Before I open the passage assigned to us today, may I confess something?

I had a very difficult time studying our passage for today– not because I have not experienced this myself– but because it’s so important that we deliver this because it’s such a valuable topic.

The topic for today is marriage and just in case you are single, this talk is still for you– and you’ll find out why later.

But we’re going to go and travel towards an issue called divorce. This is a topic, I’m sure, that people wonder about. It’s a very controversial topic and if you will notice, it takes grace to understand the passage we will read — God’s grace that enables us to understand His wisdom.

And my prayer for all of us today is we would have the grace to learn from God’s wisdom today.

We’re going to talk about Deuteronomy’s laws on how couples are supposed to relate to each other– and it usually starts with marriage.

So, just a fair warning to all of you: the passage that we’re going to read is not going to inspire you. Actually, it will confuse you.

Married people, this will make you ask questions. But I believe that God’s wisdom is going to pour into this place.

So, let’s go to Deuteronomy 24:1:

That’s the passage that we’re going to study today and I hope that we’re going to lean in on God’s Word. Just bow and let’s welcome the Presence of God.

Lord Jesus, this is Your Word. Heavenly Father, we are limited in the way of understanding it– but because we know that you can work through this text, we believe that you can take this down to the level of our understanding so that we can find ways to apply this in our daily life. Lord, it might be difficult for us to hear but with your grace, there will be wisdom, there will be embrace, and there will be appreciation for this Word. Thank you so much for speaking to us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

I’ll read it to you one more time, in case you didn’t catch that.

Deuteronomy 24:1, and Moses says: If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and then he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her, and sends her from his house, divorce can happen.

Now, it’s very simple. You don’t need a Master’s degree in Theology. It simply means that a man can divorce his wife for absolutely any reason whatsoever that he finds displeasing about her.

For instance, if she has bad breath, divorce her. She talks too loud that the entire barangay can hear her, divorce her. She takes too long in the shower, divorce her. She watches too many Korean dramas, my goodness, divorce her.

That’s what the passage is saying. This is the problem, my dear friends: We might be reading this ancient text with modern eyes. You don’t do that. Because if you do that, you try to make it literal according to your situation now. It’s very dangerous. You can actually commit a sin and then credit that as a command from the Lord. So dangerous.

Relationship Problems

But let me get serious.

Relationship problems have been there since the time of Moses. It is not a modern-day invention.

It wasn’t invented in the 21st century or the 20th century. It’s been there since time immemorial. Actually, I’d like to believe that Adam and Eve had relationship problems.

In a pirated version of the Bible, it says that when God created the world, God rested afterward. You know this story, right? It’s actually after God created man that he rested. And then God created woman and since then, God and man have not rested.

Ha-ha :) I don’t like that joke too much. But that’s the pirated version of the Bible.

Relationship problems have always been there. Even Jesus had to struggle with this topic. Let me show you–we’re going to go to the New Testament now.

In Matthew 19 something happens that Jesus and the Pharisees have this dialogue about divorce. The verse says that some Pharisees came and tried to trap  Jesus with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

I want to show you how Jesus responds to this.

This is the genius of Jesus.

He says,

“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?… They record that from the beginning, God made them male and female… And “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

Go Back to the Original Design

To understand any piece of Scripture, here’s the advice:

You go back to the beginning.

Jesus went back to Genesis. He went back to the original design.

That is, He went back to the Father’s heart.

That’s a hermeneutical lesson, by the way.

Again, if there’s anything that confuses you about Scripture, what you need to do is you need to go back and ask this question:

What did God intend this for? What was the original design. You know that’s a principle you can practice in life.

Whenever you get lost in getting to your destination, what’s a good advice?

You go back to the place where you started to lose your way— back to the starting point.

Do you have a certain thing in your house that you always lose all the time?

Maybe not in your house, maybe in your office. For some of you, it might be your phone. Or maybe, for some of you, your keys—car keys, house keys. To me, what I always lose—never fails—the remote control of our television. The weirdest place where I found our remote control was in the refrigerator. I have no idea who was thinking of putting a remote control in the ref. It happens. But what’s good advice for you to find that item—especially if you know that you were the last one to use it: Go back. Retrace your steps, right? That’s good advice.

Whenever you get lost in the Bible—you’re reading a piece of Scripture, you don’t know what it means—you go back to the original design of what God intended that for.

That’s why Jesus goes back to Genesis.

Two Schools of Thought

Going back to the topic of divorce— again I’ve never experienced it—this is a hard topic for me. But divorce—you need to know this—is a very controversial topic even during the time of Jesus.

We all know that even up to today, divorce is a controversial topic.

The Philippines, our country—we’re one of the few countries left who still subscribe to the notion that there is no divorce because of our Catholic ways, our Catholic beliefs– everywhere around the world, they’re cancelling divorce left and right.

I want you to know this: Because of the context of the Israelites– the Jews during the time of Jesus– divorce is such a hot topic for them. It’s because they believed that marriage was a sacred tradition. It was sacred for all people.

Listen to this: During their time, if you were over 20 years old and you were still single, you were sinning against God– because you were clearly disobeying the command of the Lord to be fruitful and multiply. That’s why they regarded marriage as a sacred act.

There were two schools of thought during that time: By Rabbi Shammai; and by Rabbi Hillel.

Now, let me tell you the difference between these two rabbis.

Rabbi Shammai was a little conservative. He taught that divorce could only be possible if the wife committed adultery– if there was unfaithfulness, if there was infidelity.

On the other hand, Rabbi Hillel was a little more radical. Because he subscribed very closely to the concept of the Mosaic law: that the husband can divorce his wife for any reason that displeases him.

So, question: Guess who had more fans in his club? Rabbi Hillel obviously, right? They had all of these sayings about what a bad wife is.

They said this: That any man who has a bad wife will go straight to Heaven when he dies– because he already suffered Hell on Earth. That’s horrible, right?

But that’s what they believed in.

Don’t Go Historical

I remember this story about a couple. The wife says, “Hon, it’s already our

Silver Anniversary– we’ve been married for 25 years! What’s your gift to me?”

The husband replies, “I will bring you to Africa.”

The wife goes, “Wow, how sweet

of you! On our Golden Anniversary, what will be your gift to me?”

Husband quips, “I will already fetch you.”

Ha-ha! He left her in Africa for 25 years!


Divorce was such a hot topic for the Israelites. And let me tell you this: In the time of Jesus, it was something that they really struggled with.

But I want to point out what Jesus says. The Pharisees are not even done yet.

They are still attacking Jesus.

They say to Jesus, “Why did Moses say in the law (now they’re pointing to Deuteronomy 24) that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and then send her away?”

So, now they’re going historical. They’re backtracking to Deuteronomy.

Little free marriage advice to all married people: Should you ever go hysterical about any issue or any argument in your marriage, never go historical. Don’t go poking at old wounds. Because if you’ve truly forgiven your spouse, the past won’t matter anymore. You let pass what happened in the past.

I want to show you how Jesus answers the Pharisees. This is the meat I want to share with you.

In verse 8, the Pharisees ask, “What did Moses say in the law?”

Jesus says, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts but it was not what God had originally intended.”

Oh, my goodness, I love this. Moses permitted divorce– that much we get.

But he permitted divorce only as a concession for their hardened heart!

So, it is like Jesus is saying that when God instituted the sacrament of marriage, there was a design, and to God that was the ideal.

But here’s the thing: Because of sin, because of our hardened hearts, we cannot obtain the ideal. So, God says, “This much I will permit.”

God Is for Marriage

Now let me make it practical: God’s heart is for marriage.

That’s the original design. God’s heart is for marriage!

But here’s something you did not know: God’s heart is also for those who have messed up in marriage!

God’s heart is also for those who have been abused because of marriage! God’s heart is also for those who have been broken because of a messy relationship!

That’s why divorce is actually a pastoral solution to a messy situation.

So, what are we trying to say? Yes, God is for marriage. He’s for the unity of two persons: That what God has put together, let no one separate that.

But God realizes that there is sin — and because sin has hardened the heart of some people.

And if you’re listening to this and you’ve been abused in that marriage, I pray that this message speaks to you– because God’s heart is for you.

But on the other side of the spectrum, if you are the abuser, I pray that you also listen to this message– because the Good News is that God’s heart is also for you and God wants to change you. God wants you to repent and to draw close to His heart. That’s the Good News!

The more I read about this, the more I realize that I do not understand how God loves us. That God would love the person who was abused, just as much as he loves the abuser? Doesn’t make sense. But such is the mercy and the grace of the God we worship!

So, this is Good News! Never allow yourself to be separated from your Savior even if you sinned against Him. Because, hey, if you are in a bad relationship or in a bad marriage, even if you feel that you’re the person who is abused, I want you to know that God loves you– but God also loves the person on the other side, and He wants to change that person. So, I hope and pray that you’re hearing this message.

What Leads You Closer to God

But let me end this way: Marriage is not easy. It’s not. Actually, God designed marriage only for mature people.

It’s because marriage invites us to commit to doing things that immature people cannot do. That’s why for people who are planning to get married, you have to talk to a priest. You have seasons and journeys with him because the priest wants you to actually think about whether you’re ready or not to be married.

The priest wants to say, “Hey, take your time. You don’t have to rush into it because

if you’re not ready, you might mismanage the sanctity of marriage.”

Again, God’s heart is for marriage but God’s heart is also for those who have messed up in their marriages and who are really looking for a Savior.

Think about this: You might be mad at the other person because he hurt you and you might be separated from him already– and there’s that pinch of pain.

But I want you to think about this for a moment –just indulge me: What if this separation is the thing that will actually lead you closer to Christ?

So, we can see that God can work in all things! Even through such a painful thing as that separation.

It’s not the end of the talk yet.

I want to welcome back Alvin Barcelona!

Stigma of Broken Family


Thank you again, Bro. Audee. Thank you very much.

By the way, I just flew in from Bacolod this morning. We had a fantastic Grand Feast in Bacolod. Hundreds of people came. But outside the city, there were still flooded areas…

Marriage. For better or for worse. In sickness or in health. For richer or for poorer. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

You were just a dream that I once knew…

(Forevermore by Side A).

Let me ask you a hard question:

And why am I the one giving this part of the talk?

Because I was just in Grade 4 when my Mom and my Dad separated— telling about it in front of us three children. They even made us choose who we would go with—to Mommy or to Daddy?

You know, something like that happens to you – we hope it isn’t forever— but it hits you for a very long time.

My Dad is no longer here. A few years after I graduated from college, he passed away. And my Mom just joined the Lord last January (2023).

But their separation still hits me. But as long as I can remember, I did not blame them. Truth to tell, early enough, I already forgave them—even if they were not asking for forgiveness. Even though I did not understand why they separated,

I accept that there are certain things beyond our control.

We were hidden when they separated. Because well, we were a product of a scandal – in the sense that my Daddy was a politician, and my Mommy was a teacher. And, you know, those days—actually even today—politicians and teachers should have a clean image. So, when they are separated, their children suffer the stigma of a broken family.

When I came home, I was introduced as adopted – just to hide the incident.

Sad Generation

Now, I am a teacher. And a big percentage of our students also come from broken homes.

That’s why now, more than ever, we should understand this issue.

Especially in the light of our Church teachings about our faith.

I am one who wants to make light what’s heavy. I’m a musician. You know, most hit songs are love songs. And do you know? Among the love

When I was younger—much younger— singer Imelda Papin sang, Lunes, nang tayo ay nagkakilala… Monday when we met…

And in just one week, the partners were already separated.

Linggo, giliw, nang ako’y iyong iniwan… Sunday when you left me…

That was a hit song.

Even among millennials now. Who is your biggest artist? Moira Dela Torre.

And what is her hit song?

Pinapaubaya ko na sa kanya… I am letting go…

I can’t tell whether she is giving up the guy for the other woman, or letting God to take him already to make up for what he had done to her.

Even among the Gen Z (born from late 1990s through today) one popular band is SunKissed Lola: Palad ay basang-basa… Palm is so wet…

So anxious because: Dahan-dahan, sa pasilyo ng altar sa simbahan…Slowly, on the aisle of the church… Ikaw at ikaw talagang ikaw … You and really you…

Repeating Ikaw at ikaw one thousand times… That’s the SunKissed Lola.

The other rock band is named Lola Amour: It’s been raining… Feeling so cold…

One line goes: I will be waiting in Manila even if you’re no longer coming back…

That’s why the backup: Nakahiga, nanginginig…Lying down, trembling…

So sad… You’re alone, trembling, not really because of the cold weather… but because the guy is no longer coming back…

We Have Hope!

Things happen.

And what is God’s last message when things don’t happen the way they should?

The message:

Mercy to forgive your sins. And restoration to live a new life.

I repeat: I am a product of parents who separated when I was just in Grade 4.

But I became a preacher. I even became a school steward. I even became a World Bank consultant for the Office of the President.

I am boasting… to point out that God is a Master in drawing out the good from something bad.

Yeah! We have hope!

That’s always the last say of the Lord. Everything will work out for good…. Don’t get me wrong.

Don’t say to your partner, “Let’s separate already so that something good will happen to us.”

Because God’s definition of marriage is non-negotiable. The Catholic Church, our Church, does not have divorce.

But its pastoral response to the reality that some marriages—many marriages– fail, is Church annulment.

Annulment: The Catholic Response

We should tell you this: My stepfather and my mother were together longer than my mother and my father were. They were opting for church annulment.

This is the Catholic response to marriage failure. We have that.

But let me just take note of this:

Annulment is not dissolving a marriage—but confirming that there was no marriage in the first place.

Yes, the Church provides that.

But warning: If marrying someone is complex, annulling a marriage is more complex. If weddings are expensive, annulments are not free. And to make matters worse, because humans oversee the annulment process, it is long and tedious.

In 2015, in his letter Mitis Ludex Dominus Iesus, Pope Francis said:

In case you are in that situation, you go to your diocese, to your priest, and consult them about the matter. And you will be given this recourse.


Because Jesus sees laws from a different lens. In the Bible, it’s harder. We see the issue discussed in Deuteronomy and expanded up to the New Testament.

The last words of God are always mercy and forgiveness.

Back to Genesis

Here’s a familiar story is in John 7:53- 8:1:

The Pharisees were so legalistic. Hey, we’re not exaggerating. They would really stone the woman until she dies—publicly. Because she was guilty of adultery.

But how did Jesus address this? How did Jesus respond?

Jesus saw the law through the lens of Genesis. It has been a recurring theme for us since Holy Week—that we go back to the Garden of Eden. We go back to the lens of Genesis.


Because Jesus always went back to the Father’s Heart.

Remember, I always say, it all started with the story when Adam and Eve made a mistake. And what was their biggest sin? We were taught they disobeyed. Well, all of us disobey.

But this is my personal take: Their bigger sin was that they disobeyed but did not admit their transgression. They disobeyed. They should just have asked for forgiveness. God was looking for them.

And I said, when God asked Adam, “Where are you?” Adam said, “You gave me the woman…”

He was saying it’s God who should be blamed because God gave him the woman.

And then the woman, on the other hand, pointed at the Serpent.

Well, the Serpent doesn’t have fingers, he could not point. All he could do was crawl. So, he took all the blame.

Adam should just have said, “Lord, we made a mistake.” Eve should have said, “Lord, I made a mistake.”

Then that’s it. The story ends in Genesis. We would no longer have Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy…

Receive My Mercy. Receive My Restoration

The lesson is this: If you make a mistake, run to God. Why?

What was the response of Jesus when the Pharisees wanted to stone the woman?

Let’s continue John 8:6-11:

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Slowly, they put down their stones.

No one stoned the woman. But there was one there who was not sinful: Jesus.

If there was one who had the right to stone the woman, it was Jesus, right? But Jesus did not.

Jesus asked the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Through His actions, Jesus manifested the Father’s Heart: Forgiving an adulterer…dining with tax collectors…with public sinners… up to the Cross… forgiving those who crucified Him.

Take note: Jesus isn’t saying, “Go ahead, commit sins.” No. No. Sin has very, very grave consequences.

What is the consequence of all our sins?

They caused the life of Jesus. The Son of God was nailed on the Cross because of sins. He sacrificed to give us New Life.

Receive My Mercy. Receive My Restoration. Mercy to forgive sins.

And restoration to live a New Life.

My consolation about what happened to my Daddy and Mommy, I would not be the one to judge them. Because before my Daddy passed away, they would have reconciled. Because the second husband of my Mommy already died. So, she was free to go back to my Dad. But perhaps my Dad was so excited, he suffered a heart attack. But the intention to reconcile was there.

And the Lord sees your heart.

Before my Mommy passed on, our priests—Fr. Bob McConaghy, Fr. Albert Garong—were ministering to her, telling her, “Go back to the Lord. Go back to the Lord.”

Up to the last minute of your life, the Lord will show you His mercy.

Going Back to the Father’s Heart

Here’s my last message:

We might be tired. We might be feeling unworthy. You might be saying, “I repeat and repeat the same sins, I fall and fall again…”

So shameful…

Nothing good happening in my life…

Not true… I used to be there… I’m here now… Just don’t stop. Just go on…

Continue going close to Him. I want you to talk to Jesus.

To go back to the Father’s Heart.

On the first Sunday of the er months, the most exciting, most anticipated season of the year, it’s actually a call for us to go back to God’s Heart.

No matter where you are, no matter your past, go back to Jesus.

Come, let’s immerse ourselves in Worship of our God who gives us second chances, third chances, fourth chances until we are fully restored to a New Life.

Let me pray for you:

Father in Heaven, we give You all glory and honor as we give our highest thanksgiving to You – Our God who forgives. Our God who restores. Grant us the grace to be faithful to our marriage, to our work, to our relationships, to our Community, to You, and to ourselves. But thank You for reminding us that if we fail, and when we fall, we can and should go back to You, to the Father’s Heart, who waits for us to be embraced and to be given a New Life. With this, we lift up our dreams, our hopes, because we know that as we go closer to You, that is where we live our life to the full. That is where we live our life with true joy, peace, and meaning.

This will lift up in the mighty Name of Jesus. Amen!


This story was first published in the Feast Family Online News Magazine

Published by THE FEAST (September 10, 2023)


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