by Most Reverend Gerard Hanna, Bishop Emeritus, Catholic Diocese of Wagga Wagga
Jesus calls married couples to love each other and their children just as Jesus loved others with self-giving deeds of kindness.
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35 NIV)
The sacrament of Marriage is a sacrament of love; but the sacrament promotes a particular kind of love – namely, a self-giving love and a love that needs to be seen. In Saint John’s Gospel –we meet Jesus giving his disciples their final instructions; among other things He said: “Love one another” (John 13:34a). He knew the ambiguity of that word ‘love’, so he did not stop there. He went on to say: “as my love has been for you, so also you must love one another.” (John 13:34b) Jesus meant for you and me to love each other, in the same way he loves both of us. This gives structure and substance to the word ‘love’.
It is a good thing for people to say to each other, “I love you.” Say it to your family. Say it to your friends. But that alone is not enough. A floral company used to have a slogan: “Say it with flowers.” Flowers are nice. But even they are not enough. The only real way to say “I love you” is with deeds. The love of marriage is a love that speaks of integrity. Jesus loved his disciples with integrity. He told them the truth. He played all of his cards straight up, as we say. He did not deceive them about anything. Without basic honesty, all of our protestations of love mean absolutely nothing. We must start with that, or it will be impossible ever to build a lasting relationship with anyone. Two people will never become friends, let alone form a marriage relationship, if they habitually deceive one another.
The love of marriage is a love that demands the virtue of kindness. Kindness seems like such a simple thing, easily within reach of everybody. But it actually requires serious effort. Most of us are not accidentally or casually kind. It is something to which we commit ourselves. We must think. We must be sensitive to the feelings of other people. Will this thing I am about to say or do inflict needless pain? If so, cancel it. Leave that word unspoken. Leave that deed undone. It is really nothing more than an implementation of the golden rule. Put yourself in the other person’s place. Ask yourself how you would want to be treated. Then do it. This is kindness, and it is essential in every marriage relationship. Without it we cannot truly say “I love you”.
The love of marriage cannot preclude an element of sacrifice. The whole world knows of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for all people; but he made many others that were less dramatic and are less renowned but spoke powerfully of his love for others. He gave his time. The Gospel writers tell us that there were days when he did not even have time to eat. He gave his energy. On one occasion crossing the Sea of Galilee, he fell asleep in the bottom of the boat. He was obviously exhausted. His energy was spent. It is the very nature of the love, of which Jesus speaks, to sacrifice oneself for others.
It is shallow to speak of love for your spouse, if you seldom or never subordinate your wishes to your partner in marriage. Do not speak of love for your children if you seldom or never change your plans in order to spend quality time with them. We cannot genuinely say we have a love for the poor, if we never forgo luxuries in order to help with their necessities.
The love that lies at the heart of every marriage is a love that has to be seen. There is only one way to say “I love you”. We must say it with deeds.
Holy God, thank you that perfect love comes from you – for you are love. Thank you that you showed us your love by sending your One and Only Son into the world that we might live through him. We marvel that your Son, who being in very nature God, made his dwelling among us and taking upon himself the nature of a servant became obedient to death on a cross. This is the ultimate expression of self-giving love for which we are forever grateful. Since you so loved us, help us by your Holy Spirit to love one another. In particular we ask that you help us to love our spouses and our children in the way that Jesus loved others during his days on earth. We repent of not being sensitive to the feelings of our spouses and children and their need to be loved. Please inspire us to show our love with self-giving deeds of kindness that are expressions of your wonderful love. In the precious name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
Watch God is Alive – Natasha Marsh www.youtube.com/watch?v=xG33kPwmg24
Canberra Declaration Daily Prayer Points for October
- AWAKENING to Christ: Renewal in the Church and Revival in the Nation – with millions coming to Christ. John 3:16
- AWAKENING for Marriage: Renewal of marriages and restoration of marriage. Ephesians 5: 25 -32
- AWAKENING for Family: Renewal and healing for families. Isaiah 61:1
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