Recently a close friend of mine shared an experience she participated in at a Young Adult event. Both men and women shared their dating and marriage “types.” My friend, after sharing her type, felt miserable and shallow. Why? Many times when we share our types we rarely include qualities of substance and real, lasting attraction: goodness, gentleness, virtue, commitment, Fear of the Lord, responsibility, compatibility in the Christian sense of the word, etc. Instead we list physical, socioeconomic, educational, hobby, or popular culture attributes. Not that some of the characteristics aren’t important in a God-centered relationship or preferences of attraction, personality, and lifestyle, but when our list, whether imposed by yourself, family, or friends, becomes immovable and centered on only the fleeting attributes of this world, the list does feel shallow and miserable. We place limits on the creativity and love of God. Does this mean compromising ones’ virtuous and God-centered standards? No. Does this mean not taking into consideration virtuous and God-centered needs and desires especially if serious in nature? No. Does this mean all your other preferences are bad? No. God desires you to love a specific person a real person not an idea.
God placed a surprising man in my life during a period of my life when I wasn’t keen on dating and marriage relationships. Throughout my life, permeating the deepest recesses of my being and despite my many and glaring imperfections and short comings, I desire to love God and be in union with God in this life and the next. Because of this deep longing for God, I made various choices throughout my life to maintain and develop this relationship from the company I kept, the activities I participated in, the men I dated, to the activities and hobbies I enjoyed. I sacrificed, especially in the eyes of the world, to avoid the many worldly pleasures and amusements offered. Even with one eye fixed on Jesus and the Cross, pleasures and amusements of this world still caught my attention, lustful thoughts entertained, and I dabbled in the world of dating for fun. Overall, I tried to remain God- centered and when I strayed fell at the foot of the Cross in the Sacrament of Confession and promised to amend my life. Then God placed a well-intended, sincere man in my life who found himself immersed amid the promises and pleasures of the world desiring something different during his 20s and early 30s but not knowing where to look, where to go, or whether there was anything different or not. This ever present restlessness followed him through his young adult years. In his early thirties, he sought answers, explored with his relationship with God, and received the gift of faith to begin anew in the Catholic Church and became a new creation.
The history and life experiences of our twenties and early thirties are rather disparate. He and I share some commonalties and many the same intentions, but our love story is a story of redemption, perseverance, and dying to self in the hopes of the Resurrection. God forged us in the crucible of relationship and created us anew. I’ve discovered something about sin and male/female relationships and our unique gender specific tendencies towards concupiscence.
Over the past six years, I’ve discovered how sneaky the temptation towards sin can be and the whisperings of the Evil One infiltrate. God desires my beloved and I to be free and forgiven; Satan does not. He desires for us to remain shackled and burdened unable to move forward. Don’t get me wrong, past sins can have lasting consequences and repercussions. I never imagined how hurtful or confusing past choices before I even knew he existed would affect me. Or how the temptation to sin and hold the debt over him would arise within my heart. Even the notion that God owed me better because of my personal life choices and sacrifices entered my mind. The reality is God desired better, healthier, and more authentic love for both of us than the ways we both settled in our lives; amidst all of it, God loved both of us and rejoiced when we returned home, threw ourselves into His loving arms, and amended our life. God paid the debt. Who am I to extend the debt paid?
In the Gospel of John, “The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” . . . Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.” (John 8:3-7)
One of the bolder claims we can make with a beloved person in our life is: “Neither do I condemn you.” Jesus, does follow up with go and sin no more, but if the beloved sincerely strives to amend their life and accept responsibility, why do we consider ourselves a higher judge than God- more loving, more merciful, etc.? We certainly aren’t. When I read this passage from John’s Gospel, I’m humbled by the fact I must acknowledge I am a sinner who has committed damaging sins, and I cannot cast the stone my concupiscence desires to cast on the person I claim to love. “We can and we must judge situations of sin – such as violence, corruption and exploitation – but we may not judge individuals, since only God can see into the depths of their hearts.”– St. Josemaria Escriva
There is freedom in forgiveness. When I was meditating on the Daily Mass readings for the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the first reading from Second Corinthians caught my attention. In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he writes to to the Church in Corinth, “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation,
namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
We are ambassador’s of Christ and His message of reconciliation. What better place to be God’s ambassador of reconciliation than our own homes, our most intimate relationships, and the people who are closest to us? When we establish this environment of love, mercy, and reconciliation, the fruits of our domestic Church pour into the larger community and wherever we go. Loving a specific person is more challenging than loving an idea of a person. We can build a whole world in our heads about relationships and marriage. God ask us to commit to one living, breathing human being in the Sacrament of Marriage, and our dating or courting relationships should also reflect that reality.
In June, we celebrated the Month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus & the designated Month of Marriage for the Year of the Family by Pope Francis, we ask for the intercession of St. Joseph, during the Year of St, Joseph, for all couples discerning the Sacrament of Marriage, for all engaged couples as they prepare for the Sacrament of Marriage, and for all couples that are married. In the month of July, we celebrate the Most Precious Blood of Jesus! May His precious blood wash over us and cleanse us of our sins and inequities and create in us a clean heart.