Emptying the Marriage Fridge

marriagefridge

 

The other day, while cleaning the inside of my fridge, I deliberately chose to stay focussed on one thing. I turned it into a prayer. “Lord, show me how cleaning out my fridge could actually be a metaphor for a life lesson.”

Now my fridge isn’t all that dirty. I usually keep it clean, wiping it down now and then, especially after spill, doing a monthly purge of expired items. As I emptied the freezer, to my surprise I realized I didn’t purge it often enough, there were items in the back of the freezer I had completely forgotten about. I worked my way through the fridge, emptying shelf by shelf, removing the glass shelves to give them a good wipe. I realized there was some spillage I had missed in my routine wipe downs. This clean up took a lot more time than I had anticipated, a little more elbow grease and more hot water to get all the pieces looking shiny and clean again.

Life Lesson

Having been married for 18 years to a devoted, faithful man, I can easily take him for granted. Over the years we have made our efforts to stay connected as a couple. We arrange care for our children and schedule in some couple time. We work in ministry together and we are a prayerful couple. Once in a while we butt heads and have a disagreement, but they don’t usually last long. On the surface this marriage appears to be healthy and stable.

There comes a time in every marriage, when some purging is necessary. As Christians we understand that we are called to actively pursue God in our daily lives. To respond to his call to grow in relationship with him, this growth is constant and it’s flowing. At some point, to move closer to God we need to detach ourselves from certain habits or baggage. Matthew Kelly, a Catholic evangelist once said, “Every journey towards something is a journey away from something else.”

A marriage, certainly a Christian marriage that looks secure on the surface may have some underlying problems that need to be dealt with before this couple can move forward in their relationship with God and with each other.

Emptying the Marriage Fridge

Sometimes the couple will not be aware of what is impeding their growth. They have become so comfortable and accustomed to the stain, they don’t see it anymore. A praying couple will hopefully allow room for the Holy Spirit to inspire them to start emptying their shelves. Giving them the grace to discard what needs to go and give what remains a good cleaning. It doesn’t mean this couple is living a façade, by putting on a show for others. In many cases they believe they have a firm marriage. A faithful couple could be oblivious, believing their monthly date night and making up quickly after a disagreement means they are doing well. Perhaps this is so. Maintenance is a big part of building a strong marriage, but is it enough?

 

Supernatural Grace

Cleaning out my fridge is done within an hour or so. The type of work required to complete the purging cycle in a marriage is likely to be much harder. I am not talking about the bad habit he has of forgetting to put the lid back on the toothpaste, or the toilet seat down. Obviously there are deeper issues directly affecting the physical and emotional intimacy, trust and communication within the couple.

To look deeply within ourselves, through the eyes of faith, and to do it together with our spouse, requires a great amount of humility. It also requires a huge dose of supernatural grace. Supernatural strength is necessary to take the time, to be sincere with ourselves, with God and with our spouse. To put in the consistent and constant effort to work at what needs to be worked at, to forgive the failings we see in our spouse and to seek forgiveness for the failings we see in ourselves. None of this is easy, but it is necessary. Routine maintenance is not enough, because it doesn’t allow for growth.

Blessings Abound

When I finished cleaning the fridge, my shelves were shiny and the fridge did look a little empty, but it had all the essentials. The expired items wouldn’t be missed, and stains were gone. Now this could also have been a lesson on how we waste too much. This is the usual thought I have in mind when I clean out my fridge, freezer, pantry, etc., since we obviously spent money on items we didn’t have much use for. However, God used this time to show me how blessed I am. That even after discarding, cleaning and scrubbing, I have a good working fridge that still has the essentials I need to feed my family.

When we are willing to do the work, God blesses us in abundance. He doesn’t just give what we need, he provides in abundance. Couples get a new, clean, fresh start, with enough grace, love, forgiveness, empowerment, protection, prayer, and intimacy to keep moving forward. Certainly, the opportunity for a major clean will come again at different stages in their married life. The pain will be different, the habits will vary each time, or maybe some old habit will have managed to creep in again.

Sometimes the couples need help from their community to get over some major stumbling blocks. A spiritual leader or a marriage counsellor who can see the situation objectively, this is not a sign of a bad marriage or of weakness. It takes great strength and humility to admit you need help from a third-party. It is precisely in our weakest, most humbling moments that God’s grace and blessing abounds.

Today I pray for all married couples, that they may seek the courage to clean out their marriage fridge and benefit from the supernatural grace and blessing that comes with the opportunity for a fresh start.

 

Building A Strong Marriage: PRIMACY

PRIMACY

 

Primacy means placing your spouse ahead of everything and everyone else. Yet it is usually threatened by those closest to us. Perhaps the most shocking reality is that not even our children should be our first priority. Our first priority should always be our spouse. We will be better parents if we have a strong and stable marriage.

Perhaps unintentionally, our children, parents, friends and co-workers demand much of our time and energy. The challenge lies in balancing our time with the outside influences so they don’t take away from our spouse. There are times when temporary shifts may occur. An ailing parent, or work project comes up and requires one spouse’s time and attention for a while.

Paul and Mara had been married for two years and had one child. They lived with his family in effort to save money. Paul had taken a job that required some travelling. In Paul’s absence, his parents and sister treated Mara and their one year old son, Trevor like house guests. Mara did not feel at home in Paul’s parent’s house. Everything she did had to be discussed and planned with Paul’s family. When Paul was home, they treated the couple differently. Mara tried to communicate this to Paul, when she did he became defensive.

“My parents are making a big sacrifice taking us in like this. You should be more grateful.”

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate this situation is helping us financially. Maybe if you talk to them about how they treat me when you are not here, they will listen to you,” Mara pleads.

“You have a problem with the way they treat you, stand up for yourself. I am not going to fight your battles for you,” Paul retorts.

This leaves Mara feeling alone and useless. She doesn’t feel that Paul cares about her feelings. There is a lack of primacy on Paul’s part. If Mara is his first priority and since his family is the one posing a problem he is the one who should interject on Mara’s behalf.

Picture every married couple with an invisible shield around them. All the problems that come at them are from the outside. As long as the couple faces the problems together, nothing can penetrate the shield. As soon as one of them lets down their guard and begins to also attack or dismiss the other’s feelings then those outside influences can and will penetrate the shield.

Matthew 19:5  ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’

In marriage the two are no longer separate. They become one flesh, not just in the physical act of marriage, but spiritually and emotionally as well. The decision and actions of one, or the indecision and inaction of the other affect both spouses.

Since they are connected spiritually, we cannot dismiss that even when one of the spouse’s believes the other is unaware of their actions, they are still affected by their choices. Christ says, “I am the light.” Therefore, if even one of the spouse’s is working at keeping Christ the centre of their marriage, whatever is in darkness, whatever we attempt to keep hidden will be brought to the light by Christ. (I will write more about this under Protection where I will cover the effects on marriage relating to infidelity, addiction and pornography.)

An engaged couple enters the church on their wedding two separate people, they leave the church, after professing their vows as one united in Christ. Therefore the only third person that should be allowed in their marriage is Christ.   In this way the married couple, mirrors the trinity. Three persons, united as one.

When we place Christ in the centre of our marriage, we can truly love our spouse the way God intended. God is love, and He alone fills our heart and soul with the love we need to place the other ahead of ourselves. To see beyond our spouse imperfections, and constantly forgive.

When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. – C.S. Lewis

Tomorrow I will share practical tips on what Empowerment means for marriage.

Today reflect and talk to your spouse about the ways the two of you are working to make your relationship your primary focus. How does keeping Christ at the centre help you do this?

Building a Strong Marriage

PEPP

Working in the Marriage Preparation Ministry for the last seven years has proven to be enlightening and sometimes challenging. It enables my husband and me to check some important aspects of our own marriage. While helping the engaged couples discern their readiness for marriage we are strengthened in our own commitment to continue building a stronger marriage.

My favorite presentation is the PEPP talk we give them early in the course. PEPP is an acronym to help us remember the four key elements to building a strong marriage. The acronym stands for: Primacy, Empowerment, Protection and Prayer. We explain to the couples that much of what we share is counter cultural. Building a strong marriage involves going against the current culture. Since it is a Catholic course we include elements of our faith and what we believe is God’s plan for married couples.

I am going to share this information with you over a four-part series on my blog. When speaking on this topic we usually cover a lot of information in a short time. In Primacy, we cover the importance of making the bond between you and your spouse your first priority. Empowerment involves practical tips on how to strengthen marriage in little ways which can make a huge impact on the marriage bond. Protection is one of the most extensive and important aspects of building a strong marriage. What are we protecting our marriages from? It can be summed up in a three-letter word. Sin. This leads us to the final letter in our acronym, Prayer. We need Prayer and the Sacraments to Build a Strong Marriage. Here I will share a bit of our own spiritual journey as a couple, and how prayer made a difference for us.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on Primacy.

Vocation to Love

images

Assuming first of all that we have an active prayer life and we actually take the time to silence ourselves long enough to hear God’s call. Once we discern what it is that God is calling us to, shouldn’t making it a reality come easy? Naturally, if I am actively seeking to align my will with God’s shouldn’t I be filled with every grace and blessing?

In my experience, God calls us, but we always have a choice as to how we respond. Our “yes” is not a onetime event. We are constantly being asked to give our “yes” again and again. God allows temptations or difficulties in our vocation to give us the opportunity to truly choose it.

It is easier to write about the challenges, difficulties and rewards of living out my vocation as a Catholic woman, wife and mother. However, I am certain that every vocation, husband, father, priest or consecrated person face similar opportunities to give their “yes” more than once.

It is my belief that a young person who after sensing the call to consecrated life, and giving their first “yes” to God, will face times of trial and temptation.  Next time you have the opportunity ask a priest to share his vocation story, certainly you will discover the challenges he faced along the way. God allows these difficulties to ensure that their willingness to respond generously to his call is not just out of obedience. Their response is one that is made out of love.

The same can be said for husbands and wives. In scripture we find the greatest advice for all vocations.  Ephesians 5:23 -33 calls husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. How did Christ love the Church? He laid down his life for the Church. There aren’t many situations today where a husband will have to physically die in place of his wife. Figuratively, a husband is called to die to himself, to place the needs and well-being of his wife and family ahead of his own. He is called to choose out of love to place his own desires last.

A wife is called to respect and to serve her husband, even when her husband is not being loveable or respectable. It is fairly easy to serve those in need, or those who are pleasing and appreciative of our efforts. God shows us the true example of love in that while we were still sinners, he sent his only Son into the world to die in our place so that we might be saved. Jesus died for all of us, even those who reject him, mock him and deny him. What motivates a man to do this? Love. As a wife, being called to love a man who is willing to lay down his life for me, is reason enough for me to love and respect him unconditionally.

When we receive our initial call, Christ usually reveals our path. Not all at once but in his time we see the path we are to take as we respond faithfully and generously. At times, others come and plant weeds and shrubs in the path.  The path may become unclear. If we are not mindful, or more importantly, if we are not prayerful, we will lose sight of the path.

God allows these weeds and shrubs to obscure our path to give us the opportunity to actively choose to continue to follow him, to walk the path he has laid out for us. We have to trample the weeds, uproot them, and move shrubs to stay the course. Our “Yes” to follow Christ is not passive, it’s active.

Blessed Mother Theresa is a great example of this vocation to love. Her own life was a testimony of this continual “yes” as she actively pursued the path laid before her in the initial call she received to start-up the Missionaries of Charity. While difficulties and spiritual darkness accompanied her for years, she was never discouraged or doubtful. Motivated by her love for Christ and love for her neighbor she was faithful to the end.

Underlying all vocations is a call to love. Whether, married, single, or consecrated religious we are asked to give ourselves in love. Love always seeks what is best of the other instead of self. This may sound sacrificial, and at times it is a sacrifice. However, it is also where we find true freedom. It is only in living and loving others that we fulfill our basic need to love and be loved. If I live for and love others, and others live for and love me, and so on, then the world over would have this basic need fulfilled. When we ignore God’s call to love, become distracted or consumed with our goals at the cost of those around us, we drain ourselves and others.

God calls us out of love. We have to choose to respond generously, faithfully and in love.

The Truth about Marriage – Written By: Fr. Paul Hrynczszyn

This post was actually a homily written by a good friend of ours, Fr. Paul.  It is being shared on my blog with his permission. He explains the truth about marriage in a compassionate and loving way. A way I could not have explained better myself. I hope you enjoy this read. I was waiting for the right to post it here, in light of the recent attention our Holy Father has received when his comments seem to have been misunderstood, I hope this post provides some clarity.

In Christ,

Tima

In Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41we see that Peter and the other Apostles were ordered to stop preaching about the Risen Christ by the Jewish authorities. They were ordered to stop preaching the Truth. And how do Peter and the Apostles respond? They respond with these very powerful words: We must obey God rather than men”.

The early Christians often faced ridicule and even at times persecution from regular citizens to leaders in society. And yet, because they had met the risen Lord, they were convinced that they could not remain idle, that to be a follower of Jesus meant that you were not ashamed of your faith. You were not ashamed of standing up for God and God’s truth, and you were not afraid to stand up in the face of moral evil, even when everyone was against you. The early Christians took this teaching to heart: We will obey God rather than men.

Our challenges in being Christian and Catholic in today’s secular society are a bit different from early Christianity. The early Christians did not have to face some of the challenges we have today. But we too are called to be bold and proclaim God’s unchanging truth to a world that thinks God’s laws written on the human heart can change with the times. One of the sacred things we have to protect today as Christians is the sacredness of Marriage. Marriage as is written in our human nature by God to exist between one man and one woman.

This is not an easy topic to talk about, and so many people want to silence the issue, but I think we have to have an honest discussion here about same-sex marriage. There is too much confusion about this subject and too many people, instead of trying to open their hearts to the truth, sentimentalized this whole issue. We are all somehow afraid of this topic, and maybe some people are afraid to talk about it because we don’t want to sound hateful or intolerant. But that’s not what it’s about. I want to first say that the Church LOVES all people who are homosexual. If any of you here are homosexual, I want you to know that the Church loves you, God loves you. If we discriminate mock those who have same-sex attractions, than shame on us. Any form of hate is wrong and sinful.

But, and there is always a but…I want you to know that the Church is like a good parent who loves her children, but will not remain silent if her children’s behavior is wrong and even sinful.

We have to understand one thing. Saying that something is wrong does not mean we discriminate against anyone. The Church always calls out the things that are morally unacceptable, without judging the person. You see, the distinction I want to make here at the beginning is between the sexual activity between people of the same-sex, and the homosexual person. We love the person, but we can judge an action. Sexual relationships between people of the same-sex are sinful and wrong because they distort God’s plan and design for sex and marriage.  This is in reference to the sexual relationships between people of the same-sex, and not men and women who have same-sex attractions.

You see, we as human beings have inherited original sin, which means we come into existence into a wounded world, and that means our human nature has been wounded as well and we all come into existence with a tendency to overindulge our sexual appetites, we lust.  Many people today are taught to think that any sexual encounter with whomever I want is okay. Our sexuality has been wounded by this original sin and our sexual desires are often disordered, that is, they miss the mark, they don’t live up to God’s original intention and plan for our human sexuality. That’s right, God has a blueprint for our human sexuality, and we don’t make it up on our own. The question we have to ask if we want to find the truth is: what is God’s original plan for human sexuality?

Well, it’s stamped right in our bodies as being created male and female to live in a communion of life and love. God’s original intention and blueprint for human sexuality is that Man and Woman in their bodies are created for each other. God created sex for marriage.  Of course our world separates the two. Sex speaks the language of wedding vows, that is, Indissolubility, fidelity, and openness to children. Sex is meant to mirror God’s inner life within the Trinity of God’s total, faithful and fruitful love. This is the necessary ingredient for marriage stamped in our bodies as male and female, and we cannot tamper with it.

So now we turn to the question of homosexual unions. Why is the Church against this type of sexual relationship? If two people of the same-sex really love each other, why can’t they get married?  Isn’t love the only ingredient for a valid marriage?

Well, no, it’s not, because remember, even what we call LOVE can be disordered, that is, not in keeping with God’s plan. If you are married and fall in love with another man or woman, does that give you the right to “follow you heart?” Of course it doesn’t. There are some relationships that are not okay. The Church, by reflecting on human nature along with the revealed word of God in the scriptures, says that if the sexual act is meant to image the very life of God, “then we can only image God sexually by expressing the “I do” of wedding vows: the free commitment of indissolubility, fidelity, and openness to children. It’s simply impossible for two people of the same-sex to express this commitment to each other,”[i] because they are missing one very important ingredient, the ability to be open to children. According to God’s designs, when a husband and wife make love to each other, they are saying their wedding vows with their bodies. They are saying: I promise to be faithful to you, to love you until death, and to be open to accepting children lovingly from God. All of these characteristics are necessary and we cannot change these essential traits of marriage and sex. They are part of the blueprint of marriage, a blueprint written by God himself.

Imagine if a couple wanted to get married, and they promised to be open to the possibility of children, but refused to promise to be faithful to each other. This kind of relationship would not be a marriage. Likewise, if a couple promised to be faithful to each other and to be with one another until death, but were incapable of having the kind of sexual relations designed to give life, they too would be incapable of marriage, and the reason is because their bodies cannot express the vows of a married couple.[ii]

This would be a very long post if we were to go deeper into this subject. It’s a tough issue to discuss, but I hope you can see that this topic has nothing to do with the Church discriminating against people with same-sex attractions, but it calls for everyone to treat people with dignity and respect, no matter what their race, religion or sexual orientation may be. At the same time, the Church teaches that we cannot tamper with the natural moral law given to us by God.

I want you to know that even though some of you reading this may be or may know someone who is homosexual that does not mean they are called or you are called to a loveless life. Too often we equate sex with love. We are all called to love, the heterosexual and the homosexual. I as a celibate priest am called to love. But some people are called to love in a sexual relationship in marriage, and some are called to intimacy on a different level, and even homosexuals can have deep intimate relationships with the same-sex person, without them being genital or sexual . In the end, that itself is a cross some have to bear, but with God’s grace, all this is possible.

I want you to see that our very bodies tell us that man and woman are called to make a gift of themselves sexually. A sexual union can only be properly expressed within the context of marriage, because that’s how God designed it. He created sex in marriage to be a complete joining of male and female. God wanted this joining of the two to be the foundation for a family,  the arena through which He would bring new life into the world.[iii] And marriage is ultimately about Children, and every child deserves not only love, but the complementarity of a father and a mother to experience the fullness of human life.

This is a hard truth for our world to understand, but Jesus calls us to be bold and proclaim the truth in and out of season. Let us take the example of the Apostles who were fearless in proclaiming God’s truth, because in the end, we must obey God, rather than men. Amen.

 


[i] West, Christopher. Good News about Sex and Marriage. (Cincinnati, Ohio: Servant Books, 2000) 148.

[ii] Evert, Jason. If you really loved me. (San   Diego: Catholic Answers, 2008) 131.

[iii] Bonacci, Mary Beth. Real Love. 127

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Love Me?

Do You Love Me?

            Love is a personal choice and a gift freely given. Unselfish love is given totally for the good of the other person.  We are called to love as God loves. God’s love does not waver or change. It is eternal and it is timeless.  There is nothing we can do to deserve it. We cannot earn it, buy it or demand it.  He gives it to us freely. Are we ready to receive his unconditional love?

This unconditional love is so attractive and desirable. If it is freely given and freely received, why is it so costly to reciprocate? To reciprocate this love for God and our neighbor we must be willing to give all of ourselves to the other. Jesus loves us so much. He willingly suffered and laid down his life for us. He did this to free us from the bondage of sin and to give us the opportunity to get to heaven.

Are we ready to give God all that we have and own? Are we ready to give Him our gifts, our time, our resources, our allegiance and our very lives? Do I love others enough to lay down my life for them?

Laying down our life for another can be literal as it was for Jesus. It can also be figurative. If I give up doing something I would like to do, to please someone I love, in a sense I am dying to myself. I can do this in small ways, by not having the last piece of chocolate to let someone else have it. Or I can do this in huge ways, when I give up my career goals to be more available to my family.

Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” When Peter responds in affirmation Jesus asks him to serve, to give himself to the mission, to nurture souls. Jesus asks this very personal and profound question to all of us, “Do you love me?” Can we say, “Yes”? And when we give him our ‘Yes’ are we willing to give what he asks of us?

This requires letting go of our fear, sin, pride, indifference, disbelief, loss of hope, loss of trust in God’s promises and his mercy.  God is always faithful, even when we are not. His mercy is endless and he longs to shower us with love and to receive our love in return. He wants to bless us, but he can only do so if we freely seek his blessing and our willing to truly love him. No matter what our response, while we are still covered with the filth of our sinfulness, He still offers his love, freely and unreservedly.  This alone should implore and compel us to reciprocate that love.

Pope Benedict’s Resignation

Pope Benedict

When I first came across this news early this morning, I thought it was a rumour. Upon realizing it was true, I thought it was surprising to me because I haven’t been keeping up with Catholic news.

A quick glance on my Facebook news feed and I realized that quite a number of fellow Catholics were also astonished at the news.

Now I have mixed emotions. I am sad actually to see Pope Benedict step down. Having only reverted to my Catholic faith in the last seven years, he is the first Pope I have known. I shared in an earlier post when Pope John Paul II was beatified how that affected me, since I was still asleep to the Catholic faith during his papacy. Having been awakened to the beauty of the Catholic Church while Pope Benedict sat in the chair of Peter has given me the opportunity to grow and appreciate sacred traditions.

This sadness is a mixed with admiration and respect for Pope Benedict. I have never seen him as a man who recoils in the face of a challenge. This decision to step down now must not have been an easy decision to make. With much courage and humility he has determined that he would best serve the Church by allowing someone else to step up to the chair of Peter.

In fact, we should all be able to say to Christ, “I want to serve you the best way possible, even if the best way to serve you is to get out of your way.”

This news also instilled in me a great sense of hope. Hope for the new Pope that will be elected. Pope Benedict knows that there is much work ahead as we embrace this year of faith, and move ahead to face new challenges in bringing Christ’s message to the world. Which reminds me that Christ has called me to play a role in that mission, however insignificant it may seem to me. Following the example that Pope Benedict set for us today, I must stay the course and obey Christ’s call.

I cannot possibly add much more to what has already been stated by other Catholic writers today, except that I will keep Pope Benedict in my prayers, as well as, all our Cardinals. I pray the Holy Spirit will continue to guide them and keep them safe from calumny and evil during these coming days of transition.