Holy Spirit and marriage 2.
Let’s examine the family/married life in the light of the fruits of the Spirit.
Love: A man called me about the tension in the family. I asked him how he and the wife were doing regarding the situation. The answer he gave me was, “At least there is temporary ceasefire for now”. Temporary ceasefire in marriage! Yes, that is the best way to describe absence of love. It’s a war-like situation in the house. Love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is the commitment which sustains marriage bond. Couples look beyond faults and errors where there’s love. They concentrate on positives. Love gives to the other person absolutely, without reservation. It accommodates. It dispels tension. In marriage love is called “conjugal”. Pope Francis describes conjugal love as “a love sanctified, enriched and illuminated by the grace of marriage. It is an affective union, spiritual and sacrificial, which combines the warmth of friendship and erotic passion, and endures long after emotions and passion subside” (Amoris Laeticia120).
Joy: Joy comes from the Holy Spirit in form of supernatural gladness. It transcends happiness because it comes despite the hard times of daily living. Joy means contentment in family life. Think about the smiling presence of your wife even when she’s sick. In those circumstances of failure and hardship, joy comes from knowing Christ in the family.
Peace: Christ’s words to his disciples were, “The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you. Peace I bequeath you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you” (Jn.14:26-27). Peace means tranquility (not ceasefire); it comes irrespective of external trials and temptations. Families that have peace of Christ are able to manage difficult situations. They believe that God is always in control.
Patience/Forbearance: This is one of the very tough fruits of the Spirit. Patience has to begin with the self; it endures all things. We get angry with others because we are not patient with ourselves. If I am patient with myself, I’ll be able to control my anger first. But because I am not, I get frustrated easily at situations. I extend my impatience to the person beside me. He/she becomes the subject of my anger. Patience means endurance, steadfastness, perseverance.
Kindness: means ability to recognize the feelings of others, to share in such feelings. Kindness means extending oneself to the other. It is akin to humility. It moves a person to actions for the sake of the other. It produces sacrifice in marriage.
Goodness: Seems a bit tougher than kindness. It is the strength of character, a desire to bring out the best in you for the other. Goodness reflects the character of God. The good couple supports one another.
Faithfulness: This means steadfastness to one’s belief. Faithfulness is devotedness to God and to one’s spouse. It means conviction to hold unto what you believe at all times. Marriage thrives on faithfulness because it is the reflection of God’s love.
Gentleness: This means being considerate, deferring to the other. The gentle person appreciates the weakness of the other person, does not count fault. The gentle person is non-judgmental.
Self-control: Self-control is that ability to discipline the senses, to put a check on the desires of the flesh. Saint Paul writes, “be guided by the Spirit, and you will no longer yield to self-indulgence. The desires of self-indulgence are always in opposition to the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are in opposition to self-indulgence: they are opposites” (Gal.516-17).
The Holy Spirit gives couples courage in two ways- to withstand suffering and to resist evil. The presence of the Holy Spirit gives courage in sickness and pain. It makes couples see suffering as a means of liberation. It makes you to feel the presence of God as couple when you pray or stay together.
On the other hand, the Holy Spirit helps couples to perform their parental roles. He provides courage to speak up against evil forces. Evil forces of hatred, unforgiveness, drugs, alcohol, abortion, exist in marriages and families that lack the Holy Spirit. Many marriages and families have been captured by internet spirit instead of the Holy Spirit. Men and women have given in to self-indulgence on the internet. They watch sites that put them away from their spouses. They prefer spending time on sites that gratify their flesh rather than with their partners. Men and women in marriage have become victims of pornography because of lack of self-control. Pornography destroys marriages. It destroys family life. It drives away the Holy Spirit because its victim no longer thinks for the other but for self and the flesh.
In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Pope Francis talks about the illumination of the Spirit in marriage. Words of consent which couples give to each other “illumine all the meanings of the signs” of the sacrament (#214). Couples should allow their eyes to be illumined to see God’s gift in the embryo from the moment of conception (#168). The language of sex education should be presented in such a way that it is an illumination for living in a mature way and embracing the joy of love (#280). That’s what Pope Francis calls the joy of love; that means love illumined by the Holy Spirit.
Couples must let their marriages be enlightened by the Holy Spirit, else it shrinks.