A Spirit-Led Marriage
by Fr. Peter deSousa
Why are Ronnie and Rachael attracted to each other and choose to become help mates and life-companions ? Or in the case of an arranged marriage, what expectations do Joe and Jane have of the partner that their parents have chosen for them? What do young people look forward to when they get married? A union of bodies, minds and hearts. What happens when they actually begin to live together as husband and wife and get to know the other person as he or she really is? Such a union of man person and woman person is more than sexual acrobatics, experience, practice of counselling or astuteness in understanding. Does heart speak to heart?
There is a certain amount of disillusionment and frustration in the gap between the romance and reality, between expectation and the actual situation. Some of you decided to make the marriage a success by adjusting to each other and giving in, giving up or modifying some of your expectations, so that each of you could give to and receive from your spouse what was necessary for equilibrium and peace in your home? There was a partial peace, insofar as there was no constant quarrelling or disturbance of each other.
The years went by and you became parents or focused on your careers or got involved in some pastimes that brought you satisfaction and fulfilment as an individual. Maybe you got used to each other and used each other, losing sight of why you got married in the first place? Maybe you were never unfaithful to each other and were practising Catholics with a nice home, children and friends. Your spirituality was perhaps an individual one made up of prayers, sacrifices and obligations that made you feel self-righteous. But was there a union of hearts? Were you of one heart and led by the same Spirit to witness to Jesus like the early Christians we read about in Acts 4 verse 32? Was Jesus' prayer in John 17:21 true of you?
Before God who are you? God who knows your innermost being loves you as you are. Do you love yourself in this transparency before God? Does your spouse know you in this transparency? Will he/she love you as you are? That is what I mean by a spirit-filled marriage. A communion of his spirit and her spirit made possible by the Holy Spirit.
We can share our thoughts with each other. We can share our feelings with each other. We can share vulnerably and listen with love, understanding and a desire to know, love and accept the other as other. A deeper level is sharing our spirits with each other. How can this be possible?
Union with God is called contemplation when our spirit enters into the Divine presence. The Holy Spirit within us prays: Abba Abba Father. "I want to do your will". I want to be one with you. The Holy Spirit also enables a husband and wife who die to selfishness, self-centredness and self-focus to be one, in a union that goes beyond a union of bodies, minds or emotions. They become "one in the Spirit and one in the Lord."
Each one of us faces brokenness in our lives as we are led by self-interest to control, manipulate, dominate or use others to enhance our own egos. Call it pride, laziness, greed, lies, jealousy, lust, hatred, anger or indifference that imprisons us and prevents us from being life-giving and loving to our spouse and children, in word and deed. Do we recognise how we have been seduced, led captive or ensnared by the evil one so that we no longer are free to love, to serve and to lose ourselves in love? Repentance means recognition of our sinfulness and allowing the precious blood of Jesus to wash away our sins. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and unite us with God and with each other.
Jesus tells us in Jn 12:24 " Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears fruit." In a marriage that is "Spirit-filled" or "led by the Spirit", both partners have to be open to the prompting of the Spirit of God, as to how they answer the call and fulfil the mission God gives them as spouse and parent. One cannot hear the voice of the Holy Spirit as long as one's heart is proud, self-sufficient, thinks one has arrived, stops listening, acts superior or becomes complacent. When the shell of the wheat grain is split open, through the temperature and humidity in the soil, new life sprouts.
All of us are broken at times by situations and circumstances in our life through which the Father prunes us. Sometimes He allows us to fall flat on our face and experience our own frailty.
When the alabaster jar was broken by the repentant woman, the perfumed ointment was released to anoint the feet of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is like that fragrant ointment that is released in our lives when with a contrite and humbled heart we can recognise and rejoice in our brokenness. The earthen vessel holds a treasure that cannot be given to others unless it is broken. Brokenness is a way of sharing fragrance, being led by the Spirit to be life-giving and fruitful. But brokenness means shedding our blood on the cross of life.
A man and woman who live together in holy matrimony attract each other by their differences that complement each other. But their differences can also at times cause misunderstandings, hurts and pain. So it is with parents and children at times when there is a strong contest of wills. Has one to win and the other to lose? God works through human situations and one needs faith to recognise his hand. In humble prayer one has to open one's mind, heart and life to the Divine Teacher. Our pride, self-love, complacency, false superiority, hypocrisy, control or manipulation of others, use and abuse of others will be smashed again and again to release the fragrant love of the Holy Spirit in gentle, kind, loving understanding and service. In God's plan, a marriage is for a life-time. A couple grows old together in mutual love and understanding. When their children have left the nest and their energies spent in parenthood seek new outlets to be life-giving, they still have to bring each other into God's presence through their love and life-giving words and actions.
The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead gives life to us in our brokenness and enables us to be life-giving to each other in turn. Husbands and wives can then love each other as Jesus loves his Church and bear witness to that death-resurrection love in the power of the Spirit.
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