Rorate Caeli

We Must Be Ready to Defend the Truth of Marriage, Even at the Cost of Martyrdom

Saint John was called to announce the word of God about the sanctity of marriage as God created man and woman from the beginning, in the face of the opposition of the hateful Herodias who was living in an adulterous relationship with King Herod. Saint John the Baptist was indeed “an iron pillar” in announcing the truth, trusting that the Lord would never abandon him but would make the truth prevail, even at the cost of martyrdom.

Christ Himself, toward the conclusion of His public ministry, announced the same truth, when the Pharisees questioned him about the practice of divorce. He made it clear that His response to their question was nothing other than the articulation of the truth about marriage, in accord with the plan of the Father from the Creation. He declared:

Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning 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? So they are no longer two, but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder. When the Pharisees questioned Him further, reminding Him that even Moses had permitted divorce, he replied firmly:

For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.

When his own disciples remarked about the difficulty in living the truth about marriage, Our Lord reassured them that divine grace is given to live, even heroically, this truth which lies at the foundation of the life of the Church and of society, in general: “Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given.”
Even shackled by chains in prison, Saint John the Baptist did not lose the freedom to speak the truth. So, too, there is no one of us who loses the same freedom, even if we must give up our life for the sake of the truth.

The truth, revealed to us by God in the Creation and in the Redemption, must find always a faithful witness in us, for the sake of our own salvation and for the salvation of the
world. Today’s feast makes clear our mission as Christians to be heralds of the Word of God, even in the midst of a hostile culture, confident in the Lord’s Word: “They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, …, to deliver you.”

Let us pray, especially today, through the intercession of Saint John the Baptist, that we, in imitation of Saint John, may be uncompromising heralds of the truth about marriage: the lifelong, faithful, and procreative union of one man and one woman. The love of God and of our neighbor demands such a faithful witness on our part. If our witness must be given against hostile opposition, as indeed is frequently the case in our time, let us be confident that God’s grace will never be lacking for us. It guarantees the victory of the truth.

In his recent visit to Australia, Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Tribunal of Apostolic Signatura, dedicated practically all of his interventions to Family, Marriage and Truth (including in the sermon above, preached on the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist). You will find all texts pronounced in his visit and images in the page of the Personal Parish for the Ancient Roman Rite of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Bl John Henry Newman's.