees seek to test him. Their approach to questioning is telling: rather than seeking wisdom on marriage, they inquire about the legality of divorce. Their query is not about understanding the sanctity of marriage but rather about exploiting legal loopholes. They're more concerned with their rights than with the responsibilities inherent in marriage.

For a more lighthearted artwork today, let's turn to Quentin Massys' "Ill Matched Lovers," painted around 1520. This panel portrays two lovers. In the scene, an elderly man finds himself charmed by a much younger woman. This motif of mismatched couples has roots in ancient literature, dating back to Plautus, a Roman comic poet from the 3rd century BC, who cautioned against older men pursuing younger women. It became a popular theme in European literature and art during the early 16th century. Massys' painting humorously illustrates the folly that can accompany romantic pursuits in old age. Adding to the amusement is a fool in the background, assisting in the old man's financial misfortune, by stealing his purse of money. In fact the old man is almost giving it away, so distracted by love (or rather, lust). The presence of a deck of cards in the foreground suggests further morally questionable gambling behaviour as well.

While our painting offers a humorous take, today's Gospel reading from Mark is serious. Here, Jesus addresses the sanctity of marriage, portraying it as a reflection of God's relationship with humanity. He emphasises the importance of unity, love, intimacy, and fidelity within marriage—a stark contrast to the scene depicted in the painting. Jesus calls for a deep commitment that transcends our transient desires, urging us to cherish and honour the sacred bond of marriage.

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Enrique Rodolfo Ansaldi
Member
Enrique Rodolfo Ansaldi
24 days ago

Su propuesta, P. Patrick, una vez más nos amplía la mirada dándonos una lección de Dios: ir más allá de las primeras sensaciones. El Matrimonio merece verse desde el corazón que juró fidelidad amorosa para siempre, lo legal es solo un dato de convivencia con la Iglesia y con la sociedad civil.

Michele Jahncke
Member
Michele Jahncke
25 days ago

It is a difficult painting to stomach. Having been in the National Gallery of Art several times, I imagine I would’ve moved quickly past the grotesqueness of it to something more beautiful to contemplate. As difficult as it is to look at, it does certainly get it’s point across.

I think these verses taken alone have unfortunately kept people in abvuses marriages far too long. No one should read them without looking at Yahweh and Christ Jesus’s character and words as a whole. I quote “Specifically our Lord said, ‘What God has joined together, let no man put asunder (separate/tear apart).’ [Mat 19:6, Mk 10:9] Many construe this to mean that believers should never divorce, even for cause. That is not what Jesus is saying here.… Jesus’ directive is that no one – whether from within or without the marriage – should do anything that would tear at the fiber of a married couple’s oneness…. That does not mean it is not possible or that it cannot be destroyed from within.” – Cindy Burrell

I think both in the Old and New Testament our God protected the weak and abvsed and likely doesn’t like His words being used to keep someone in bondage to a marriage that can physically or mentally destroy them.

Three grounds for divorce:

~Adultery (in Deut 24:1, affirmed by Jesus in Matt 19)

~Emotional and physical neglect (in Ex 21:10-11, affirmed by Paul in 1 Cor 7)

~Abandonment and abuse (included in neglect, as affirmed in 1 Cor 7)

Ruth Dipple
Member
Ruth Dipple
25 days ago

The fool’s tongue sticking out underlines how revolting this relationship/transaction is, a travesty of the relationship between man and woman that was ordained by God. And I suppose that right relationship is what Jesus is emphasising in Gospel passage

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