About a year and half ago, I officiated at the wedding of my childhood friend, Chukwudi (God-is), and his wife, Mma (Beauty), who both are medical doctors. They chose the first reading of today (Genesis 2:18-24) as one of the readings for the Mass, so in my homily I decided to take them to task. I asked them how many ribs a woman has, to which they replied 12. I objected that the Book of Genesis disagrees with them. The wife corrected me that Genesis doesn’t say the woman has only one rib rather that God built the rib He had taken out of the man into a woman. That doesn’t suggest that the woman has only one rib.
I wasn’t done with them. I asked further, “Why of all bones in the body would God choose the rib that’s not that sturdy?” Mma, who was the valedictorian at their graduation from medical school, went on to lecture the congregation on human anatomy. She said that while the internal vertebrate structure composed of bone and cartilage protects and supports the soft organs, tissues and parts, the ribs are cast like a supporting structure or framework that protects the most essential organs of the body like the heart, the lungs, the kidney, and the liver. According to Mma, God cast the woman into a supporting structure or framework to protect the man. In our back and forth, I asked Mma if she thought she’s a supporting structure for my friend, to which she answered, “Absolutely, Padre.” The congregation stood and gave a thunderous applause for about half a minute. Like a prosecuting counsel, I rested my case. No further questions.
But I have a few questions for this congregation: “Was my friend’s wife correct to suggest that until a man finds this one—not two—lost rib, he remains without the supporting structure? Do you think that this is how our society views marriage? Is this how you view your marriage partner?” The prevailing situation in our culture rather suggests that marriage has become an exercise in mechanical construction. I will explain what I mean by mechanical construction. I come from a country where auto parts are often scarce. It won’t be surprising to see a Ford Explorer that has a Toyota engine and transmission, two Hyundai and two Nissan wheel covers. Suppose you lose the front grill of your Ford Explorer and getting to the shop the attendant tells you that Ford front grills are out of stock and tells you that the Nissan front grill is all they have, and promises to fix it to match. The term they use for it is “construction.” Not only does it not match but there is high probability that you’ll lose it again.
That, in my opinion, is what modern society is making out of marriage—a mechanical construction of irreconcilable parts that are changed as soon as the cracks start appearing, leaving children traumatized by the separation of their mom and dad. The custody battle that ensues is no less fierce than the battle for the control of Fallujah or Kabul airport, or the Arab-Israeli conflict.
All around us, we are witnessing a morality that is extremely lax and permissive. The marriage covenant is mocked, broken at will or just cast aside as many simply choose to live together without, they say, “bothering Church or civil authorities.” For many who marry, divorce is a question of ‘when,’ not if. The permanence and indissolubility of marriage are matters for the books and not a reality for modern society. Business contracts now last longer than most marriages as more than half of all marriages contracted in this country end in divorce. This is true for Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Nones, and atheists alike. I’m sure that I have offended nearly everyone listening or reading this; but I’m not done yet. The failure of marriage as an institution was sealed in the court’s recent approval of gay marriage. The approval of Sodomy as “marriage” by the US Supreme Court was a statement in support of the view that the marriage covenant has collapsed. Folks, we have to find another name for this union!
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo