Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

C - 5th Sunday of Easter


Is 43:16-21 • Phil 3:8-14 • Jn 13:31-35

The Volatile Ingredients of Conjugal Love

There are many kinds of love but today we will focus on love within marriage. The conjugal relationship is one that gives opportunity for unlimited self giving but its ingredients are extremely volatile.

Let us look at the female side. When Vicki came to study nursing in the city she felt excited by her many new experiences there, but she was also very lonely and fearful. Soon she found Rex who was handsome, strong and made her feel good. Their relationship grew over the years and she yielded to his desire for sex. However, in their third year together she noticed an aloofness in him and confronted him with the change. He admitted that there was another girl in his life that he could not give up. He asked her for one last intimacy and in a last effort to hold him she consented. Now she feels bitterly cheated and insulted.

Vicki's story tells of a woman's great need for a strong man in her life. She needs the relationship. She is possessive and wants it to be exclusive. She will give anything - often even be willing to be a number two - just to hold her man.

Now, what about the male side? There is a story about a bishop who went to the doctor. The doctor said, "I will have to take a look at your unruly member." At this the Bishop began to open the zipper of his trousers. "Oh, no!" said the doctor, "I only wanted to look at your tongue!"

Romeo knows his unruly member and the sex urge is often so great that he will act in a very unruly way because of it. He is willing to give some intimacy and form a relationship to have it. He is looking for a mate. Exclusivity, fidelity, and intimacy are values he finds hard to understand even though he may have vowed them in a Church sacrament.

The conjugal or marriage relationship starts will strong drives to fulfill selfish needs. It's doubtful if it can be called love at all. Love only comes in when there is a decision to reach beyond the self.

Marriage can be an arena of battle just as much as it can be a relationship of ecstatic self giving. It is no joking matter. Women complain of the infidelity of their husbands. The are in deep fear of the loss, and the insult to their egos, of betrayal by the man to whom they have given all. Men complain of the domination of their wives who want to control their lives, their money, their friends, their all. They sometimes say that they are forced to find consolation elsewhere because of the domestic hell created by their insecure wives.

Today in the Gospel Jesus tells us "I give you a new commandment: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also must love one another." Jesus' love was one in which he transcended personal needs. He gave himself even unto death for those whom he loved. Jesus said, "love one another as I have loved you." What can we say about his love. It was a love that was attentive to the poor and the needy. There is poverty and neediness in each of us as we have illustrated in the stories of Vicki and Romeo. We have to be conscious of the strong desire for union as well as the destructive selfishness that is in each of us. It is only when we accept our own destructive capacity that we can look understandingly at the same in our partner. A loving consciousness of our own tendency towards evil generally leads to more healthy behavior. Violent condemnation of self or of others seldom does.

Jesus was deeply forgiving. He even forgave his executioners. He forgave the disciples who abandoned him in his hour of trial. A similar forgiveness is necessary if marriage is to be a place of transcendent love rather than an arena of battle. The test of forgiveness is this: No matter how you quarrel, in the future this issue can never be mentioned again. If it can be mentioned again then you have not forgiven, you have only buried your ammunition!

Jesus took time out to be present to himself and to his Father. In this he got the strength to be lovingly present to those who were not at all lovable. In the stillness of daily meditation, busy husbands and wives too will get the strength at the center which will make it possible for them to overcome their natural fears and compulsions and to become forgiving, caring and loving to each other.

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Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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Sundays into Silence

A Pathway to Life

by Gerry Pierse, cssr
380 pp., PhP 299, U$ 19.95

“The best word I can find to describe this book is integration. In these reflections on the gospel readings for year A, B, and C of the liturgical cycle, Fr. Pierse integrates the richness of the word of God with experiences and stories from life in the community. He shows how through silence, the word can bear fruit in service and sacrament.” (R. J. Cardinal Vidal)

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