Our online Mass experience last Sunday took us somewhere a little different. Attending virtual Mass with Fr Rob Galea based in Bendigo and musician Matt Maher in Tennessee gave us a global encounter of the world-wide church.

Celebrating the Assumption, Fr Rob noted how the apostles’ journey with Christ was a series of ‘now what?’ moments. The Ascension, like other moments such as the crucifixion, resurrection, and various appearances of the resurrected Jesus, would have left the apostles looking at each other and wondering, ‘now what?’.

Relating it to the present global pandemic where we have so many questions about our personal and economic futures, as well as uncertainties about the future of our church communities and worship, Fr Rob invited us to connect with the experience of the apostles. We are collectively at a ‘now what?’ moment and how we individually choose to respond will shape our faith and our futures.

It led us to quite a profound reflection. Whether we realise it or not, our entire lives are shaped by how we respond to the individual ‘now what?’ moments that come our way. These are the thousands of small, and periodically large, choices that shape our future and our self-understanding. This is especially true when we reflected on our marriage journey.

‘Now What?’ Marriage Moments

As we dated and headed towards marriage, each of us were making a series of small ‘now what?’ decisions: Do I give this romance a go? Do I prioritise the relationship over career/study opportunities? Do we take the relationship further? etc.

Eventually a very big ‘now what’ moment arrived: Should we marry?

Small or big, every choice marked a milestone that defined a new stage in a journey that was uncharted.

As we reflected on this, we realised that our entire relationship history was packed with ‘now what?’ moments, and that our marriage has become the product of the decisions we made at those moments. Every one of these, small or big, took us in a direction that has culminated in what our marriage is today.

For some of the bigger ones, like when we decided to marry, although new to us, the next steps were mostly predetermined. New to us, yes, but the journey towards a wedding date was a well-worn path. The challenge rapidly became sifting through family expectations and well-meaning advice to find our own way.

In that case the ‘now what?’ moment of the engagement was not so much one of stepping into the void, but rather one of navigating our way through a foreign city with an out-of-date map and relying of the directions of well-intentioned locals.

But this is more the exception than the rule. Most of our ‘now what?’ moments are small and are a journey into the unknown.

The big decisions are the ones on which we tend to focus and invest in, but in reality, their outcomes are defined by the myriad of smaller decisions.

Our marriage was not created by the decision to marry and the wedding planning we undertook. It was defined every day since the wedding when, without realising it, we asked ourselves: ‘now what?’.

School of Love

Every day we are faced with ‘now what?’ decisions. Every time we have a disagreement there is a ‘now what?’ moment when how we choose to respond takes us down the pathway of an argument or of growth.

Every time we feel let down by the other we face a ‘now what?’ moment in terms of how we respond. Every time we perceive the aloneness of the other, the stress they are under, the fear with which they are grappling, our ‘now what?’ choices determine what happens next and how our relationship is shaped.

The challenge for us trying to make our marriage into the ‘school of love’ that God intended it to be is to recognise our ‘now what?’ moments for what they are: invitations to conform our lives and our relationship more deeply in Christ.

The more we look the more we see. When we recognise our ‘now what?’ moments we can start to live an intentional marriage; a marriage that sees us choosing our journey together rather than simply reacting.

And it’s more than just a superficial journey that is physically defined by where we live and how we act. It is a journey of the heart and spirit. For our choices in the ‘now what?’ moments define our identity and self-understanding as a couple.

Are we a couple that fights in our marriage, or for our marriage? Are we the kind of couple that grounds our relationship in faith or the kind of couple where faith sits on sidelines until we face a crisis?

Are we the kind of couple who welcomes life and children? Who finds God in heartache and setbacks? Who forgives generously? Who allows space for the spirit of joy and surprise?https://smartloving.org/forgiveness-is-the-life-blood-of-marriage/

Every choice we make to a ‘what now?’ moment reinforces, or redirects, the emerging self-understanding we have of ‘who’ we are. In a way, the ‘what now?’ moments in our marriage are really ‘who are we?’ moments.

Open to the Holy Spirit

Reflecting on the apostles at the Ascension, Fr Rob noted that their response to that ‘now what?’ moment, opened them to be infilled and empowered by the Holy Spirit ten days later at Pentecost. They went on to achieve incredible things in their remaining lives.

They were able to do that because every day they said ‘yes’ to the Holy Spirit in the ‘now what?’ moments presented to them. From preaching, healing, leading, commissioning, baptising and eventually martyred, they became people of the Spirit by their daily ‘yes’.

So, to us in our marriages. Our response to our ‘now what?’ moments is not something that should rely on our mere humanity. Rather we too can, and must, draw on the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can equip us with the necessary grace need to fulfil our mission to love in those ‘now what?’ moments.

If we are to come anywhere close to achieving what our vows call us to do – to love the other such that their closest human experience of God’s unrelenting love is our love for them (inadequate as that will be) – then we need all the help we can get!