On our nineteenth wedding anniversary, we went out for an early dinner, had good food and some laughs, and then returned home to watch Team USA's women's world cup match. Last year, the men's team lost a thriller on our anniversary, but our ladies came through with a win yesterday.
And I said to Eileen, "I had such a lovely time with you today." Sometimes the days are so busy, exhausting, frustrating, or self-absorbed that we can forget what a wonder it is that we are together.
Marriage is a vocation. That means that it is difficult but good, and that it always raises new challenges. It also means that there is grace! It's not "cheap grace"--we have to ask for it and ask for it, again and again, day after day. Not because God is stingy, but because we have to keep making room to receive His gift.
The gift of grace is abundant. Grace is at the center of marriage. It's not "magic"--it doesn't "fix" the other person or the circumstances in such a way that everything becomes easy. It generates the possibility of love, even in the most difficult circumstances, and it builds new ways of looking at everything: the trials and also the joys, the past, the present, and the future.
It builds slowly, day by day. Week by week. Month by month. Year by year.
All this history together that began as friendship, grew into a singular intense affection, then a commitment for life, and then... life, with its shared experience and shared transformation when, by the touch of God, new faces looked at us and we grew together as parents of children who are each unique in themselves.
The children grow, their needs change, and then we have that renewed wonder of watching them take their own places in the world even as they carry our hearts with them.
All of this slow building is the working out of a beautiful and mysterious life that means more than we understand. We are granted glimpses of it, enough to keep us going, to sustain in us the sense that all the ordinary moments have meaning.
This vocation, this relationship of marriage, is so mysterious and so real.
It is an education into the fact that reality itself is mysterious, arduous, sometimes overwhelming but also good, wise, and worthy of trust. I would have to lose my reason and become delusional in order to deny that Eileen and I belong together and are called to walk the road together all the way to the end.
We live in delusional times, however, which is all the more reason we are grateful for the sacrament of marriage with all the grace that transfigures the mystery of daily life. The grace of the sacrament enables us to remember that reality is full of a promise that has already begun to be fulfilled. In the taste of that fulfillment we find the strength to work together, to forgive each other, to remember who we are, to get up when we fall and keep going forward with hope.
Of course, we forget about grace in the flow of the day. Grace is at work nevertheless. Let us thank God for the moments that we remember, and ask that those moments might increase. In spite of how it may seem at the beginning, the grace that builds up married life is not a great wind or a roaring fire. It is the sound of the breeze, and the still, small voice.
Marriage is a sacrament, and through it the Crucified and Risen Jesus draws us into His love, and calls us with His voice, saying, "Do not be afraid."