Society’s push to individualism reduces capacity to TRUST … the Eucharist helps build up our courage to TRUST
We are aware that family life, in general, is under attack from many social influences, and increasing interference by Governments. As society increasingly moves from “communal values” to “individual values”, the challenge for family life will only increase.
I’m aware several of our youth group are already beginning families and thinking about marriage. Our readings can apply to the sacred ideal of marriage: the 2 become 1; and also to religious life: no longer I, but Christ lives in me.
We are aware how many marriages are struggling and some, sadly, have ended in separation; which is painful for all involved, as well as the wider community. At the same time, separation may be the best if violence or abuse is involved. Many Religious also struggle with their Vows.
On the other hand, marriage and religious community life provide frameworks within which we can be challenged, fail, grow in wisdom and be transformed.
Any “group” or marriage must start with a commitment to a common set of values and beliefs. The 1st Reading identifies the Israelites’ Covenant commitment with God. It’s also connected to the sacred Covenant of husband and wife in marriage, and Religious profession.
When husbands and wives say “I do” and “I will” at the altar of God, they truly mean it. As did the people of Israel many years ago. However, at times in most relationships, priests, Brothers, Sisters, husbands, wives, like Israel, sometimes fail to live up to their commitments.
Why? There are obviously many reasons, and every marriage is unique. However, there are some general and common reasons:
- Lack of understanding of the complex nature of marriage = poor preparation; and
- Bringing unhealed wounds, from our past, into the marriage = pain.
Our Gospel passage continues to explain the struggle of the Disciples to accept the teaching of Christ on the concept of Christ giving himself as food: the invitation for us to follow Him in giving ourselves to others to empower them, and give them life.
The Spiritual food offered by Christ is a sign of how marriage & religious life works: the complete giving of each person to the other: sacrificing “my” and “me” for “us” and “our”.
It requires a huge amount of trust – which the Eucharist helps to build, week after week.
The fear of TRUSTING is why some religious, husbands and wives say: “this is intolerable language”. We can’t give what we haven’t got: if we don’t have a healthy self-love going into marriage (=good self-esteem), then how can we give ourselves FULLY to the other? If we don’t heal our pain, we will simply transmit it to those we live closest to.
Some of you might be wondering what “pain” I’m talking about? Some examples are:
1) child abuse: physical, emotional or sexual, by siblings, parents, relatives, teachers, strangers;
2) excessive bullying at home/ school, or feeling to be a failure at school = low self-esteem;
3) never being trusted to do anything: never allowed to make mistakes;
4) childhood neglect or favouritism: sometimes parents don’t care to give discipline;
5) unreasonable expectation when a child: no time to enjoy being a child; etc.
It’s not fair to blame our parents for they are also wounded and could only give what they had received. The current generations are blessed with much deeper knowledge of psychology and spirituality, and the means to access it.
The human person has a remarkable capacity for self-defence, as a way of protecting ourselves from the painful events of life. But, as we grow older, those defences can become an obstacle to our development & emotional/ spiritual growth.
Self-Defence is evidenced by: anger/ violence, argumentative (=resist correction), silence (=passive/ aggressive), avoidance (=run away), or sexual promiscuity (=search for love), perfectionism, over-competitive nature (=seek approval/ attention), and more.
For all its difficulties, challenges and pain, the ideal of marriage/ Religious life are the best ways to come closest to God = true lasting happiness and knowledge of “my” purpose in life.
We see this ideal spelled out by St Paul in the 2nd Reading: “Give way to one another in obedience to Christ… husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies.” Although it’s the same dynamic in religious life, I do believe that marriage is a more complex relationship requiring much courage, tolerance, patience and perseverance.
Let us pray for married couples and Religious, for the humility to seek assistance when needed; and pray for those wanting to marry, for the humility to proper seek preparation & healing;
and pray for those training for religious life: to be open & honest about issues to allow healing.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI