Husband & Wife Articles


 

The Hardest Five Words

‘Tis the season to be. . .loving

By Kimberly Quatela

(Part Two of a Five-Part Series)

Last week, we began a reflection based on a passage from St. Paul to the Corinthians which challenged us to focus this Advent season on five key virtues: forgiveness, love, peace, gratitude, and praise (Col 3:12-17). Let us continue to look together at what it means to live out these virtues in our busy lives as we eagerly await Jesus’ arrival at Christmas.

Today, let’s talk about love.

This may seem like the “easiest” and most natural virtue to focus on during Advent, especially as so much of our preparation in our homes and families centers around things that we love to do.

We love to bake cookies like we did with grandma. We love to pick out the perfect tree and decorate it with the ornament our son made in preschool with little pinecones glued on to a wreath. We love to set out our favorite decorations and turn the lights on strewn throughout the bushes outside. We love to hear our favorite Christmas carols. We love traditions that invoke happy, joyful memories and feelings and draw us together as a family.

These are all good things. But what is the love that God is calling us to during this season of Advent? St. Paul exhorts the Corinthians, “And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” How can I, as an imperfect wife, mother, and sister, ever think that these few weeks could make me more loving and perfect in God’s eyes? 

What does this perfect love, the love that is mirrored through God’s love for us, look like?

In his 2005 encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has this to say about our call to love:

The Christian vocation is first and foremost a call to love, a love which attracts us and draws us out of ourselves, “de-centering” us (6).

Love focuses not on ourselves and our desires, but on the other.

When our first son, Joseph was born, my husband and I received a crash course in other-centered love.  Putting the needs of this newborn baby over our own needs was necessary, but not easy. When the baby cries at 3 in the morning, hungry and unable to feed himself, mama must wake up and give of herself to this helpless child, while putting aside the warmth and comfort of her bed and her own desire (and need!) for sleep.

In marriage, putting the good of your spouse before your own can be a challenge, especially in a culture that tells us to focus on ourselves. It’s easy to prepare your husband’s coffee and breakfast and greet him lovingly at the dining room table when all of your needs have been met (you slept in, you enjoyed a relaxing bath, you received compliments from your husband, he put the dishes away when you were working late). But how do you do those things when sleep-deprived, the baby’s crying, the laundry is piled up and the sink is full of dishes?

This is when we as Catholics look to the cross. We look to the supreme example of love that Christ offers to us. He laid down his life so that we may thrive. When my husband and I exchanged vows before God in the Sacrament of Marriage, we promised the same – to love fully, totally, without reservation, and with our whole being – not just when rested, fed, entertained, and showered with affection and affirmation.

Pope Francis, in his homily on the feast of the Sacred Heart, reminds us:

God loved us, he loved us with such great love … He pointed out two criteria on love. The first: love is expressed more clearly in actions than in words. The second: there is greater love in giving than in receiving. These two criteria are like the pillars of true love: deeds, and the gift of self. (6/7/13)

So what are some ways we can show love to our spouse this Advent season?

I can try daily to find something I appreciate about my spouse and thank him for what he has done to help me or the family. I can unload the dishwasher and set up his coffee the night before so his morning will be easier. I can snuggle with him on the couch as we watch television even though I have laundry to fold. I can take extra time out of my busy morning to wear the necklace he bought me when we first got married and compliment his beautiful taste. I can pick up a special treat on the ride home from work and text him during the day that I have been thinking about him.

In whatever way your spouse receives love, whether it is through affirming words, deeds, affection, spending time together, or receiving gifts, take time this upcoming week to focus on being a gift of self to your spouse, without asking or expecting anything in return.

(Read last week’s column on forgiveness.)

Kimberly Quatela lives in Yonkers, New York, with her husband, Steve, and their two children. She is Family Faith Formation Coordinator for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut.