The First School of Love

silhouette couple holding hands by sea at sunset

If there is one thing that the seasons of Lent and Easter bring into focus, it’s the struggle between good and evil. At its heart, the Easter story is an epic battle of Perfect Love (Jesus Christ) facing down and conquering evil.  It’s not just an historic struggle – it goes on most days in the heart of every person and in every relationship.

Battles are not won or lost by accident. They take careful thought, discipline and courage.  The ‘pain points’ are sign-posts to our underlying struggles. When we think about the difficulties in our relationships, it’s easy to blame the other person. There’s always something the other says or doesn’t say, does or doesn’t do, that falls short of what we’d like and need.  While understandable, falling into the habit of looking to the faults in the other whenever something goes wrong is not a struggle-conquering strategy.  In marriage for example, not only could it stagnate it but it isn’t a pathway to the personal growth that is essential if our marriage is to flourish.

Because here’s the thing: The purpose of marriage is not just to make us happy, it’s to make us holy. Obviously, happiness results from succeeding in this purpose but importantly, it is not THE purpose of our marriage.  In other words, marriage is a self-improvement institution; we grow as a person and we grow in relationship with God through the way we love in our marriage.

We will never get better, we’ll never grow towards the person we are called to be, if we avoid the necessary self-evaluation by holding on to our expectations for our spouse, family member or friend to change.  The Church teaches us that ‘Family is the first school of love’. That’s not only true for our children, it’s true for adults as well, because every day our family relationships can test our tolerance.

Is there anyone we have blamed unfairly or need to be more understanding of or say sorry to this week?

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a magnificent practice established by Jesus and has its roots in ancient Jewish tradition. Things that have been preserved for thousands of years don’t just happen by accident; they are preserved because they work.  Reconciliation works because it helps us to do the necessary self-reflection, allows us to get a clean start, and then infuses us with renewed grace to grow and change.

When we need to have a difficult conversation with someone, preparation is key.  The same is true for Reconciliation.  The key to a ‘good’ confession is how we prepare before it, what the Church calls an ‘Examination of Conscience’.  There are many excellent examinations available, but here’s one tailored to be particularly helpful for use by couples in strengthening their relationship and thereby their family. Examination of Conscience for Couples