Thursday, November 17, 2016

"In Sickness and in Health": When We are Weak, He is Strong

In twenty years of marriage, my wife and I have been made very aware of one part of the marriage vows that can be quite challenging: "in sickness and in health." So far, I have been the sick one but the suffering is shared. This is a dimension of being "one flesh" that is very real and very humbling.

I'm quite certain that the presence of Another--of Christ Himself through the sacramental bond of marriage--has been the source of grace that holds us together and holds our family together.

The nourishing food of marriage is Jesus Christ. He gives and sustains this bond that has been spiritually and physically consummated, this real human bond that exists to build up the human community, this supernatural bond that builds up the Church through new members of Christ's Body that are entrusted to our care, and that opens up a vocational path for us as persons who learn to grow in love through innumerable ordinary daily challenges to give of ourselves.

Jesus is the source of the strength of married life, especially when we feel weak and helpless in front of each other. Nothing in life turns out "the way we planned," because ultimately it's bigger, it's greater than anything we can understand. What unites us is His love, and He communicates that love through the married vocation according to the ways of His infinite wisdom.

We both know that this is true.

His ways can entail many sacrifices and much suffering, but the marriage bond is strengthened through these lived circumstances, even (especially) when they are hard, when we are made poor, when it becomes clear that we can't "save" each other or our children by our own power, that we can't make each other "happy" by our own power.

And we have a "good marriage." God has blessed us in so many ways and given us so much strength in our relationship, and with our kids, and with the support of family and friends. He has taken care of us abundantly. Even within this whole crazy-up-and-down-experience, how much joy there is, and how many surprising fruits. We are so grateful to you, O Lord!

We also know that we must do our best, we must use every human and Christian resource, we must always struggle to give more. We have gratitude, and we work, and we pray, and we trust in Jesus step by step.

And yet, still, on this road we continually discover "limits"--spaces in life where we just don't have the power to do anything. When I'm sick, it's a bracing, intensive reminder of these spaces that are the limits of every day: limits in ourselves, limits in each other, and--above all--limits that seem to be within life itself, because in so many ways life seems to be slipping away.

Love has promised us "forever" and yet time and suffering bring us to the recognition of our own poverty in front of this promise, our own utter weakness.

But in our weakness He is strong. The grace of Christ in the sacrament is here. Right here is where hope lives, and where love beckons us to go forward together into something beyond all our expectations and power to control, something greater, a greater love, His love....

We are, after all, living something that is "a great mystery..."