Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.
In a papal bull of 2015, Pope Francis proclaimed 2016 a “Year of Mercy,” declaring that “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.” While many of us saw this as an opportunity to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy with greater intentionality … in retrospect, it was also a wonderful opportunity to shine the light of Christ into our own marriages as well. If you’d like practical tips on how to do that, I recommend Teresa Tomeo’s book (with her husband, Deacon Dominic Pastore) Intimate Graces.
We are now exactly halfway through our “love lift.” Have you noticed any changes in the way you relate to each other? Are you growing in patience, or forgiveness, or trust? What areas would you most like to explore in the second half of this marriage builder? (If you have any words I should consider for the next challenge, drop me a note!)
Last year we spent a great deal of time thinking about mercy, and in particular the mercy of God towards us. In his March 17, 2013 homily, Pope Francis observed:
It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! … “Oh, I am a great sinner!” “All the better! Go to Jesus: He likes you to tell him these things!” He forgets, He has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, He kisses you, He embraces you and He simply says to you: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more” (Jn 8:11).
Mercy takes many forms in married life: In swallowing pride long enough to sincerely apologize for messing up (or in withholding anger at the spouse brave enough to make such an apology). In seeing a need the other person is too afraid/ashamed/exhausted (or too ____) to ask us to meet, and taking care of it without expectation of reciprocation. In refusing to reveal those outside love’s circle the sacred secrets of the other person’s heart, even in a moment of frustration. This is love in its most perfect human form.
In marriage, as within no other relationship, do we get to experience the exhilaration of mercy, of extending (or receiving) forgiveness not just for the slights of the moment, but the truly awful stuff that could derail a relationship. And we extend it, knowing that in so doing we are imitating the infinitely greater love of God, whose mercy knows no end.
Are you willing to imitate Jesus, not just in forgiving . . . but in forgetting as well?