Monday, September 3, 2012

"Marriage reveals the mysterious nature of God's love"

In preparation for taking and family and marriage counseling class this fall and putting together a preparation series for 4 couples in our parish who are planning to be married, I started to read a book I first acquired a few years ago, Roy Petitfils' What I Wish Someone Had Told me About the First Five Years of Marriage.

Something I read in the first chapter struck me, made me reflect on my own marriage, and was one of those moments when I see clearly, not that God is at work in my life, which is vague and abstract, but points me to how, in the words of Paula D'Arcy, "God comes to us disguised as our life."
None of us is perfect. We're all a mixed bag. Inside each of us coexists light and darkness, good and bad, grace and sin. Ideally, sacramental marriage is a safe place where we can be confronted on our "stuff." Left to our own natural devices, our first and only reaction would be to fortify our ego, stand our ground and be right. Grace enables a relationship to transcend our natural inclinations. Grace can transform what would otherwise be a convenient living arrangement into a sacred space where we feel safe enough to expose our brokenness and receive forgiveness.

Marriage is not for the faint of heart. It will call upon all of your existing resources and require you to find more. It requires courage to remain committed to a relationship when it seems easier to bail. On our own it would be a no-brainer. It would make sense to check out and disengage. But in a covenantal relationship we are not alone. God's spirit lives in and among us. A husband and wife can offer God's grace to one another like no other relationship can
Conversely, I would add, a husband and wife can remain selfish and deny God's grace to each other like no other relationship, except possibly the parent/child relationship (parent withholding grace from his/her child), giving the enemy, whose goal is to divide and throw us inward on ourselves, a foothold. Getting back to being mixed bags, for those of us who have been married for awhile, we've done both, which is why, in the words of Bishop Daniel Flores, the generosity of marital love, which is to be a visible and tangible sign of Christ's presence in and for world, thus revealing the mystery of Christ's love for His Bride, the Church, "shows itself in [the couple's] ability to forgive."

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