An examination of conscience for Father Day from Chapter 4 ‘Love in Marriage’
Pope Francis writes:
In a lyrical passage of Saint Paul, we see some of the features of true love
Love is patient
Love is kind
Love is not jealous or boastful
Love is not arrogant or rude
Love does not desire it own way
Love is not irritable or resentful
Love does not rejoice at wrong
Love rejoice in the right
Love bears all things
Love believes all things
Love hopes all things
Love endures all things
Love is patient.
Means that we are slow to anger. It refers, then to the quality of one who does not act on impulse and avoids giving offense. God’s ‘patience’ shown in his mercy towards sinners, is a sign of his real power. We encounter problems whenever we think that relationships or people ought to be perfect, or when we put ourselves at the center and expect things to turn out our way. Unless we cultivate patience, we will always find excuses for responding angrily. We will end up incapable of living together, antisocial, unable to control our impulses, and our families will become battlegrounds. Patience takes root when I recognize that other people also have a right to live in this world, just as they are. Love always has an aspect of deep compassion that leads to accepting the other person as part of this world, even when he or she acts differently than I would like.
Love is at the service of others.
Throughout the text, it is clear that Paul wants to stress that love is more than a mere feeling. Rather, it should be understood along the lines of the Hebrew verb ‘to love’ it is ‘to do good.’ As Saint Ignatius of Loyola said ‘Love is shown more by deeds than by words.’
Love is not jealous.
Love has no room for discomfiture at another person’s good fortune. Envy is a form of sadness provoked by another’s prosperity; it shows that we are not concerned for the happiness of others but only with our own well-being. Whereas love makes us rise above ourselves, envy closes us in on ourselves. Love frees us from the sour taste of envy. It recognizes that everyone has different gifts and a unique path in life. So it strives to discover its own road to happiness, while allowing others to find theirs.
Love is not boastful.
Love is not haughty, pedantic, and somewhat pushy. Those who love not only refrain from speaking too much about themselves, but they are focused on others, they do not need to be the center of attention. Literally, it means that we do not become ‘puffed up’ before others. It also points to something more subtle: an obsession with showing off and sense of a loss of reality. Paul says ‘knowledge puffs us. Love build up.’ What makes it important is a love than understands, shows concern, and embraces the weak. At times the supposedly mature believers within the family become unbearably arrogant. Love, on the other hand,is marked by humility, if we are to understand, forgive, and serve others from the heart, our pride has to be healed and our humility must increase. Saint Peter’s admonition also applies to family: ‘Clothe yourselves, all of you with humility towards one another, for ‘God opposes he proud, but gives grace to the humble.’
Love is not rude.
To love is also to be gentle and thoughtful. Love is not rude or impolite. Love abhors making others suffer. Courtesy is a school of sensitivity and disinterestedness which requires a person to develop his or her mind and feeling, learning how to listen, to speak out and, at certain times, to keep quiet. Everyday ‘entering into the life of another, even when that person already has a part to play in our life, demands the sensitivity and restraint which can renew trust and respect. Indeed, the deeper love is, the more it calls for respect for the other’s freedom and the ability to wait until the other opens the door to his or her heart. Antisocial persons think that others exist only for the satisfaction of their own needs. In our families, we must learn to imitate Jesus’ own gentleness in our ways of speaking to one another.
Love is generous
Paul’s hymn to love’ however. states that love ‘does not seek its own interest nor seeks what is its own.’ This same idea is expressed in another text: ‘Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interests of others.’ Loving ourselves is only important as a psychological prerequisite for being able to love others. ‘If a man is mean to himself, to whom will he be generous? No one is meaner than the man who is grudging to himself.'(Sir 14:5-6)
Love is not irritable or resentful
It refers to a violent reaction within, a hidden irritation that sets us on edge where others are concerned, as if they were troublesome or threatening and thus to be avoided. To nurture such interior hostility helps no one. It only causes hurt and alienation. ‘Do not be overcome by evil’ It is one thing to sense a sudden surge ot hostility and another to give into it. letting it take root in our heart. ‘Be angry but do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.’ My advice is never to let the day end without making peace in the family. And how am I going to make peace? By getting down on my knees? No! Just by a small gesture, a little something, and harmony within your family will be restored. Just a little caress, no words are necessary. Our first reaction when we are annoyed should be one of heartfelt blessing, asking God to bless, free, and heal that person. ‘On the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing.’
The opposite of resentment is forgiveness, which is rooted in a positive attitude that seeks to understand other people’s weaknesses and to excuse them. Jesus says ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ Yet we keep looking for more and more faults, imagining greater evils, presuming all kinds of bad intentions, and so resentment grows and deepens. Thus, every mistakes or lapse on the part of the spouse can harm the bonds of love and stability of the family. Something is wrong when we see every problem as equally serious; in this way, we risk being unduly harsh with the failing of others. The just desire to see our rights respected turns into a thirst for vengeance rather than a reasoned defense of our dignity. We need to learn to pray over our past history, to accept ourselves, to learn to live our limitations, and even to forgive ourselves, in order to have this same attitude towards others.
Love rejoice with others
Our Lord especially appreciates those who find joy in the happiness of others. If we fail to learn how to rejoice in the well-being of others, and focus primarily on our own needs, we condemn ourselves to a joyless existence, for, as Jesus said ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Love bears all things
Love bears all things. This is about more than simply putting up with evil, it has to do with the tongue. It implies limiting judgment, checking the impulse to issue a firm and ruthless condemnation: ‘Judge not and you will not be judged.’ ‘Do not speak evil against another brother or sister.’ Being willing to speak ill of another is a way of asserting ourselves, venting resentment and envy without concern for the harm we may do. We often forget that slander can be quite sinful, it is a grave offense against God when it seriously harms another person’s good name and cause damage that is hard to repair. We have to realize that all of us are a complex mixture of light and shadows. The other person is much more than the sum of the little things that annoy me. Love does not have to be perfect for us to value it. The other person loves me as best they can, with all their limits, but the fact that love is imperfect does not mean that it is untrue or unreal. If I expect too much the other person will let me know, for he or she can neither play God nor serve all my needs.
Love Believes all things
This trust enables a relationship to be free. It means that we do not have to control the other person, to follow their every step lest they escape our grip. Love trusts, it sets free, it does not try to control, posses, and dominate everything. At the same time, this freedom makes for sincerity and transparency, for those who know they are trusted and appreciated can be open and hide nothing. Those who know their spouse is always suspicious, judgmental, and lacking unconditional love, will tend to keep secrets, conceal their feeling and weaknesses, and pretend to be someone other than who they are. On the other hand, a family marked by loving trust, come what may, helps it members to be themselves and spontaneously to reject deceit, falsehood, and lies.
Love hopes all things