By Mario and Paola Martinez
Without love, I am nothing: love is at the service of others. “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
The Lord has set the example for us. We are invited to have an authentic attitude of service in every dimension of our marriage and family life. When achieved, it increases the chances of our relationships experiencing health and well-being. In his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), Pope Francis states that such an attitude of service reflects a virtuous person who shows his goodness through deeds. To love is to seek to benefit our relationships and help others. Therefore, love is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4).
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul wants to clarify that love is a verb. Love is not only a feeling, but to love is to do good, to have kindness toward those we love. Studies on marital kindness and well-being suggest that the perception of kind behavior is important. In other words, to do good, it must be perceived by the other to have a positive effect or seen as an act of love. For example, sometimes a husband or wife may perceive a helpful action as an attempt on the part of the other to achieve something (“And now what do you want?”). The dialogue between a couple is important to increase intimacy and bonding, thus increasing the chances that our deeds of kindness will be perceived as attempts to love.
The most important part of any marital relationship is the “us.” God will never divide your “us.” God, through his angels, told Mary and Joseph about the coming of the new baby and what they should do. Through each one’s decision toward kindness, the work of salvation was fulfilled. Marriage invites us to adopt an identity together where goodness is central. “That’s why the man leaves his father and mother to join his wife, and the two become like one person.” (Genesis 2:24).
Most couples can sense when the “us” exists. They can also sense when the “us” is absent at home. Even the children know it when the parents’ “us” is absent. You can feel the tension, you can feel the anger, and you can feel the anxiety. One feels the presence and absence of our “us.” It is important to note that it is possible to regain feelings of love when you start working for the “us,” with an attitude of service. In the fight for the “us,” the key ingredient is humility. Pride creates trenches between spouses. When a couple gives themselves to the “us,” they are also giving to themselves, to the other, to their children, and to everyone in their surroundings.
We recognize that it takes great effort to believe that the “us” is also present in every problem and in every situation (in good times and in bad). Let us follow Saint Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s example, without asking to be repaid, but purely for the pleasure of giving and serving. They fought for their “us” with humility, courage, and obedience to God’s plan.
Mario and Paola Martinez are co-directors of the Office of Marriage and Family Life Ministries in the Diocese of San Bernardino.