If you’ve ever set out to intentionally be more charitable, then you know better than most that your efforts, as well as your internal disposition are often challenged to a fault!
There are times when I consider the choice of my married vocation, and wonder if I would not be better serving God tucked away in a convent, or having immeasurable amounts of time to devote to the poor. I fool myself into thinking that, had I a different environment, richly entrenched in mandatory prayer, I would be able to more easily climb the rungs of holiness.
What a laugh God must get at these imaginings, which are mused by the single layman, the mother, and the religious alike!
Charity is the Mother of All Virtue
Sure, this sounds great on paper – “compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, and tirelessly forgiving.” These are truly all the things I aspire to be when I’m brewing my first cup of coffee. This is the “me” I imagine when the kids are in bed and the house is quiet, and I am (peacefully) making my spiritual resolutions for the following day – which seem to have all gone to pot by lunch.
This kind of selfless love is the pinnacle, the peak, the spiritual summit – radiant and adorned with the most perfect sunrise. It is the mother of all virtues, the embodiment of virtue itself. Charity casts off all self-serving thoughts, and clothes the person before me in love.
Again, it takes time…and effort. The journey toward charity is an uphill climb, and it’s often steep and rocky. One sure step at a time, in between many weary moments of rest. But the goal is always before us, and in marriage the effort is through small acts of daily service to one another. We serve our spouse, our children, and our neighbor, again and again. We bathe the kids, wash the dishes, cook the meals, take out the trash, change the laundry – again and again.
A Joyful Giver
We all do this. Charity calls us to do it without begrudging our spouse or children for not helping, or for the trouble they are causing us. Charity calls us not to give reluctantly and resentfully – reminding everyone in earshot of how much we are doing. Rather, charity invites us into the grace to give peacefully, and dare I say…joyfully?
This is ONLY possible in Christ. There is nowhere else you can be, but in the Father’s will, if you are going to love like this. It also has to be intentional. Each and every moment you feel that anger and resentment bubbling up inside of you, as you run yourself ragged taking care of the needs of everyone else, you STOP…and say “Thank you, Jesus!”
In that moment, you have stolen it back from the hands of the devil, who whispers in your ear, reminding you of the daily injustices you are victim to. Instead, you carry just a fragment – a small splinter of the cross of Christ for him, and with that you take one more step toward the summit of charity.
Pride is the Greatest Enemy of Married Love
One of the greatest faults of any spouse, is to make of themselves a self-proclaimed martyr in the home. In these cases, there is no need for recognition – and certainly not for the beautiful reward from God, given for hidden acts of love shared with only him from a joyful heart.
There is no draw toward a spouse or parent who reminds others around her constantly of her own value and worth in the family. This is all an outpouring of pride, which dries up love like salt in water. Pride has no testimony and it bears no witness – aside from announcing the good of the individual proclaiming their own goodness.
Pride does not point to the love upon the cross, that died freely so that others might live. It does not boast of the transformative nature of Christ’s infinite love working within us. Pride is wronged and builds a wall which can never be knocked down. It retrieves its love back into itself in an instant when it has been damaged. Pride cannot love again…because human love cannot be authentic without a genesis in Christ.
Love which Bears Fruit
No goodness can come from a bitter heart, just like a withering tree. Rather, the tree must be cultivated and cared for, so that it may properly heal and be revived. Then, even that tree can bear great fruit in abundance.
A marriage is a supernatural union of two imperfect people, who welcome into their family more imperfect people. How are we called to be holy in the midst of so much imperfection?
Like a tree, we must drink in the life-giving water of Christ, through his word in the scriptures. When we are wronged, humiliated, rejected, hurt, or hopeless, we must bury ourselves in him. Rather than seek revenge or isolate the other, we must instead allow our minds to turn away from the preoccupation with the hurts done to us.
Drink in the richness of life in the sacraments! Ask the Lord’s forgiveness for the other and beg him for healing, so that you are able to love despite the actions and choices of others.
Be a helpmate to your spouse, walking with one another toward Christ. Affirm one another, never degrading or tearing the other down. In all ways, lay your life down for your spouse, that you may practice virtue through rejecting your own will and loving the one you have vowed to God to love.