Recently, one of my friends' daughters became engaged, so I asked her how she felt about attending a pre-Cana marriage preparation course. She said that, at first, she was afraid there would be a test, and was relieved to learn that there wouldn't be. Well, I'm sorry to say, there will be a test, but not by the pre-Cana instructor. All of married life is a test of our ability to love "to the end," as Pope John Paul II was fond of saying. And we can't love to the end without following the example of Jesus, who did it for each of us. "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her," says St. Paul. My husband interprets that passage to mean that his job is to die for me. How could I not reciprocate?
We could all fantasize about whether we would dash into speeding traffic to push our spouse out of the way of an oncoming truck, or give up our seat on the Titanic lifeboat to save our loved one. But are we willing to die for one another in small ways, every day? Would we serve broccoli nearly every day because it's the only vegetable our husband likes, even though it has really never been our favorite? (Just an example.) Would we get up early because our spouse is a morning person, or go to bed late because our spouse is a night owl? Would we be willing to die to our disappointment when our spouse gains weight or loses hair? Would we willingly die to our discomfort about discussing the truly important issues, confronting them head on when we know we don't really agree? Would we give up our home town, our job, our career, our country?
We are all called to die to self, and marriage gives us ample opportunities to be selfless. Nearly every day we are given the opportunity to decide between ourselves and our spouses. Each decision point is a test. Some we will ace, and some we will flunk. The same is true of our better half. But if both spouses make the commitment to keep trying, there will always be a chance to retake the test tomorrow.