This past weekend I attended a wedding of a dear friend. During the General Intercessions, the lector misspoke and included the newly married couple in the list of those who had recently died and for whom we were to intercede.
Though unintentional, it did bring a simple truth to light; that amidst the flowers, caterers, DJs, bridesmaids, wedding planners, etc. there is an often a misunderstood reality to marriage. It is as much about death as it is life. In fact, if marriage isn’t first about death, then it likely won’t have a long lasting life. Allow me to explain.
Using ratios to help understand what makes a marriage work, I will often ask an audience what is the right ratio for a successful marriage. What are the numbers between a husband and wife that will afford them the best opportunity for a long, loving, healthy marriage? Most people answer with 50:50. Most people would be wrong.
To enter a marriage with a 50:50 mentality is to enter into it with a limit as to how much you will give and an expectation of how much you need to receive in order to be happy. Give too much and you will be cranky. Receive too little in return and you’ll be upset with your spouse. You’re happiness becomes a matter of percentage points. (Under the 50:50 model, do the dishes for the 51st time when your spouse has only done it 48 times and you’re ticked.)
The next answer people usually give is 100:100. While half of the equation is right (you giving 100%) the other half is wrong. Again, you have set an expectation on the other person. If (and, really, when) they fall short of that 100% threshold, you’re not happy.
The correct answer is 100:0. You give 100% of the effort, 100% of the time and expect nothing in return. (Hopefully you marry someone who believes the same; otherwise it could be a tough road ahead.)
If you are thinking that is nuts, it’s not; it is simply love. Pope John Paul II tells us that “the truth of love is made known through the truth of suffering.” Scripture tells us that, “No greater loves is there than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” Mother Teresa remind us that, “I have found the perfect paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
Think of your own life, perhaps when your child was born. The ratio there was 100:0 and it was done with joy and love. You did 100% of the work and expected nothing in return. In Catholic theology you died to self. That’s what marriage is. In order for the two to become one, each of the two must die.
To the degree that you and your spouse each die to self, your marriage will be filled with life and love. And if your spouse isn’t willing and it hurts, then follow Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s advice and keep loving. No time is better than now for you to do your 100%.
Not one of us immune from having sinned. Often our sins remain hidden to the world, not compromising our status or reputation. Sometimes we get caught. Either way, whether our sins become public or remain private, they can become a source of regret.
It seems that as we get older, and perhaps more accurately, as we get closer to death, we start to reflect on our life. (And if you think about it, no matter how old you are, with every tick of the clock, you are that much closer to death, whenever it may come.) Perhaps by God’s grace we even begin to sin less and love Him more. Often in these increasingly frequent moments of reflection, we look back on what might have been, or what we could have done instead. We might even wish we had avoided this situation or a specific sin or even an ongoing series of sins.
Even after having availed ourselves of the sacrament of confession, so often a lingering whisper can be heard. It is the evil one trying to deceive us into believing that somehow we aren’t forgiven or that even if we have been forgiven we have forever wasted our time or our talents. If he can’t succeed in tempting us to sin in the future, he at least wants to gets us to feel bad about the past.
You see, Satan knows that God exists outside the boundaries of time. He knows that all time is in God, not the other way around. What that means for us is that it is never too late to redeem our past. It is never too late to turn our past (and perhaps current) life of sloth, of pride, of lust, of greed, of deceit into a redeemed past. God takes the ugly that we give Him and turns it into beauty; our sin becomes salvation, our shame, His glory. But we must turn it over to Him so He can redeem it.
Saint Catherine of Siena says, “Let’s keep in mind how short our time is. Let’s redeem with holy sorrow and grief the time we have spent carelessly or lost, and in this way we shall regain the past.”
So the pop-psych cliché that it is never too let to have a happy childhood has some truth to it. By giving our life (past, present and future) to God, He is able to redeem it. In doing so we are able to regain and reclaim our past life of sin and become a new man in Christ Jesus.
“If only” is one of Satan’s favorite mines that he lays. If he can get you to trigger a couple of his If only mines, pretty soon the terrain of your mind is severely damaged. If only I were rich, if only I were pretty, if only I were thin, if only I were tall, if only I were…
From there, it moves onto others. If only my husband was, if only my wife was, if only my parents were, if only my kids were, if only my friends were, if only, if only, if only. Ultimately, it leads to if only God was….
If only is a subtle, but unmistakable first step away from God. Satan, with a little help from us, now has us questioning God. We go from doubt to discouragement to despair in no time at all. And it all started with a simple phrase, if only.
With these two little words, Satan sows negative seeds which can blossom into flowers of destruction. What started out perhaps as a moment of self reflection or maybe a simple daydream has turned into a nightmare.
So, the next time you are feeling sorry for yourself, rather than head down the path of "if only," and "what might be," why not move closer to "what is" and "what will be" praising God and claiming your birthright, as Child of God! Rather than desiring what is not present, why not be present to your truest and most complete desire, God.
As Child of God, there is no need for “If only,” there is only love. If we begin to desire only what the Father desires, we will soon be in perfect union with Him. Let Saint Peter of Castroverde’s prayer be your own, “Lord, may I think what you want me to think. May I desire what you want me to desire.”
How often have you heard this from your children or grandchildren? Or worse, how often have you uttered it yourself, either audibly or inaudibly? And how much more frequently these words are uttered today, in our supposedly more modern, advanced world filled with gadgets and gizmos. We have more stuff, less time and greater bouts of boredom. We have millions of bits of stimuli bombarding us daily, yet we are too often overcome, or give in to, boredom. We have God’s natural beauty surrounding us, His love residing within us at every moment, yet we yawn.
Boredom is unnatural; it is disordered. Whether it falls under the heading of apathy, sloth, indifference, idleness, dreariness or lethargy, the end result is a dulling of the senses and a loss of interest in the seeking of truth. This dulling of the senses often leads to sin by way of boredom. It is like a drug; it sets an ever increasing stimulus threshold in order to be satiated. It requires more and greater stimuli to zap us out of our self induced comas. Left unguarded, it eats away at our prayer life, and zaps us of source of strength.
Boredom, an act of the will, comes from the inside. It is caused by a lack of action on the inside, not the outside. Yet we seek solutions for boredom on the outside. This is insane! We try to fix the inside by looking for solutions on the outside. The problem is within. We look to the world for a finite fix instead of looking to God for an infinite solution. In doing so, we move further away from God and deeper into Satan’s web of lies. Saint John Vianney reminds us of the solution to our every boredom. He tells us that, “Everyone is ready to run after the latest novelty. But as for Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, He is deserted and forsaken.”
The maxim, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” is true because when we are idle the will is not directed or focused. If we don’t direct our will, someone else will do it for us. As boredom is not a natural state, our body seeks to rid itself of it, almost at any cost. Through the abuse of drugs, alcohol, sex, sports, shopping, work, etc., endless amounts of time and money are spent trying to fill the God-shaped hole inside of us with anything and everything but God. Stop seeking temporal solutions to an eternal equation. Do not let boredom be a contributor toward evil; let it be a catalyst toward good. Allow the restlessness you feel to motivate you toward seeking God’s will.
If we would only take the time to be with Jesus, through prayer, adoration, sacraments, we could not possibly be bored. As Saint Augustine tells us, “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Be not bored, rest in Him.