May 11, 2020 1959 Jenson Joseph, USA

Happily Ever After

Happiness is a ring on your finger

Have you ever wondered why the finger next to the pinkie is traditionally the one with the wedding ring? The Chinese came up with this explanation.

Let’s try a simple exercise. Join your hands in prayer with the fingers pointing up. Now move your palms with the fingertips still touching each other. Bend both middle fingers downward so that the tips of these fingers are now pointing down and the backs of both fingers are touching.

Allow the hands to remain in this position, then try pulling back the thumbs and allowing them to touch again. This is quite easy. The thumbs represent your relationship with your parents. In your childhood, you live with them and important decisions can’t be made without them, but at some point in life, you usually start making decisions on your own and move out. You separate physically from them.

Now, try the same motion for the index finger. Notice that it is also easy to do this with your index and pinkie fingers, which represent siblings and children. You will not be living with your siblings or your children all your life.

Finally, try to move the ring fingers, which represent you and your spouse. It is impossible unless you separate the middle fingers. So, what do the middle fingers bent downward represent? – The sacrament of Matrimony. When a man and a woman make vows of commitment to each other until death, they are bonded by God into a one flesh union, as husband and wife. If the middle fingers are separated it is easy to pull the ring fingers away from each other. So, spouses can only be separated by death, or by breaking their covenant with God and each other.

Today, we see a lot of confusion about the meaning, value and purpose of marriage and an increase in broken families. Tension between spouses is amplified by the modern world’s exclusion of God from relationships. When marriage is about personal fulfillment, people become preoccupied by the flaws, shortcomings and failures of their spouses and of others.

Perhaps this is why Pope St John Paul II, anticipating this degeneration of modern society, exhorted the people of Australia, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live. Do not be afraid to take a chance on Peace – to teach Peace, to live Peace… Love between man and woman cannot be built without sacrifices and self-denial.” When they fail to do this, we have chaos in the family and chaos in the world. He also reminded the people of the United States that “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

Protect each other

When the woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus(Jn 8: 3-11), those who condemned her dragged her into the middle of the crowd to expose her shame and humiliate her publicly. Jesus unexpectedly responded by unmasking their own sinfulness, instead of embarrassing her further. When the crowd melted away in reaction to his challenge, He (the only sinless one among them) forgave her and encouraged her not to sin again.

When we contemplate the Bible’s description of St Joseph’s treatment of women, we see the same compassionate behaviour. When he was told that Mary was with child, Joseph was unwilling to expose her to shame. Jesus and Joseph both followed the same action plan. The woman before them should not be publicly shamed, but treated with respect and kindness.

My wife and I are not perfect. We both have our share of weaknesses. When I became her husband, I received a special grace to be her champion, so that her deficiencies, faults and failures are not exposed to anyone, even close family members.

When I, as a husband, fail to fulfill this mission, then an attitude of disapproval poisons our family life and needs to be remedied. Even before our marriage, we had often spoken about this. Both of us had seen plenty of examples, among our family and friends, of a husband or wife badmouthing the other at social events. Recently my wife pointed out an opposite example. We had known this couple for a long time, but recently, when my wife interacted more closely with the wife, she noticed weaknesses in her character. My wife told me something that made me seriously consider my own attitude in this area. She said that in all the years we had known and interacted with this couple, her weaknesses had never been exposed because her husband shielded her so well.

Unquenchable Fire

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire” (St Catherine of Siena). Becoming the person God meant you to be is not easy or quick to achieve. Short-term sacrifices won’t keep the fire blazing. In the early stages of my marriage, I was motivated to go out of my way to serve my wife. I did this with sincerity, but also some discomfort as I stretched myself to meet her needs. However, I became inordinately proud of myself for doing so.

Those affectionate courtesies that dominated the early phase of my marriage began to diminish because I started to feel that I had done enough to earn the respect I desired. Then I realized that a few considerate actions, were not going to convert anyone in my family, because my intentions were self-centred.

If I wanted to lead my wife and kids to Heaven, I needed to engage in a lifetime of self-sacrificial actions. Marriage isn’t a contract where each of the partners gives 50% and gets 50%. It is a covenant relationship where each of the spouses gives 100% of what they have to give and receives the wholehearted support of their spouse. As Pope St John Paul II put it so well, “Love consists of a commitment which limits one’s freedom. It is a giving of the self, and to give oneself means just that: to limit one’s freedom on behalf of another.” (Love and Responsibility).

So, I began to treat my wife and children as if I were hosting the Holy Family in my home as honoured guests. Sometimes my actions aren’t noticed or appreciated, but the Holy Family never fails me. They taught me true joy and I have never had more refreshing sleep.

The next day I get up and do it all over again, not relying on my own strength but by depending on the Lord’s mighty power. I believe family life is strangled by service that is limited and calculated. However, service that costs us something – that is sacrificial – invigorates and inspires reciprocal loving service. This is the path to sainthood.

Lord Jesus, help me to contemplate The Holy Family. In this age, when the attack on the family is so fierce, help me to spend more time in prayer with the Holy Family so that I may care better for my loved ones. Help me to unselfishly grow in holiness so that I may lead my family to encounter your unfailing love and mercy. Amen.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, protect our families.


Jenson Joseph

Jenson Joseph has been part of Shalom Media as a speaker at the Shalom Conferences. He lives with his family in Michigan, USA. Watch his series at shalomworld.org/show/discipleship

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