When two people are in love with one another they want to be with each other all the time. For baptized Catholics that means marriage before a bishop, priest or deacon. Never would the Church recommend cohabitation. Marriage is a Sacrament instituted by Christ.
However, after people get married they discover things about each other that they never knew. Some surprises are welcomed others are not. What was considered “cute” during dating becomes obnoxious after marriage. For example, a little burp after eating is cute when folks are trying to make a good impression on each other. However, after a few years of living together the burp becomes gross, impolite, grounds for divorce. Funny how things change after we live with someone. True colors come out. Personality traits we never saw come to the surface. Love conquers all. Perhaps. If indeed two people are truly in love. Love endures. As we know from experience, love is not always the motivating force. Folks make mistakes. They enter marriage thinking that they can change their spouse; or the spouse will fill their emptiness; or that possessions will give them happiness. Only after we live with someone, when we abide with them, when we dwell with them do we get to know them. Our relationship with Christ is much like a marriage. Jesus often identified Himself as the Groom and His Church as the Bride. In an intimate relationship with Christ, we are wedded to Him. Precisely the reason that Jesus invites us to dwell together—as a community. The Father, the Son and the Advocate—the Holy Spirit. God is already a Community of perfect happiness, having no beginning, always present, and never ending. Not needing anyone, Jesus still invites us.
“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” That’s a proposal—a declaration of love. Jesus kneels in front of us—like a lovesick youngster with eyes full of hope. He asks us, “Do you want to marry me?” “Will you make your dwelling with me?” “Because I certainly want to live with you.” Nuptial bells are ringing. His proposal is not just a one-time event but over and over. Jesus looks for us. He takes the initiative. Maybe we have tried to hide, but He finds us. Once we allow ourselves to be found His love is constant. That’s when we know that we love someone—when we accept them for who they are, not what we want them to be. Unconditional acceptance is how we are loved by Christ.
Since Christ is light—His light shines upon us. The dark spots that we call sins are exposed. Our first reaction is to run. However, the challenge is to change, not run. Many saints were notorious sinners, but they changed. We discover that the more that we dwell with Jesus Christ, and the more that He dwells with us, that we want to be like Him. We are what we eat. Holy Communion sanctifies us. We become the Body of Christ. He becomes part of us. If we are to be like Christ, then we are compelled to love each other the same way—unconditional acceptance. Takes a while. First thing that must stop is judgement calls. We make judgement calls constantly, sometimes in anger, or out of habit, or because of our own inadequacies. Jesus does not judge us, does not condemn us, does not punish us. We need to imitate His kindness. Last time we looked, nobody is perfect, only God. So why pretend? Why place unrealistic expectations on each other which we can’t even reach? The more that we live in the light of Christ, the better we will see possibilities rather than deficiencies, beginning with our family. Like everyone, our family needs to be loved—accepted for who they are, including their weaknesses. Happiness is always right around the corner.
One day we will see the face of the person who has been living with us before we were born and who has loved us forever—Jesus Christ.