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!
apart from you
I have nothing left.
apart from you
I am wandering.
apart from you
all is grey outside.
apart from you
words are empty now.
Let me write for you.
to be closer.
Let me speak about you.
to be closer
Let me search for you.
to be closer
enflame this desire.
kindle this love.
be all I need.
let me need all of You.
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.
Do we really trust God? How do we perceive God the Father? Jesus, his Son? Do we believe that the Father is more harsh, radical and prone to judgement than Jesus? Why? How do we let these ideas of the Father and Son impact our own spiritual lives? How does Jesus reveal the Heart of His Father?
These are but a few of the many wise, powerful and thought provoking themes that came about in Dr. Tim Gray’s talk, “Can you trust God?”.
I would like to highlight Dr. Gray’s call to repair our false and misleading perception of the Father and his Son. He writes that a lot of people, and especially Christians “… believe that God became merciful and God the Father has to have mercy on us because Jesus died on the cross. In other words, we think that God’s merciful because Jesus died in atonement for our sins on the cross. But thats wrong. It’s not the cross that makes God merciful. It’s because God the Father is merciful. That he gave his son on the cross to save us. The cross doesn’t change God. It’s who God is. For all eternity. God is loving and God is merciful. What the cross is supposed to change is not God’s mind, but ours. Because throughout salvation history, we didn’t trust God… the cross is supposed to change our minds, not God’s...”He continues on to say that “…we have to deconstruct this false image of the Father”.
Dr. Gray then leads us to Exodus 34:6-7, where God is revealed as merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and faithfulness, keeping merciful love for thousands, forgiving iniquities, transgressions and sins, but by no means clear the guilty.
God reveals these 7 attributes that truly speak to the depths of who He is; merciful, all-forgiving, loving and compassionate. Often we only focus upon the final attribute which is only meant to remind of us the severity of not asking for forgiveness. If we ask, our sin are always forgiven.
It is extremely destructive when we misunderstand who God the Father is. We also misunderstand who Jesus is, and ultimately we begin to distrust our own heavenly Father. Jesus is not the “good cop” and the Father the “bad cop” (using the example of Dr. Gray). Everything that Jesus did, was in accordance with the will of the Father:
” I am not alone, because the Father is with me” John 16:32
“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” John 14:9
” No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6
Jesus was sent on earth to reveal the heart and the will of the Father. God freely gave his Son to humanity. When we realize the depths of the Father’s love, and mercy, we have every reason to trust in Him. The Old Testament stories often depict the Father as harsh, but a father is always in charge of correcting and leading his children in LOVE. Why do we forget all the accounts of God’s incredible and beautiful mercy that precedes and follows these actions of correction? We need the whole story. We need to bring back the Father and the Son and the Spirit to fully understand salvation history. This love story is mind blowing. It’s not a fictional account, or a nice set of stories. This is real. The Father has given us, you, me, and all mankind his own Son. Let us contemplate and enter into that truth this day! Thank you Eternal Father, for the gift of your merciful heart in which you have always bestowed on your people.
The visitation of Mary to Elizabeth in the bible is an incredible story. Directly after finding out that she had conceived the Son of the Most High, Mary was already embarking on a three months stay with Elizabeth. This life changing news did not immobilize Mary, but rather propelled her to evangelize and share the good news.
I am quite struck by Mary’s trust and strength in the Lord. Especially in regards to leaving Joseph, who stayed back in Nazareth. Imagine; being visited by an angel, carrying the Savior of the world in your womb, being engaged, and not fully understanding what God is asking of you. Now, add in the fact that Mary was separated from Joseph for these first three months. She was without the man she loved and planned to marry. No skype. No whatsapp.
Mary had faith. Incredible faith. She trusted in the Lord completely. She didn’t have the ability to confide in Joseph, she was left to wonder and ponder all that had happened in her heart. Similarly, Joseph was without his fiancee. He too was faced with the absence of Mary in the most complicated time of their relationship.
As I am in a long distance relationship, I am learning so much about love and patience. As it says in Corinthians 13:4, Love is patient. Of course, this is not always easy. There is a lot times where I resent the distance and wish time could hurry up.
All of this said, I want to learn from Mary and Joseph. They were a holy couple, even before they married. They sacrificed their time together for the sake of the Lord’s plan. They were able to accept the distance with humility and trust. It’s such a beautiful witness for me. Long distance isn’t easy. But, when we make space for the Lord in our lives; becoming a tabernacle for him, he will give us the strength to go on. God only gives us what we can handle. He gave Mary and Joseph the grace in those months. He will grant this to all couples who are asking for this too. Mary and Joseph- Pray for us!
” In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah and she entered the house of Zechari’ah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ” Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:39-42)
In this time of advent, we prepare as Mary did, to welcome Jesus. Through the Annunciation, Mary was accepting all that would take place in the life of her Son. His birth, childhood, mission on earth, miracles, persecutions, crucifixion, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven and sending of the Holy Spirit. Mary always endured these moments with perfect faith, hope and peace. I share this poem as a prayer of thanksgiving to Mary for her YES. By her openness to the Holy Spirit, she contributed to the redemption of mankind by giving life to Emmanuel; God with us.
Will we come to the humble cross,
And kneel at Mary’s side?
To contemplate this gruesome loss,
Our Savior who has died.
In silence do we bear the pain?
Submit to greater love.
To know this Lamb who has been slain,
Was sent from up above.
With eyes of Mary, let us see,
That light and hope remain.
His body hung upon the tree,
Will come to life again.
Oh Perfect Hope and Loving Heart,
Come to our aid we pray.
To never leave nor to depart,
But guide us on our way.
To you our Mother, Queen and Guide,
We give you all we are.
Into your heart, let us abide,
Most Holy Perfect Star.