For a year now, we have been decluttering re-organizing, repainting, fixing or replacing things in our home. After living here for 32 years, we decided its time to downsize which means selling the home and moving on to someplace else. Some decisions are big ones; this falls into that category in part because of the work required. And the emotional adjustment required to feel at home someplace else seems difficult to me right now. But I have to remember that just as we didn’t know what life would bring through the years since purchasing this home in 1984, little do we know what lies ahead but as St. Junipero Serra lived by the motto: Always Forward, may we also. How well have we lived by that motto?
Presuming that St. Junipero meant that he was always striving to move forward toward his eternal destination, I would say that we haven’t fared as well as he did. For example, this past year we became hyper-focused on the decision. This caused us to seriously live in the today rather than the tomorrow. Life seemed to become a bit unbalanced and this became more obvious as we passed from one Lenten season through another with the same focus and the same busy-ness. We spent an inordinate amount of time painting and repairing; after that we ardently began looking for our home’s replacement. We justified our busy-ness while putting God and others on the back burner. When we stop moving forward in any relationship, we in fact, grow more distant from that person. Since life is dynamic we are always moving in one direction or the other. So as we put everything and everyone else on hold while focusing on our personal stuff, we essentially fail the Always Forward motto.
This scenario could probably describe many different families — not just us. We can become hyper-focused as we go about having a family, forming adolescents who can be challenging, pursuing careers or jobs that allow us to live comfortable. Sometimes we switch careers in order to be able to upsize into homes that are big enough for our growing families. We also become hyper focused as we go about finding our beloved marriage partner. It also happens when we experience a sudden illness that catches us off guard. Other times we go into protective mode as society attacks our personal faith and values. So all of us can easily veer off track from living the Always Forward motto as we focus primarily on the here and now instead. Isn’t it like us to think that what we really need to do now really needs to be done now when in fact, if we knew that we were not going to be here tomorrow, we would probably rethink what we think is important today! How is that for a mouthful?
Decluttering and downsizing may be important for us at this stage of our lives; and being busy with little ones is important for you at this stage of your lives. But we also are called to go about this business with love and charity that requires us to be other-focused rather than hyper self focused — as in our case. Being present to others should happen no matter how busy we feel we are. If/when that fails, we often discover that we are simply making excuses for personal failures. Nothing in life should dictate that we cast aside those who we claim matters most. Neither should it cause us to be less present to those who seem to matter less. We are called to “not lay up for ourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven for where your treasure is there will also be your heart… (Matthew 6: 19 - 21)
But we didn’t do that very well this past year. And so it seems that Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) was written for Dave and me.
Pope Francis wrote Amoris Laetitia for all of us because people of faith are called to strike a balance between moving forward with Love and loving others well while mired down in the day to day. His exhortation offers a fresh perspective that is refreshing because it offers renewed hope for us who fail day in and day out to be merciful and loving. And it speaks about the Divine forgiveness available to any of us even when we get mired down in self-focus [thoughts, actions and plans]. The Pope seems to really get it. He understands that all of us — no matter the age — can get life and love wrong. That is why he writes: “we often need help and encouragement as we go about our daily commitments and challenges.” [Amoris Laetitia, par 4] But, he also realizes that this unbalance will rise up and cause us serious pain and estrangement from God and each other. It is for that reason that we are called to take part in the Church and to strive to love as God loves. Then we can more effectively “be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy.” [Amoris Laetitia, par 5]
Pope Francis invites us to read this exhortation slowly and with careful meditation and then apply it to our own lives. “It is my hope that in reading this text, all will feel called to love and cherish family life, for families are not a problem they are first and foremost an opportunity.” [Amores Laetitia, par 7] Let’s take his advice to heart as we take up the text. God is calling us to Love, Humility and Forgiveness in and through Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia. St. Matthew says it well also: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” [Matthew 6:27-29]