Editor’s note: The CatholicMatch Institute is featuring a Lenten series for Catholic married couples. Each reflection will focus on one of Christ’s seven last words on the cross. In addition there will be a Lenten action for married couples to put into practice. This is the first reflection in a seven-week series.
As we begin the season of Lent, we embark on a journey to abandon our worldly attachments and align our hearts with Christ on his road to Calvary. We are called anew to be saints, to sanctify our lives by rejecting sin and embracing love. Christ, on the night before his passion, surrounded by his apostles, commands us “love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). How did he love us? Through the sweat and tears of his agony in the garden; through the blood-soaked garments of his scourging; through the excruciating crowning of thorns; stumbling on the path to Calvary under the heavy weight of his cross, rising, only to embrace his death by crucifixion. Through his suffering and sacrifice, the ultimate fulfillment of Love is revealed—“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
In the beginning, God creates marriage, “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Marital intimacy, in its foundation is the perfect union between man and woman sharing their love in harmony with God. When original sin is committed, however, discord is introduced into the world. No longer does man and woman experience perfect harmony as God intended, but strife and heartache.
Through the incarnation, Jesus Christ becomes man to reconcile us with His Father. Through his life and his words, he teaches us love and in his final moments, shows us what that love looks like. With his death and resurrection, Christ restores marriage to its original beauty and elevates it to a sacrament. In this way, marriage is the living, breathing sign of the covenant of love between Christ and His Church.
Though marriage is restored, sin still exists. We, as married couples, fall short of the plan God intends for marriage every day. How many of us feel pressure to maintain “passionate” marriages and how many want to conceal the fact when the reality falls flat? Surprisingly, the root of the word passion is “to suffer.” In Christ’s passion, we experience the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate suffering and in the end the ultimate reward. Christ, the Bridegroom, redeems our Good Friday and transforms them into Easter Sunday.
This Lent, we will reflect on Christ’s Seven Last Words, embracing the love of his final earthly moments as a model to emulate in our own marriage journey.
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Christ, God-man, free of sin or any wrongdoing, is betrayed by a friend, abandoned by his disciples, denied by the future head of his church, is beaten, scourged, brought to the brink of physical exhaustion and mental anguish, and hangs on a cross. Yet his first cry is this: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Our marriage journey begins with two becoming one in mutual adoration. But over time, a devoted gesture unacknowledged, a hurt unforgotten, or a quick word said in anger can cause division. We build walls around our hearts, shutting out the one person we have entrusted our lives for safekeeping. We no longer give, we no longer sacrifice, we no longer cherish. No longer one, but strangers. Christ tells us how many times we should forgive, “I do not say seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). How true this is in marriage! Do not close your hearts. Do not say to Christ, but this offense is unforgivable. Look instead at Jesus, hanging on the cross, and remember what he has absolved. He asks nothing of us that he has not done himself. He invites us to unite our suffering with his, and to love, not counting the cost, but reaping the eternal reward through complete selflessness.
“Marriage, therefore, means a lifelong commitment of genuine self-surrender. It calls for humility, fortitude, a spirit of sacrifice, and docility to the graces which God always grants when they are asked with simplicity. Husband and wife will be happy together if they learn to overcome selfishness and love of comfort, if they avoid seeking personal compensations for every sacrifice they make, and if they know how to give without anything in return. To achieve all this, it will help them greatly to remember that whatever they do for the love of their spouse is reckoned by Christ as actually done to Himself.” —Marriage: A Path to Sanctity.
1. Go to confession. As Pope Francis says in Evangelii Gaudium “God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.”
2. Seek forgiveness from your spouse for any past offenses and in turn forgive your spouse.
3. Today ask your spouse for help with a problem that is overwhelming you.