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For Your Marriage

“Marriage And Mercy” Retreat Day Four: Mercy And Tenderness

Quote for reflection:
“Merciful love also means the cordial tenderness and sensitivity so eloquently spoken of in the parable of the prodigal son, and also in the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Consequently, merciful love is supremely indispensable between those who are closest to one another: between husbands and wives, between parents and children, between friends.” – St. John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia, no. 14

Breaking open the theme:
St. John Paul II, in his encyclical “Rich in Mercy,” gives some helpful descriptors of mercy: tenderness and sensitivity. Consider the Scripture story he references, the return of the prodigal son. In this story – beloved also by Pope Francis – the father is a model of tenderness. He yearns for his son’s return and he runs to meet him, embracing him in a joyful, tender hug. He doesn’t first tell him what he did wrong; first he assures him of his love. It can be hard to be merciful when someone close to you has let you down. But an attitude of tenderness can help see the whole person and not just his or her failings, and goes a long way in mending relationships.

Real-life example:
Ronald set high standards for himself and his family: his wife of eighteen years, Jackie, and their four children. When one of them made a mistake or did something wrong, his manner was stern and he made very clear his disappointment. His well-intentioned goal was to help his family grow in virtue. But one evening after chastising his daughter for a poor grade, she shouted at him, “You are always so harsh!” Stung, Ronald spoke with his wife and to his surprise, she agreed that he could lighten up a bit. “Maybe be a little more kind,” she said, “more tender. We’re all trying our best, after all.” While it felt uncomfortable at first, Ronald started to make a conscious effort to be gentler with his wife and children, and was pleased to see their relationships deepen in ways they hadn’t before.

Put it into practice:

  1. Pray: Read the Scripture story of the prodigal son (Lk 15: 11-32) together.
  2. Reflect: How can you be tenderer toward your spouse and children?
  3. Do: The next time your spouse or child does something to disappoint you, try to temper your disapproval with an affirmation of their goodness and your love for them.

Prayer for married couples:
Almighty and eternal God,
You blessed the union of husband and wife
So that we might reflect the union of Christ with his Church:
look with kindness on us.
Renew our marriage covenant.
Increase your love in us,
and strengthen our bond of peace
so that, [with our children],
we may always rejoice in the gift of your blessing.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

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