Are you in communion with your spouse, your children, your extended family, your neighbours and your fellow parishioners? Are you of one heart and one mind with them?
St Paul in Philippians 2/5, tells us how we can have the same mindset as Jesus had, when he gave up his godhead and truly became one with us, in order to redeem us. Verses 6-11 are part of an ancient liturgical hymn Verses 1-4 explain in very practical ways how we can be in communion with each other. The greatest intensity of this communion is between husbands and wives, of course.
"Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. I urge you then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one is soul and mind. Don't do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble towards one another, always considering others better than yourselves. And look out for one another's interests, not just for your own."
In a marriage when there is competition between the spouses, each one tries to win at the expense of the other. One delights in putting the other down and in seeing her make mistakes. One crows over his victories and practices one-up-man-ship. The message conveyed is "I am better than you," "You are good for nothing", "I do not need you", " I am better off without you".
No doubt, one may be a better cook or mechanic, more patient or calm, adept at accountancy and budgeting, more friendly and outgoing. Each one comes from a particular family and background where skills were learned and role models gave us a certain sense of identity. But in a marriage, complementarity, rather than competition needs to be stressed. Jesus humbles himself to enter into our world and love us as we are. A husband and wife need humility to see the other through the eyes of Jesus and to reach out with love, patience and understanding to one's spouse.
Beggar Boy Perfectionists may make good Pharisees but not good Christians. Whose disciple are you? Are you a disciple of the Pharisees by appearing perfect, by always quoting the law, by condemning others and boasting about your own qualities?
You will never have a happy marriage and may drive your spouse to drink, or other weaknesses to escape from shame and guilt. Who are you to throw the first stone, anyway?
There is a beautiful poster in a home that looks after run-away, street children. A little urchin with a dirty face and a shy grin looks appealingly at you. The caption is: "Have patience with me. God has not finished with me yet."
Husbands and wives are chosen and sent by God with a mission, to be channels of Jesus' presence, saving love and redemption to each other and to their children, everyday. All of us can tear down walls that separate us and build bridges that unite us. What are some of these walls and bridges that a group of married couples enumerated.
1. Criticism of the other person (which is different from correction of an action!!) You never act responsibly. You always make stupid remarks. You are clumsy. Correction would be "Please let me know if you are returning late from work".
2. Sarcasm making cynical, cutting remarks that hurt, belittle and destroy the other's self-image. Showing contempt.
3. Defensiveness and touchiness so that you control or manipulate others and get your own way at all costs.
4. Distrust, suspicion, jealousy, possessiveness, coldness, indifference and self-centredness destroy so many relationships.
1. Communication, listening, understanding, patience, conflict resolution, giving and asking forgiveness, kindness, appreciation, affection, trust, touching, are ways of being in solidarity with the other. Christ was the great bridge builder and he shows couples how to enter everyday into each other's lives to be life-giving rather than death-dealing.
The spirituality of a married couple is intrinsically tied up with their vocation to be Jesus to each other, to see Jesus in each other and to bring out Jesus in each other. As a sculptor can see the beautiful image he wants to carve out of a piece of marble, so too we can bring forth the Jesus in those we love, not using a chisel or hammer, but words and actions that are life-giving. We need the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to do this. In a Christian marriage then, one can see how the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control (Gal 5:22)
We are called to be a communion of Saints. Saints are those whom God has sanctified with the precious blood of Jesus. In our baptism, we are made saints. In confirmation the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts. He comes to be our constant companion to help us live as other Christs. But he respects our freedom. We need to ask him again and again to dwell in us and make us pliable in obeying him.
In confession, our sins are washed away and we receive forgiveness and healing to live as God's precious children. All the sacraments and God's Word lead us to be in communion with Jesus and with each other. We believe that we are a communion of saints while still experiencing our human condition.
As long as we do not give up on each other and see the possibilities in the other, we can in the power of the Spirit of Jesus, have a happy marriage and a home based on Gospel values. Mary is constantly asking Jesus to transform the water of married love into wine that is joyful, refreshing, life giving and healing.
Let this give hope to many hurting marriages. Walk each day in love.