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Mercy and marriage

The three-week Synod of Bishops on Family Life was marked by fervent discussion among the synod fathers. Meeting under the theme, The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World, the gathering took place in what is described as a protected space where the Church can experience the action of the Holy Spirit.

On December 8, Pope Francis will open the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica, formally proclaim the Year of Mercy. There is a link between this and the synod, as the synod documents mention that in the face of family problems and challenges, people should not forget to gaze at the face of Jesus Christ.

God’s mercy is the culmination of his love. Returning to God’s mercy was the most memorable theme to come out of the synodal meetings on the family. The Church must embrace all people with mercy and invite them to return to her.

God’s mercy may leave us feeling deeply deficient or even sinful, as the son in the parable of the Prodigal Son experienced. While the father’s love towards is expressed in the act of unconditional forgiveness and acceptance, he feels the endless, merciful love of the father, but also deep embarrassment and shame.

“Love, after all, is not an abstraction. By nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes and behaviours that are shown in daily living” (Misericordiae Vultus: Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy #9). In married life, the couple must treat each other with mercy and love within unlimited forgiveness and acceptance. The pope advised husbands and wives not to let the sun go down on their anger.

Married life requires an unassuming, modest heart to be able to admit to deficiencies in love, as well as doing harm, before asking for forgiveness. People who admit their own inadequacies can understand God’s mercy more profoundly.

To maintain an enduring marriage covenant requires a limitless capability for forgiveness. But this is a God-given grace and is built on the foundation of faith and spirituality. Nurturing a generous, grateful heart is not just a matter of seminars and programmes, but developing a deep spirituality and learning from the experience of others.

“Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness” (Ibid # 2).

“To refrain from judgement and condemnation means, in a positive sense, to know how to accept the good in every person and to spare him any suffering that might be caused by our partial judgment, our presumption to know everything about him” (Ibid #14).

In today’s world the sacrament of marriage is faced with challenges and trials. When we are faced with the separation of couples or women who have had abortions, can we show the empathy of “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity”?

May all families, especially husbands and wives, maintain a fixed gaze on Jesus and his merciful eyes, and walk hand-in-hand along the path of sanctification in the forthcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy. SE