The Scripture readings for today’s Mass focus on the gift of marriage – in particular, how the mutual self-donation reflects the love Christ has for his Church. For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.
That’s a lot of living, crammed into those few words. There are no guarantees, no parachutes. No telling just how long “as long as we both shall live” might be, or under what conditions.
Today Associated Press ran this poignant story of a fifteen-year-old Indonesian boy who watched his nineteen-year-old sister marry . . . and then get swept away with her groom and most of their wedding party in a horrific landslide brought on by the tsunami immediately after the reception. Their marriage lasted just seconds.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the “mature marrieds” whose oneness is measured in decades rather than seconds. Last week I sent notes of condolence to the wives of two such couples, one whose husband slipped away in the wee hours, the other who had been her husband’s memory for the past four years of their marriage.
Most of us are in the middle, somewhere between honeymoon bliss and Sunset Hills. We love each other not only for what we are to each other, but what we are not as well. These past few weeks, my husband’s chronic illness has been taking a terrible toll on his energy levels, and he struggles just to keep up with the demands of daily life. I love him as best I can, and those love offerings take a distinctive form: the packet of freeze-dried chocolate-chip mint ice cream I found at the Hand’s On Museum, where I took Christopher so Craig could get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. The white roses he brings me on our anniversary, knowing that I love them so much more than the crimson variety. The way I nag him to get the sacrament of anointing, so he has at his disposal all the means of healing available to him. The way he tosses the lion’s share of the coverlet over my shoulders at night before he crawls between the sheets, so I don’t get chilly (and plant my frozen size 9’s on the backs of his legs, to warm them.)
The way he doesn’t accuse me of being hysterical or morbid when I ask him to please, please, please write down the passwords and insurance information, so I don’t have to go through what my friend Shirley is going through right now, should Craig (like Bob) be called home in the middle of the night.
“As long as you both shall live…” This is to be truly pro-life, pro-love. It’s more than a walk around an abortion clinic . . . It’s a walk along pathways that you truly cannot see more than a few feet ahead at a time. That’s what makes it a walk of faith.
Are you looking for assurances, guarantees, warrantees on your marriage? God may be calling you to something truly courageous. Have you ever heard this Prayer of Abandonment, by Charles de Foucauld?
Father, I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
Copyright 2009 Heidi Hess Saxton