“You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too”. These are the words said to Mary in the Temple by Simeon. When we listen to them, knowing the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, their meaning is clear. But what did Mary think, when she heard these words? Were these words a comforting message or rather worrying?

When we look at Mary’s family life, we can see that nothing was simple. Right at the beginning, she was forced to travel to Bethlehem just before giving birth. She was delivered of her son far from home, far from comfort, far from people’s sympathy. Then her family had to escape from King Herod’s tyranny, living as immigrants in Egypt – among an alien people, surrounded by an alien culture, without any stability. When they could finally come back to their homeland, they had to struggle with poverty. At some point Mary was widowed. So, overall, we can see that her life wasn’t so very different from the life of many families in our time. Being the mother of God’s son doesn’t guarantee an easy life. Let’s be honest: no-one – no-thing – can guarantee us an easy life.

People who live in a family know, better than I ever could, that mutual love is a challenge. At the beginning everything seems nice and easy. Conflicts and misunderstandings come with the passing of time. Many people begin to wonder, is true love possible? I’m pretty sure that love itself is not the problem. Rather, the problem with love comes from a false understanding of it. Most of us can identify love as a positive feeling or emotion. When emotions calm down and feelings change, love can die. But we don’t have much control over our emotions; they come as part of our psychological state. Love is something much greater than mere emotion. Love is a decision made by a free human will. We, as a couple, decide to consecrate our lives to each other. This decision must be renewed every day, in every situation, and in every circumstance. It’s good and wonderful if positive emotions are connected to this decision, but that can’t be a condition. True love must have no conditions whatever.

This vision of love seems quite difficult. And, in fact, it is. This is the reason why people starting a family invite God to be a part of their love. Only God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, patience, understanding and presence can form a pattern and a source of human love. This Sunday you have an opportunity to thank God for your family or to ask him for help in starting your own. Today you may renew your invitation to him so that you may find a deeper reason to love without conditions. The only kind of loving that makes sense.