Keep loving, keep forgiving
“SET NO BOUNDS TO YOUR LOVE” (Matt.5:48): HOW HATE AFFECTS HEALTHY PARENTING?
Today’s reflection is an exhortation from the gospel. In today’s mass, all over the world, Christ gives a strong teaching on love, sets a new standard higher than the old for love to be effective. Christ changes the norm; the exclusive approach to love must give way to the inclusive, “But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt.5:44). Let’s just be practical here, it is very hard to know that someone is persecuting you and still love that person. But Christ says we must love. And I say this, consider yourself blessed if you have no enemy in life, it makes life easy. We already gave a reflection on the power of forgiveness and used the examples of Christ and Saint John Paul 11 as inspiration.
This week, we’ve been talking about parenting and family morality. One factor that threatens healthy parenting is marital differences and misunderstandings between husband and wife. One partner may feel hurt and wounded by the other. Sometimes, the couple still lives together with animosity in their hearts. They stay under the same roof but are not friends. They are not in love anymore. They quarrel, fight and use bad words for each other. They just don’t feel anything, and it reflects on their children. I knew a couple that quarreled all the time to the point that their fourteen-year-old son recorded all their fights without their knowledge. At their twenty-fifth marriage anniversary, he compiled their fights and quarrels, made a video which was his anniversary present to the parents. That was a great step towards their compulsory reconciliation.
In other cases, most divorced couples see themselves as enemies too. Some simply make up their minds never to forgive their ex again. This puts a snag on parenting as well. The one in custody of the kids might be very frugal in giving the other opportunity to visit and have contact with the kids. Some simply bear hatred for the rest of their lives.
Today, we are ending the first quarter of lent with Christ’s injunction, “Set no bounds to your love” (Matt.5:48). Love and forgiveness are like salt and pepper, quite an inseparable pair. Without love, there won’t be forgiveness, and without forgiveness, love can’t accomplish its goal. Have you felt hurt or do you still feel hurt? Does the thought of your ex’s or spouse’s actions or inactions make you feel quite upset and aggrieved? You can begin a process of self-healing. Spiritual therapy is the greatest thing you can do to yourself after all. Take it up as your Lenten penance. Talk to God about how bad you feel. Take it to Jesus in the blessed Eucharist. Have a conversation with your priest on how you feel, keep talking to Jesus. Ask Christ why he tells you to set no bounds when you still feel such pains. Remember this, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn.8:36). Of course, both of you may not come back to live as husband and wife again. But try to clean your heart of anger and pains. Tell God to help you to forgive him/her. The reason is that forgiveness frees not only your partner but you.
Interestingly, some divorced couples still talk freely with their ex about the welfare of their kids; that’s wonderful. They share jokes and stories together, but keep the boundary. Being divorced shouldn’t convert you into perpetual enemies. That’s unhealthy. Think about this: your reason for seeking annulment in your marriage is to free you from impediment and pain. An impediment is a form of obstacle, a cog in the wheel. Eventually, you secure annulment and are still in pain. Isn’t that ridiculous? Won’t it be a great favor to also free yourself from the impediment of hate and anger for your ex?
Think about the advantage of forgiveness. Don’t dwell on vengeance, it takes a lot out of you. Has anger had so much effects on you? Has hatred blurred your vision? Has it affected the healthy upbringing of your kids in any way? Has it affected the desired attention the kids should receive from their dad/mom? Why not start the process of healing with Christ now? Pray fervently about it. Ask the intercession of the Saints. Take the crucial step by telling yourself you’ll need to step out of your pains. Make a conscious decision to forgive. Give yourself the next thirty days of lent and believe you can rise with Christ at Easter. Maybe you’ll place that call on Easter Sunday to say, “Hey, I’ve forgiven you”. Isn’t that the best resurrection experience you can ever have?