Upsetting the Apple-Cart of Tradition
by Fr. Peter deSousa
Very few married couples understand—and still less—live the fantastic plan that God has for them as a couple, to be lovers, to be bride and bridegroom to each other every day for a life-time in their domestic Church. But that is not all of God's plan. It is for couples to share their love and let it be creative in bringing up a family in the Gospel of love. It is also sharing their couple love with the lonely and the forgotten, to bring them love and laughter and a reason to live again.
Many couples settle for a drab, unimaginative, dull co-existence as husband and wife, where they play "house". After a brief period of romance and reckless love, they begin to co-exist in drudgery, hurt, coldness and anger. Bringing up their children to be successful, or maintaining a comfortable life-style now becomes their goal in life. There is very little love, joy and peace in their homes and lives, because their values are skewed. The Holy Spirit has no place in such a marriage, or at most gets lip-service.
Holiness means going to Mass, keeping the commandments, rushing through a set of prayers as a routine, belonging to pious organisations, bearing up with the other's nonsense like a martyr and offering it up to God. Poor God!! A God of love has a plan of love for marriage. He dwells in your domestic Church when you love one another as disciples of Jesus. "Where two or more are gathered in my name, I am in the midst of you", Jesus tells us. It is not only gathering together in his name during the family rosary or at Mass. He is your "God-with-you" at all times in your life as husband and wife, as parent and friends to those in need.
Jesus lived God's plan for him to be the friend of sinners and the poor, to reveal to them Abba Father, as a God of mercy and compassion. He upset the traditional, pious hypocrisy of the pharisees and scribes who made God and religion odious to the searchers of truth. He calls couples to live as children of a God who is full of mercy and compassion.
Mary and Joseph brought up Jesus as a traditional Jewish boy but no doubt, with Gospel values underlying the practice. So when he stayed behind in the temple at the age of twelve to question and unsettle the traditional "letter of the law oriented" life of the elders, his parents were taken aback. But his time had not yet come and he returned with them and bided his time for another 18 years, in the despised village of Nazareth in their home.
Mary kept all these things in her heart when the holy family returned from Jerusalem to Nazareth and allowed the Spirit to reveal God's plan for her marriage to Joseph and for her son Jesus in his own time and way.
Through living the Eucharist, everyday in your home, you can begin to live God's plan for your Marriage. Be open to the Holy Spirit as a couple, so that he may guide you, step by step in your journey as bride and groom and as lovers in your domestic church. You first became a sacrament at the Nuptial Mass when you exchanged your vows at the altar of God. To continue being a sacramental sign of God's love to your children and the community, come together in prayer before the Lord each day and listen to his word. This Word of God will nourish and sustain you in your quest, if you invite the Holy Spirit to let it be a life-giving word to you as a couple.
There are five dimensions of the Eucharist that can make you a holy family, living God's plan for you everyday. They are:
- "foot-washing" service;
- praise and thanksgiving for all God's blessings including the crosses through which he prunes you; and
- sharing "life-giving" love as a couple with your children and especially the poor in whom you serve Jesus.
Allow the Holy Spirit to flesh out these five dimensions for you in the unique situation of your marriage and domestic Church. So come together in prayer and reflect together on God's Word in each of these five dimensions. Listen and obey his inspirations. His inspirations will never contradict the Gospel.
The Eucharist as sacrifice, makes present on our altars the once-in-for-all sacrifice of love on the cross, so that the couple who get married at the Mass may truly sacrifice themselves to love and respect each other for life. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, they vow to walk together unconditionally, until death do them part. Words are easier to pronounce than to live, as their journey together unfolds.
St Paul in Philippians 2:1-4, spells out what such a sacrifice entails. The self-emptying that Jesus asks of couples is a very real dying to one's ego everyday, in order to listen, to love and to be life-giving to one's spouse. What is Jesus asking you to sacrifice as a spouse and as a parent today? Is the sacrifice made cheerfully, generously and willingly?
Couples are united in the agape, the love feast, the supper of the Lord, in their homes everyday, as they break bread together. All couples at times face misunderstandings, hurts, fears, anxieties, loneliness, opposition, difficulties that tend to drive them apart. Like the disciples at Emmaus, they are caught up in themselves. But when they listen to Jesus, as the Spirit opens up the Word of God to them, showing them how as Jesus' disciples they have to suffer before they can enter into glory, their hearts too will burn within them. Their eyes will be opened to recognise the Lord in the breaking of the bread. The unseen guest at their table will make his presence manifest to them. (Luke 24)
Bread represents their lives in all aspects of loving, sharing, listening, understanding, caring, encouraging, appreciation, their sexual relationship, their communication of thoughts and feelings and the joys in their homes. Wine represents their crosses, sufferings, humiliations, dying to self, sacrifices, hurts that are part of their relationship. The Spirit changes this bread and wine into Jesus' body and blood, given up for us. At their dining table, in their bed, in the kitchen and living room, they become one in unity, love and faith. One in Christ Jesus. The nuptial Mass continues everyday in their lives.
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