Monday, November 10, 2014

Are marriages made in heaven?

Lessons on marriage from a successful couple

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a dinner in honour of a couple celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary. They were both in their late sixties and did not have much wealth or were not in high positions but were extremely happy spending their time visiting their grown up children and grandchildren locally and overseas. I am sure they had their problems and challenges in their lives which they had managed to overcome and keeping their marriage intact for such a long time. I was impressed with what the wife said about the success of their married life. 

She gave wonderful account of their secret of success being together despite the ups and downs in their life. It was nothing but love which we often take for granted. To her, love for her husband consisted of 2 things. Firstly it was forgiving him for whatever he said or did that hurt her as she believed that “he does not know what he was doing” and secondly she was always quick to say “I’m sorry” whenever she feels she had said or done something wrong. It was that simple which many couples find it so difficult to do thereby resulting in breakdown of their marriage.

I am sure all of us who are already married for years now have a lot to learn from this elderly couple. Their experience is a great lesson for not just us but many who are in the process of taking their first step into married life. In a world driven by materialism, matrimony is fast losing its sanctity leading to infidelity and divorce but to have a couple who has been faithful to each other for 45 long years in our midst is indeed a blessing for us which we must treasure to the utmost.

Marriage is not about finding the right partner but being the right partner ourselves as there will be never a perfect person custom made for anyone. It is we who make the marriage not others as they will never be able to that. We often belief that marriages are made in heaven and pass the responsibility to God to keep us together in thick and thin, not realising that marriages, may be made in the presence of God, but is made right here on earth, in our homes and families. Others can only break not make a marriage.

Almost every marriage starts out as a huge and at times a grand celebration. Together with their family and friends, each couple is full of hopes and dreams for their future life together. But the road to a happy marriage is far from easy. As today’s divorce statistics demonstrate all too well, many couples opt not to complete the journey. Very often they drop off their journey for very trivial reasons.

Most problems that lead to the breakdown in marriage can be traced back to the most important factor - love, which we all think we have in abundance for each other. True, we may have abundance of love for each other when we started the journey years back but during the course of the arduous journey through rough terrain, we find the love that we thought was deep enough was just not strong enough to keep us bound together. It was just the physical beauty that kept us together not true love that could stand the test of time.

The type of love that is needed in marriage is well described in 1Corinthians 13, “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrong doing. It does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres.".Do we have such a love for our spouse?

The first 20 years of marriage is usually the happiest time when the children are small and we slog for their happiness and well being. Indeed their happiness brings great satisfaction to us. All that is needed is hard work for which we had energy in abundance at that stage in our lives. We have the strength, charm and beauty of youth which keeps us together as husband and wife.

The second 20 years is the most trying time as during that time we begin to lose our physical beauty and vitality. The children leave home and their peer influence becomes stronger that our own. They become independent making important decisions by themselves at times not even consulting us. We watch helplessly with dismay when our children make wrong decisions in major events in their lives.

It is the period of trials and tribulations when sickness and other tragedies may strike us and our families. It is a period of great difficulties, uncertainties and trials which can drive apart even the most loving couples.

It is the time when our trust in God is being put to the test. It is very easy to say “Lord I love you” when times are good but extremely difficult to say that in times of tragedy. If we can remain united, endure and overcome the pain together as husband and wife with unwavering trust in God during this period of great difficulties as we promised to God when we took our matrimonial vows, then He will bless us with success, peace and happiness in the final stage of our journey in life.

It is in difficulties that we become closer if only we keep our promise to God and to our spouse to be “true to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love  and honor each other all the days of our life till death do us apart.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gospel Reading for today

Gospel, Luke 12:49-53
49 'I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!
50 There is a baptism I must still receive, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!
51 'Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
52 For from now on, a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three;
53 father opposed to son, son to father, mother to daughter, daughter to mother, mother-in-law to daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law to mother-in-law.'


We all pray for peace and happiness but what Jesus tells us is rather shocking – I have come to bring fire to the earth……I have come not to bring peace on earth but division”. What was Jesus trying to tell us?

The division he was referring to is very real and is happening right here every day in our families, our society, country and the world. Today there is so much anger, hatred and jealousy and we are all driven by selfishness, greed and more greed. Everywhere we see bad winning over good. The good not only are losing but being persecuted, tortured and killed. 

We watch helplessly and pray for divine intervention but unfortunately God seems to be deaf to our prayers. What are we to do? Who can we reach out to? Nobody but to ourselves and our selves alone. Yes, only we can do it not anybody from outside, not even God as that is not His plan anyway.

We have to find our own ways to fight evil based on what Jesus taught us. 
1. Self-examination of ourselves, sincerely and passionately – examining our conscience, our thoughts, our inner desires and feelings towards one another. Invariably there will be more evil than good in us that is the cause of our failures and sufferings.
2. Repent – realise and admit our weakness and take steps to correct them. Get rid from our hearts the greed, selfishness, anger and hatred for others. Adopt the values of Jesus – love, compassion, forgiveness and humility instead
3. Change - promise to God that we will change ourselves – become the change we want to see  

Penang diocese goes on Mission

At last Sunday’s mass in all churches in the Penang diocese, the bishop went on video to urge to people to go on mission. This was in conjunction to mark the yearly theme of Mission Sunday. A 5-minute video recording of the bishop’s sermon was played in which Bishop Sebastian Francis urged the people to go out to proclaim the word of God, saying “As a father speaking to his sons and daughters I urge you, with the authority of Jesus, to go out and spread his good news to the world…”
It was a powerful and motivating message that could inspire many hardcore Catholics to on mission to evangelize. But is it want we need now in a multi-religious nation that is already badly divided by race and religion? This active call for evangelization is the least we need at this time of tense Christian-Muslim relations.

What we need now is to go on mission in our own church to ‘reconvert’ baptized Catholics who have left the church for some reason. There are so many of such Catholics, even staunch ones, who were forced directly or indirectly to leave the church. The reasons I am sure many will be familiar. It is sad that not even a single effort is being initiated by the priests and parish administrators to bring these lost sheep back into the flock.It is said that charity begins at home, doesn’t evangelization also begin at home too? 

Another important issue is the one relating to our fellow Christians leaving the faith, especially those converting to other faiths due to weakness in our own system. What are we doing to deter our own brothers and sisters leaving us?

At the Mission Sunday mass last week every Catholic in the diocese was given a crucifix, a booklet and anointed with sacred oil. These these are not free but could have cost hundreds of thousands ringgit. Couldn’t that money be spent on caring for the less fortunate and needy in our parishes?