Marriage and the Invitation to Divine Love
I’ve been working through Deacon John Lozano’s book, Good News in Bad Times, Discovering Spiritual Meaning in the Midst of Crisis and Uncertainty. In particular, I’m looking at the chapter entitled decisions.
Lozano recounts reading a paper while he was professor at Villanova University. One of his students asked, “Why does it have to be so hard? It feels sometimes like God is punishing me for something, but I don’t know why.“
Such questions arise especially while living out a chosen vocation. People often say, “Oh Father, being a priest is so hard.” I usually answer, “Oh yeah? Raise any kids lately?”
Marriage is hard. This has impressed me the most in my dealings with couples as a priest. So many parents, husbands and wives ask, “Why is it so hard?” From an outsider’s perspective I usually answer, “Do you have any idea what a magnificent job you‘re doing?” They often look skeptical.
Our initial choice to marry someone is ours. We hear that marriage is “for better for worse, richer poorer, in sickness and health.” That’s a high standard. There are moments in marriage (and in priesthood, religious life, or parenting) when we say “I didn’t sign up for this.“
Lozano writes that, “We only have a limited capacity to love others in such an ideal way.” So healthy marriages, healthy priesthood, healthy parenting are freely chosen again – every day.
Yet we don’t do this alone. Another, more important, choice is also to choose to be open to divine love. Every day couples set up an opportunity for a “living sacrament. This is the place where God resides. It is a sacred space of divine presence. Here God is revealed. He makes his presence known in the daily choice to love others – whether in good times or bad.
In any marriage you will discover two things. First, the other person is more beautiful, unique, and mysterious than you could have imagined. Second, the other person is more imperfect, broken, and wounded than you ever could’ve realized. The reason for the decision to divine love is to be able to see the beauty and the brokenness together. It is seeing the brokenness in the other and being aware of the brokenness in you own life. It is the ability to love the other person, not despite their brokenness – but because of it. It is the view through God‘s eyes when he gazes upon humanity.
Being open to divine love is the essence of doing marriage well. It is also the same for friendship, family, and parenting. God’s grace gives us the mysterious power. We can embrace the wounds of the other and to live a life of faith in The One who embraces all wounds. It is an act of faith into which we are continually invited. It is a decision that makes all the difference. This is the case in healthy marriages. It is the same in good parenting, in rich friendships, in fulfilling priestly vocations, and in religious life.
I continue to be amazed, baffled, and saddened, when people tell me that they don’t go to church anymore. They don’t see the need for it. I’m sure they are in some respects doing as well as they claim to be. I often wonder what is happening behind the scenes. I often wonder whether they are doing OK, but could be doing so much better. To quote Matthew Kelly, “They could be thriving rather than just surviving.”
That invitation to divine love, that decision, they make all the difference.