One of the most beautiful experiences of our mission is the accompaniment of families in their vocation. To accompany and to be accompanied: because for a priest, it is important to be close to many couples who are happy with their relationship: grateful for the gift of children, full of desire to understand more deeply how to serve the Kingdom of God as husbands, wives, fathers and mothers and how to give witness to a humanly-fulfilled life. Unfortunately, you also sometimes find that they are stuck, as if they have lost the reason for their staying together; this can happen after many years of marriage or after a few months. Questions emerge, such as: “Where do we restart when it seems that we don’t love each other anymore?”; “How does our acceptance of each other become real, and not just putting up with the other person?”; “How do I learn to love that which in the other bothers me or that I don’t understand?”
Thinking of them, one of the most human events described in the Gospels comes to mind: the time when Mary and Joseph, returning from Jerusalem, realize the Child is no longer with them.
How many times in our life, for a stretch, we realize that we haven’t brought Him with us? How often does His presence, taken for granted, cease to have any affect on daily life? What strikes me about the episode of the finding of Jesus at the Temple is the fact that both Mary and Joseph begin searching for Jesus together. It is the same for us: the diminishing of the affection between us is more often than not connected to the loss of the reasons to stay together. The tiredness and coldness in our relationships start when the fountain of true love dries up. When Christ, without our realizing it, disappears from our life, it is then that you need to begin to search for Him, together. And this implies a work, a struggle. Firstly, it is necessary to have the poverty of spirit to admit that we have lost Him, that He is no longer with us. Then, we must begin to search for Him, to beseech Him. The account of the finding in the temple tells us that Jesus has something elusive about Him, irreducible to our attempts to cage Him inside of something that we have already understood: this is the reason that we have to continually search for him. The first job of a family, therefore, is to pray together.
It is only God that fulfills this desire and that, through the face of the other and their diversity from us, He wants to make us understand something about Himself.
But Jesus’ irreducibility to our plans reminds us that each of us is a mystery to the other. And this becomes even more evident in the experience of marriage.
Think, for example, of the experience of the mystics, the contemplative saints: does perhaps their love of God, which brings them into continually deeper union with Him, exhaust the mystery that Christ is in their eyes? Quite the opposite! The more that man knows God, the more He reveals Himself as mystery. It is exactly this, His inexhaustibility, which permits us to have a daily experience of the newness of Christ. In fact, what is the Mystery? Mystery is not that which you cannot know. Instead, it is the infinitely knowable. Exactly because He continues to be Mystery that He allows me to always know Him more.
But if this is true in the love of God, why must we think that human love is any different? The more I know and love my wife, the more I know and love my husband, the more I become aware of the mystery that he or she represents for me. Certainly, this discovery of the other’s “you” as different from me, different than what I was expecting, is often difficult to accept. Joseph Ratzinger describes it well in his Introduction to Christianity, when he affirms that every “you” is, in the end, a delusion. A delusion that is born from the illusion that he (or she) will respond completely to my desire to love and to be loved, when instead it is only God that fulfills this desire and that, through the face of the other and their diversity from us, He wants to make us understand something about Himself. Christ wants to let Himself be found by us, but he asks that we begin to search for him together. And, searching for Christ, each one finds himself and the other that is with him.
Only now will I start to truly accept my husband or wife, to discover and appreciate even his or her aspects that I did not know. It is then that the diversity of the other becomes a treasure for me. In this road towards the rediscovery of one’s vocation, the family is never alone. It isn’t by chance that Mary and Joseph’s search concludes at the Temple. It is in the communion of the Church that husband and wife rediscover Christ and their reason to be together, which is, ultimately, to put yourself at the service of a project greater than yourself, that Christ wants to complete in the name of his Father.