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For Your Marriage

“Marriage and Mercy” Retreat Day One: With Mercy, God Goes First

Quote for reflection:
“In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us. Pardoning offenses becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves.” – Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, no. 9

Breaking open the theme:
Perhaps one of the most powerful verses in all of Scripture is Romans 5:8, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” While we were still sinners, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice of his life. This same principle is shown in the story of the prodigal son: while the son “was still a long way off” his father runs to him and embraces him (Luke 15:20). When it comes to mercy, God seeks us first. Always. What possible response could we make to such overwhelming love? To receive it gratefully, and show that same mercy to others.

Real-life example:
Stephanie was still fuming days later. Her husband of just over a year, Tom, once again had lost track of time with his friends and made her wait for hours, wondering where he was and worrying about him. She refused to let it go; how could he be so insensitive? And he didn’t even seem sorry. At the same time, Stephanie realized deep down that her unwillingness to forgive Tom was also hurting her, causing her a lot of tension and unhappiness. Recalling advice they had received during marriage preparation, Stephanie began praying for the Lord to soften her heart, and said out loud, “I forgive you” even though she didn’t feel it. While it didn’t happen instantly, she did feel more charitable toward Tom over time, and felt her own heart become lighter. Soon they were able to talk calmly about what had happened, reconcile, and talk about what to do differently in the future.

Put it into practice:

  1. Pray: Read Matt 18:21-35 together with your spouse, about the unforgiving servant.
  2. Reflect: Do you find it hard to forgive others unless you think they “deserve” it or have “earned” it? Why? Reflect on your own life and the gift of God’s mercy to you.
  3. Do: Are you holding a grudge about something and refusing to forgive? Try journaling about your feelings or talking with a trusted spiritual director. Perhaps even take the plunge and say, “I forgive you.”

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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