Being engaged is a dynamic, adventerous, challenging and joyful expereince. As the days of my engagement draw to a close, I am reflecting again on this theme of marraige and particularly, the sacrament of marriage.
Nowadays, there seems to be a profound misunderstanding of this coventant, and sacramental promise. Very often, a marraige is just an excuse for a super expensive and galmorous party (and after planning a wedding I see how one could go crazy with their bank account!), a pinterest-perfect event, or a commitment founded entirely upon emotional-love.
It seems to me that these popular ideas regarding marriage fail to understand the depth, magntiude, beauty, and mystery of the sacrament. A marriage is designed to be a beautiful union between a man and a woman, a fruitful and free relationship and a space of authentic joy. It is also however, a pathway to holiness. In mass the other day, our priest said, ‘when we choose the path of love, we must pick up our cross’. These crosses must call us out of ourselves; to grow in patience, self-giving love, compassion, forgiveness and humility. There are two people fighting for sanctity together. This battle can be messy, unclear at times, require healing from wounds, but this story can always end with victory!
I chose to share the following quote from the Cathecism of the Catholic Church. I think it nicely outlines how Christ can always be the anchor of a marraige. That no matter how weak, tired, sinful we are, if we let him, Jesus will carry our crosses and give the necessary strength for a joyful, lively, exciting, holy marraige. This is good, good news!
‘ This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy – heavier than the Law of Moses. By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life’
Our marraige is a stepping stone,
to sanctity and grace.
Our crosses are the only way,
we come to see His face.
Sin and weakness are close at hand,
though they define us not.
May truth and trust forever reign,
Let Christ transform our thought.
This morning while looking at the daily mass readings, I was reflecting on the Gospel; the beheading of John the Baptist. I began thinking about the sins that lead up to the murder of this holy man. In the end it had me thinking about sinfulness in general. Even if we arent committing murder, all sins share a common ground of darkness; lies, deceit, selfish gain, pride. This can happen in the darkness of our hearts and minds, but very often sinful behaviour is a nighttime “activity”. My mom always said ” nothing good happens after midnight”. She really has a point there. People often commit crimes or engange in sinful behaviour in the darkness. Trying to hide away behind the curtain of the night. Pornographic images lighting up a dark bedroom, break ins happening as other sleep, prostitution taking place under the street lights, one night stands in a dark and dingy dorm room.
But the whole point of this post is to speak about the fact that we are:
“Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness” – Romans 6:18
When I read this verse it just hit me so clearly. We are called to be a slave to righteousness! A flame in the darkness. A word of truth in lies. A model of the beautitudes. A radical follower of Jesus. The Lord doesn’t want us to remain in the dark. That’s why he use countless parables about darkness and light. It’s not just a nice literary detail. It’s literal. We need to stop sinning in the darkness. Now, this definitely doesn’t mean the struggle of sin is instantly over. No! The fight goes on. Every. Single. Person. is in this battle. Our sinful habits are different. No use in comparing or judging each other in them. If we only see the sins of others, it probably time to re-read Matthew 7:3 (log in our eye & speck in our brothers). We need to bring ourselves, our baggage, our trials and sins to the foot of the cross. Beside Mary who remained at the cross, we can lay our burdens down. We entrust all our weakness to Him who takes our sin and gives abundant freedom. The more we come to the cross, the more we enter into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. He knew what struggles we would face, and he gave us somewhere to bring them. Only then can we walk away in the light of His truth, lighter, free from chains and hopeful in our steadfast refuge.
I’ll end with the song that also motivated this post. I don’t know if I should admit how many times I listened to it on repeat this morning!
On this rainy afternoon I find myself slightly melancholic and over contemplative (also procrastinating homework). It seems as though these gray skies have a way of inspiring more reflection than usual. I find myself pondering the theme of loneliness which is a common side effect of rainy days I suppose. We all experience loneliness in one way or another. For some, its the absence of friends, for others its the consuming demands of a job that keep us away from loved ones. Some find themselves living away from their homes for work, school, love… but we all experience loneliness. Even if we are surrounded by people, we can still feel alone at times. Why? I suppose because our friends, parents, siblings, boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives are not meant to fulfill us completely. There is someone else who has this task. He is the ultimate Lover in our lives. He really plants truth, freedom, joy, acceptance and purpose deep into our hearts. Of course, others are meant to bless us and reflect the love of Christ in our lives. But no matter how wonderful these men and women are, they can’t fill the void of loneliness that we all have in our hearts. I have always heard that God has to take the first place in my life, but in practice this is really difficult. How quickly we expect others to make us happy. Making internal demands for the perfect words and actions of others around us. When they don’t meet our expectations, we are left feeling hurt, disappointed and even defeated. Its incredible how easily this kind of attitude can seep into our lives, and how it can really wound our relationships.
I guess the purpose of this blog today is a reminder that God is really the only one who fulfills those lonely parts of our hearts. He is the path to joy. When we find ourselves in our room, our office, a party, a family dinner and we feel empty; God is there. He is calling out to us, and he wants to enter into those places that feel cold. He wants to be central. He wants to bring warmth and life. He wants to overwhelm us with everything we need and desire! At the same time, He gives us an understanding of what it means to live in relation with others. Life isn’t about being served. Its about service. The Gospel for today was exactly that; ‘ …It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matthew 20: 26-28). When God takes ownership of our hearts, we no longer dwell in loneliness, because we know we are not alone. We then start to change our expectations of others. We accept our weakness and our poverty. Just as we cannot love others perfectly, they too cannot love us perfectly. And once this is understood, we turn to He who can and does love perfectly. He who came to serve and not be served. He who loved until the end. This is where I want to find fulfillment. O Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us abide in you where there is perfect love. In you we find peace. In you we are never alone. Amen.
I recently had to sell my vehicle for a move thats taking place very soon. I had to part with Maxwell; my trusty, reliable and automatic beauty. Since I was 16, I have been driving automatic cars (avoiding at all costs the possibility of driving a standard vehicle, which quite frankly, scared me completely). When I practiced with my mom years ago, I gave up after mistaking the break for the clutch and stalling every. single. time.
Fast forward about 8 years and I found myself confronted with the same standard car predicament. However this time, the only vehicle I had access to was a little zippy manual car from my sister. Honestly, I was tempted to start taking up biking. I never bike. But I felt like desperate times call for desperate measures, right?
Wrong. Thankfully I realized that my irrational fear of driving a standard vehicle and stalling in the middle of the road had gone on long enough (thought I admit, if I wasn’t forced to learn I probably would have avoided this scenario for a few more years). Either way, I took that vehicle out on the road and my oh my, I’ve learned a lot. I thought I would just share a few lessons I’ve learned :
- 1. Becoming more compassionate with bad drivers: Prior to this whole standard driving thing, I was pretty critical for slow and bad drivers. I’m not excusing bad driving, but now I’m much more inclined to ask the question “Maybe, they just suck because it’s their first day of learning how to drive a standard”. It’s actually helped me to be less critical behind the wheel.
- 2. Patience is a virtue learned in 1st-4th gear- In the past few weeks I’ve been forced to slow down a lot. From my acceleration time at a green light, to learning how to drive on the free way, I’m a rookie. In the past, I’ve loved pretending I’m a race-car driver, but I see the benefits to just enjoying the ride for what it is. Not always being in such a rush.
- Laughing at yourself is necessary- The amount of laughing aloud that is taking place in my car is incredible! I’m not stalling much anymore, but at the beginning I just had to give a solid wave in my review mirror to the guy waiting for me to restart my vehicle and then smile as they drive past with their snazzy car, leaving me in the dust. #humility
- Give yourself more credit- I realized I can acquire new skills even if they scare me a lot! Although we know this, we often don’t believe this. I’m so happy I was forced to take this car out, face a little humiliation and come out on the other side laughing and enjoying the memories along the road.
Reading the Interior Castle (or the Mansions) by St. Teresa of Avila is incredible! Although a very deep and theological read, I find it quite entertaining . This woman (epic saint, doctor of the Church, religious sister) amazes me. How humble, real, inspired and funny she is! It is evident how great her trust in the Lord was as she wrote this. Time and time again she is confronted with her “ignorance” in respect to many theological topics ( she is often apologetic for her intellectual “roadblocks”). However, it is through her YES to Holy Spirit, that St. Teresa would produce some of the greatest spiritual writings in the church. To inspire, teach, and direct the hearts, minds and souls of men and women to God himself. Here is an example of something that made me laugh out loud! I can just hear her mumbling this aloud to herself, questioning the Lord on his crazy plans for this book, but moving forward with such an expectant faith and joy.
” God help me! How I have wandered from my subject! I forget what I was speaking about, for my occupations and ill health often force me to cease writing until some more suitable time. The sense will be very disconnected; as my memory is extremely bad and I have no time to read over what is written, even what I really understand is expressed very vaguely, at least so I fear…” (Interior Caste, P. 58)
Lord, thank you for the life of St. Teresa. Even if we feel inadequate, forgetful, ignorant and simply unqualified, You can work in us. You have shown this to be true in the life of the holy, humble and truly blessed Saint Teresa. St. Teresa : Pray for us!
” You therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Matthew 5:48″
I was always confused by the concept of perfection. Why is it that God calls us to be perfect when perfectionism only leads to self reliance and pride? I began looking at what the world says about perfection. Generally this involves the altering of our physical appearance to fit an accepted style or body type. It is also hiding our difficulties, character flaws and sinfulness to avoid reflecting on the depths of who we are and who were called to be. Basically, we want to be noticed. We want acceptance. We want to be loved.
I guess by calling us to perfection, God is really just calling us to Himself. He’s asking us to strive for the Perfect goal; His own heart. We should want and desire to be perfect, but this means acknowledging our tendency to sin (concupiscence). Failing to do this results in over scrupulous judgments on ourselves and anxiety in our imperfect spiritual life. Not only is this unhelpful, but these unrealistic expectations might push us away from the faith.
Even the greatest saints were sinners. They experienced habitual sins, trials and temptations. They didn’t achieve “perfect status” on earth, but they lived for He who is Perfect. These holy men and women knew that perfection will not come from our own actions, but through the action of God in us. This is why they were humble, vulnerable, enduring persecutions, embracing their weakness and taking up their crosses.
I suppose another wonderful paradox of the faith. When we truly strive for perfection, we let down the walls of pride, fears and insecurities. Perfection is accepting our littleness for the sake of God’s glory to overshadow us.
What is love? This is perhaps the greatest question man can ask. It requires the honest pursuit of purpose and meaning for our lives and our relationships. Unfortunately in English, love is a noun which expresses affection for a pair of shoes, the man/woman we love and even God. We are unable to differentiate between the categories of love that exist. It’s obvious that we “love” our shoes in a different way than we love our husband/wife. This construct of the English language is extremely limiting, unlike Greek which uses four separate nouns to express different categories of love.
Love is often associated with a feeling or an emotion. It is often understood as a purely romantic or sexual desire. When I speak to high schools students about love and sex, there is some serious confusion. Most young people associate sex as the greatest expression of love. For years they were told that dating and sex go together, pleasure is the ultimate purpose of sex, and that something is wrong with them if they aren’t sexually active. This often results in men and women who live marriage-like relationships exempt from any longterm commitment or vows that support and anchor their decision to remain together. This leads to a lot of problems for our hearts and our bodies. Couples endure while the love is strong. As the feelings fade, so does the relationship.
So we’re left with a lot of ideas about love. For some love can be; sex, pleasure, chemistry, feelings, happiness, exciting or destiny. I even find myself caught up with the fairytale version of love and romance. Perhaps this is the result of the many cheezy chick flicks I watched during high school, or disney movies as a child! Though incredibly entertaining, I picked up on some false ideas of love… these ideas still have a way of getting into my head.
As I get older, and grow in my faith, the desire to understand love grows within me. Especially in the relationship with my boyfriend. Saying “I love you” requires an understanding of all that love entails. It is one thing to say those three words to him, but the actions need to follow. I want to show this love with a genuine heart and pure intentions. Love is a big deal. It does not come from hollywood movies, feelings or emotions, nice looking princes… it comes from the Cross. We’ve maybe heard this before, but it is so true. The Cross of Jesus Christ is the symbol of love. Love is not selfish. Love is sacrificial. Love endures. Love is patient. Love does not boast. Love is not rude. Love never ends ( shout out to St. Paul for helping me articulate the depths of love through the Letter to Corinthians).
The greatest love stories are found in the bible. Jesus life, death, and resurrection is the ultimate example. Healing the sick, preaching to the poor, dining with sinners and outcasts. Sinless and innocent, Jesus who is love, freely accepts death to free mankind from sin and death. It’s a love that gives. A love that is free. A love that endures. A love that is constant. A love that forgives. A love that gives life.
The life of Mary is another love story. She accepts the message from the angel which announces that she will be the mother of God. Alongside Joseph, she raises and teaches Jesus in the Jewish faith. She remains at the foot of the Cross during the crucifixion and death of her Son. In all of these instances, Mary’s love is pure. It’s a love in times of confusion. A love that provides. A love in the darkness. A love in times of injustice. A love that hopes. A love that is faithful. A love that perseveres.
Only through these stories, lives and examples of faith, do we come closer to understanding love. As I strive to grow as a Catholic woman, girlfriend, daughter, sister, auntie and friend, I hope to keep this in my mind and heart. Our love is not dependent upon our feelings. It’s not motivated by sexual desires. It’s not about self-gratification. Our love should be radical like Jesus and Mary. They loved in the moments which were incredibly dark, painful and complicated. They model what we are called to do. To actualize this love, we need the heart of Jesus himself. We definitely can’t do that on our own. Goodness me, I have trouble loving the person who cuts me off in traffic. It’s only by his grace that we can come nearer to this kind of love.
“May the Heart of Jesus Christ be our School! Let us make our abode there. Let us study its movements and attempt to conform ours to them. Yes, O Divine Jesus, I want to live there” – St. Claude de Colombiere