Sacrifice, the Key to Holiness in Marriage
Last year during Lent, the Marriage Ministry at our church sponsored a Couple’s Stations of the Cross. One of the questions that we were asked to reflect on was, “In what ways do you sacrifice for your spouse?” While initially I found it challenging to contemplate, I appreciated the opportunity to ponder this dimension of my marriage since I understand it is key to experiencing authentic joy in my vocation. At the end of the Stations, each couple was given a piece of paper and asked to write down one specific sacrifice that they were going to commit to doing for their spouse that Lent. We then went outside, where a blazing fire was waiting for us to throw our little pieces of paper into as a symbolic offering to God. It is one of my most cherished Lenten memories.
Sacrificing for your spouse can be particularly painful to do, especially when frequently you may not be on the receiving end of it or if your hearts are not united. Although it can be a trap many couple’s fall into, marriage should never be tit-for-tat. Do we hold our spouse accountable for moral, upright behavior? Yes! Do we withhold our love when we feel we are not being loved? No! Christ’s invitation to love is without limits, without strings attached. We are called to love freely and sacrifice for our spouse sincerely. The supernatural call to love like Christ can only come through the genuineness of basic human relationships.
The vocation of marriage breaks open our humanity to the endless view of the infinite love of God. Jesus, the Word became flesh, so therefore in our flesh, in our humanity, we reveal the love of God in extraordinary ways through the ordinary moments of our day to day living. We are called to be Christ to our spouse. Just as He sacrificed His life for each one of us, we are also called in marriage to sacrifice our lives through little acts each day. Sacrifice literally means “to make holy.” With each sacrificial act done in love for our spouse, we not only personally grow in holiness, but we cultivate holiness in our marriage and in our family.
There are moments when you sacrifice your desire to have or do something out of love for your beloved–and then sometimes just getting through the day to day responsibilities without complaining is a sacrifice. There are so many times when my husband and I just collapse into bed at night after full days of working, running children to practices, making meals, bathing our toddler, listening to our teenagers, changing what seems like the 100th light bulb in the last 100 days, and picking up the house, but if we do all those tasks in love and in a spirit of sacrifice, then our home becomes a school of love through the ordinary moments of each day. The reality, though, is this is difficult to do! It takes persistent prayer, vision and a huge dose of patience to live marriage and family life with passion, purpose and a sacrificial heart.
Lent in an ideal time to prayerfully discern how well you are living this. True love requires sacrifice and there is no greater love this side of Heaven, than the exchange of authentic love in the Sacrament of Marriage.
Perhaps you can consider picking one way you can specifically sacrifice for your spouse this Lent. Don’t tell them you are doing it–just do it. Maybe you have an obvious opportunity in your marriage to sacrifice, but you have not yet embraced it. Ask yourself, why? What is holding you back? God often places very clear-cut situations right in front of us and we sometimes are blind to them. Is your spouse going through a difficult time? What can you do to support them? Do they suffer from a physical aliment? What can you do to help ease their pain or make their life a little easier? We don’t have to look far for occasions to showcase genuine love in our marriage.