40-Day Challenge: Leave and Cleave (Day 17)

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

In Mark 10:6-8, Jesus describes marriage in its most elemental terms. “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.” In this passage, the leaving and cleaving (or “joining”) is attributed to the husband; in our egalitarian culture, the process is one that is experienced by both the man and woman, each of whom has a personal history that to some extent must be set aside in order to commit fully to married life.

For those who entered marriage with a history of broken intimate relationships, this “leaving” is critical.  This includes a total renunciation of both relationships and attitudes that could come between a wife and her husband. So long as there is a corner of the heart held “in reserve,” the kind of intimate union God desires for us to enjoy will always elude.

Maybe the issue for you is fertility: You know that the Pill, etc. is against Church teaching, but you really don’t want to get pregnant. Or maybe it’s a chapter from your past (or present) for which you find it hard to forgive yourself, and can’t bring yourself to confess to anyone . . . including your husband. Or maybe it’s something that happened to you, over which you had no control but that permanently affected your ability to get close to other people.

The good news is this:  The mercy of God is greater and deeper than any human failing. If you want to, you can make a fresh start. The Lord is ready to meet you in the sacraments — the healing of reconciliation, the nourishment of the Eucharist, and the graces of married life. When you are ready to let it go . . . the grace will be there for the taking.

Why would you want to do this? In his book Good News About Sex and Marriage, Christopher West distinguishes between the language of attraction and the language of genuine love. “By definition, love always chooses freely to make a total, faithful, and fruitful gift of self to the beloved. Sexual intercourse speaks this language—the language of God’s love. This is the language of the marriage bond, the language of wedding vows. Anything less is a cheap counterfeit for what our hearts truly desire.” (West, 67).

Today’s challenge:  Catholics are obliged to go to confession and receive Eucharist at least once a year, at Easter. Why not make arrangments to go this week?

Today’s prayer:  God, your graces are new every morning. Jesus, I trust in you!

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