Column: Good intentions are no substitute for acts of genuine love

Deacon Tony Zimmerman is the lead archdiocesan consultant for the office of marriage and family life.
Deacon Tony Zimmerman is the lead archdiocesan consultant for the office of marriage and family life.

by Deacon Tony Zimmerman

As we close out the liturgical year, the Sunday Gospels speak of rendering an account of our lives to God.

What have we done with the treasures he entrusted to us? I am referring to the treasures God has given us in our husband or wife, our children, or our parents, sisters or brothers.

One of the greatest struggles for many of us is to avoid growing complacent in our relationships. We get so mired in our daily routines and busy schedules that we leave our spouses in the morning with a quick peck on the cheek or forget to tell our children we love them at each opportunity (even and especially when they are grown). We forget a sibling’s birthday; we let too long a time elapse between calls to Mom or Dad. Our intentions are good, but so often the time gets away from us. We crawl into bed resolving to do better tomorrow.

I had two experiences this past week that really drove this home to me. The first was a conversation after Mass with a woman whose husband of 58 years had passed away two years ago. She told me how you never quite get over the other person’s absence in your life. She shared how often she found herself saying “Michael, did you . . .” Then she stops, recalling Michael is no longer by her side.

The other experience was standing next to a priest as he prepared to celebrate his last Sunday Mass at a parish where he had been assigned for many years. Perhaps it was my imagination, but it seemed to me he studied each face, lingered a little longer looking at each family, as he prepared to leave for his new parish. These people are his spouse, his beloved.

It caused me to pause and wonder how often I really gaze on the beautiful face of my wife of 40 years as we rush through the chores of the day. How well did I look into the eyes of my son, daughter or grandchild when I was last with them, so that they would know of my love for them? Did I tell them: “I love you!”?

Someday, when we stand before our Lord, he is not going to ask: “How big of a house did you have? What kind of car did you drive? Where did you go for vacation?”

He will ask: “Did you love them? Did you love my presence in them? Did you increase this treasure I entrusted to you with your love, affirmation and forgiveness?”

Don’t get hung up on the past. Begin now. Our striving to love as God loves us is our holiness.

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