Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Of Devo and Divine Inspiration

Photo by Corentin LAMY
On Facebook I saw what can only be described as "the most awesome Halloween picture EVER." (cue echo, "EV-er, ev-er").  It has taken a lot of strength to not copy and paste it here but, not having asked permission, I went with the WikiMedia image at left instead.  

Allow me to paint you a verbal picture:  My friend Jenny is in a black dress, goofy red Devo hat on head, bullwhip in hand, standing in the archway of a home - above which is stenciled, "Be still and know that I am God  - Psalm 46:10"

That image of Jenny came back to me while praying the Rosary, and with it the thought - "How cool to think that when the Lord spoke those words to the psalmist, He already saw them stenciled above Jenny in her costume!" Then my mind started racing.

When God placed words in the mouths of the prophets or the minds of the biblical authors, He already saw us.  God didn't just speak those words to the psalmist.  In His omniscience He saw and personally addressed them to each of His children throughout history, as they would read and hear them at specific moments in their lives. Like St. Paul, that thought makes me cry out, "O the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Rom.11:33).  I bet it wouldn't take much reflection for each of us to recall a verse or two like that.

It may sound trivial now, but I will never forget being 15 years old and absolutely devastated by a breakup (remember your first love?) when my eyes fell on Jesus' words to Peter at the Last Supper, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand" (Jn.13:7).  Those words went straight to my heart; Jesus used them to speak directly to me.  And believe me, it's a message I've returned to many times since.

Another example, one that has rippled throughout millions of lives, was when Therese of Lisieux read Proverbs 9:4 and Isaiah 66:12-13 in a notebook of passages from the OT.  Therese's Little Way of perfection burst into being when she read, "If anyone is a very little one, let him come to Me," and "As a mother caresses her child, so shall I console you.  I shall carry you at My breast, and I shall swing you on My knees." Her encapsulation of the Gospel - that Jesus will lift us up through grace and bring us into His heavenly presence, if we but faithfully love and cling to Him as children - has encouraged Christians the world over!

Didn't St. Augustine have a similar experience?  Paul addressed his epistle to the Christians in Rome, but the Holy Spirit meant its words directly for Augustine too.  In his Confessions he wrote:
I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence" (Rom.13:13-14). No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.
What about you?  What verse(s) has God used to speak directly to your heart?  I would love to hear your stories.  "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give an account" (Heb.4:12-13).  

Happy All-Hallow's-Eve! 
Cautionary Note:  When a particular verse of Scripture seems to speak directly to you like this, you have to make sure that what you think you hear doesn't contradict the larger teaching of the Faith.  Does the word you've heard in any way contradict a) other verses of the Bible? b) Sacred Tradition? or c)  the dogmas of the Faith?  If it does then you've heard incorrectly.  That was the error Martin Luther fell into when Romans 1:17 and 3:21 "struck his conscience like lightning."  He interpreted them to mean that we are "justified by faith alone," as opposed to by "faith and works" (James 2:24), as taught by Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church. In the case of the Reformation, "often enough, men of both sides were to blame" (Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism, 3), but Luther's insistence on his mistaken interpretation played a significant part.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Blessed Mother, Receiving Jesus from John (A brief thought on the Priesthood)

Reading Luke's Gospel and praying the Joyful Mysteries this evening held a couple of surprises.  The first was one of those realizations that happens when you've known a couple of facts, but you've never put them together before.  I was meditating on the time when Jesus (age 12) stayed behind in the Temple after celebrating Passover.  Mary received Jesus back after a three day absence, as she did twenty some years later when He rose on the third day - quite a foreshadowing.  What I had not registered before was how the Finding in the Temple and Jesus' death and Resurrection were connected not just by the three day absence, but the Feast of Passover!

The difference between the two events for the Blessed Mother of course, was that she didn't receive Jesus back in the same way after His three days in the tomb.  He appeared to her, visited her; but he didn't return to Nazareth with her the way He did as a boy.  Resurrected and glorified, His body no longer belonged to this world, still subject to decay.  He belonged beside the Father, ascended.

And yet, Jesus did still come to His Mother, again and again, really and substantially in the Eucharist!  Mary lived with the Apostle John from the time of the Crucifixion.  Imagine what John must have felt - the unworthiness and awe - as he returned Jesus to Mary in Holy Communion!  And imagine Mary's incredible love for John, this man who brought her Son physically, sacramentally, back to her when he prayed the Eucharistic prayer!

I think about my parish priests and how they bring Christ to me in exactly the same way.  I don't love and appreciate them nearly enoughI remember reading a fantastic line from Matt Swaim a couple of years back, about how we can't look at our priests as "mere sacramental vending machines," and thinking how absolutely right he was; but I look into my heart today and realize that I'm guilty of it!  It wasn't intentional; I live and just begin to take certain things for granted.

Every Mass is the celebration of Jesus' Passover.  And united with Mary in the Communion of Saints, we receive her Jesus again and again.  May the Holy Spirit bring the love that filled her heart to ours ... and may we love and appreciate the priests ordained to bring Jesus to us.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jesus said, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage; get up, he is calling you." He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.  Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see." Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:49-52)

My pastor put the question to us, "What do you want Jesus to do for you?  He's asking, and in a few minutes He is going to come in Communion to give it to you."  Our pastor asked the Lord for a good memory.  He shared that when he forgets things - like his mom's birthday - he gets in trouble.  When he forgets how blessed his life has been, how good God has been to him, it's then that life's challenges start to cause him anxiety.  He wants a good memory to look back on all the ways God has blessed and protected him in the past, so that he can face the present moment with peace.

I thought it would take some serious reflection to know what to ask Jesus for, but it didn't.  Before Mass I had been talking to Jesus about my weaknesses and the petition that jumped to mind - well, more like a series of petitions, one building upon the other - was "Lord, I want to see myself and the world with Your eyes.  I want to have Your will so that I can commit myself to doing what is good.  I want Your heart to truly love the people in my life the way You want.  I can't do it on my own.  I want You to live in me."  And when I received Jesus in Communion I invited Him to do just that, to give me His strength go home and do the work I needed to do, the way He wanted me to.  (It was a "laundry list" kind of day.)

So friends, what about you?  Jesus is asking, "What do you want me to do for you?"  What do you really need?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Secret to Fulfillment

Two Sundays back as I listened to the readings at Mass I thought, "I can testify that this it true; I've experienced it."  The readings were all about what men and women need to experience true fulfillment.  The first reading (Wisdom 7:7-11) spoke of how Solomon desired God's wisdom more than power, riches, health, or beauty, and as we know from the New Testament, Jesus is the Wisdom of God incarnate (1 Cor.1:23-34).   The Responsorial Psalm was "Fill us with Your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!" (Ps.90).  The second reading (Heb.4:12-14) called for us to interiorize these messages, to let God's word "penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, [so that we can] discern [the] reflections and thoughts of [our] heart."  And then Jesus drove it home in the deepest way possible in the Gospel (Mk.10:17-30), when he invited the rich young man longing for God's Kingdom to not just obey the commandments but to "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow Me."  Intimacy with Jesus, deep relationship with Him, is what every human heart longs for.  He is "the secret" to fulfillment - the secret He sent the Church in to the world to proclaim.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, Kapler.  What do you mean you've experienced it?"  I've been on this earth for 39 years, and in that time there have been certain moments when I knew He was "touching" me - giving me a taste of this infinite love He bears for each of us.  It has come when reading Scripture, praying with others, praying "alone" in my room, while singing along to the radio, while sitting in the Lord's presence after Communion, and even in a sudden "flash" at the kitchen table.  Jesus, the experience of being loved by Jesus, has shaped my entire life.  His teachings feed the craving we have for truth, for reason and stability.  

Now, I still sin; I still make embarrassingly stupid choices at times - but I have never been able to get that far away because I know He is the only One Who can truly "fill" my heart.  He is my happiness.  He is my fulfillment.  He is that for all of us.  We are His creations, and we were made for union with Him.  St. Augustine's prayer said it best, "you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."

These fleeting touches we experience are gifts.  They make us yearn for the life that is to come, this life already unfolding in our souls through the Sacraments and prayer.  I have never found anything else that can substitute for it - money, laughter, the praise of others, physical intimacy, even being a father to the two most amazing people I've ever met.  Viewed as gifts from God, all of these are wonderful; but apart from Him they'll never bring the fulfillment we seek.  

Only Heaven is enough.
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (Phil.3:12)  

A Worrier's Guide to the Bible - Book Review

I have looked forward to reading this book since I first caught wind of it several months ago on Facebook.  Gary's Following The Truth website, articles, and radio visits are fantastic, so I had the bar set pretty high for his first book; and I have to tell you, Gary sailed over it.  A Worrier's Guide to the Bible: 50 Verses to Ease Anxieties is on my Christmas list for quite a few people.

It's a subject that is always relevant but at this moment in history, when our Church, country, and world seem deluged by difficulties, Gary brings the message of Scripture to us in a fresh, honest, energizing wayAs the subtitle of the book says, Gary unpacks 50 Bible verses that, if interiorized, will free us from worry and anxietyThis isn't pop psychology but an opportunity to ground ourselves in God's truth, the really Real.  "These are [the Lord's] words and they mean something. Like a parent who responds to a child’s 'why?' with, 'Because I said so,' the Lord is telling us not to worry about these things. And looking at this realistically, doesn’t it make sense that the Lord knows best? ... let’s look at why Jesus’ advice is solid and how it can be followed." 

And Gary does exactly that, illuminating each of the 50 verses with unflinchingly honest stories from his and his family's lives.  Having read Gary's blog for some time, I can tell you that he is no stranger to trials.  "Hard-wired for worry," Gary has been learning about God's desire to calm our fears and carry us through for decades.  He has grouped the 50 verses that have spoken most deeply to him into seven areasConfusion, Despair, Doubt, Fear, Persecution, Sickness, Trials &Tribulations.  What a great way for readers to find what they need in the heat of the moment!

I was impressed by the pattern Gary chose for the book.  First, he quotes one of the 50 verses.  Next, he digs into it, explaining its original context and how it has been understood by the saints down through the centuries.  Then he shows how God used this truth to help set him free from anxiety.  And finally, and most importantly, he puts the reader directly into contact with God, leading them in prayer that the Lord seal this truth in their hearts.  That's lectio divina, an ancient form of prayer - read Scripture, meditate deeply on its message, and speak to the Lord in response, so as to achieve a transforming union with Him (contemplation)!

Let me finish by saying that Gary Zimak is a gifted writer.  He is able to weave profound ideas into stories that anyone can relate to - comforting, encouraging, and challenging us as he goes.  I believe that A Worrier's Guide to the Bible is destined to do a lot of good.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Annulment - Answers to a Couple of Miscellaneous Questions

Answers to a couple of questions that came up in connection with my last post:

"Does an annulment say that my first marriage never existed?"  No, a marriage took place - a civil marriage - but not the Sacrament of Marriage. 

"Does an annulment mean that my children are illegitimate?"  Absolutely not.  Again, your children sprang from your marital union; but it wasn't a sacramental, supernatural, marital union.  Even though the marriage ended in divorce, children demonstrate God's power to bring eternal blessings out of our imperfect choices.  He used that imperfect marriage to bring forth new human beings to enrich the world and know and love Him for eternity!

"But didn't Jesus say that people could divorce if one of them had committed adultery?"
Great question.  Let me copy and paste from The God Who is Love to answer this one.

There are Christian churches that allow divorce and remarriage, citing the parallel passage in Matthew :

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?…Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”

[Jesus] said to them “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery”

The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” But he said to them, “Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it has been given…for there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it” (Matt.19:3,7-12).

Doesn’t this passage offer an exception to what seemed like the absolute prohibition on divorce in Mark’s Gospel?  Wouldn’t an act of adultery, unchastity in this passage, break the marriage bond? I maintain that it does not – not when analyzed linguistically and contextually. 

The term translated here as “unchastity” is porneia in Greek. At the time of Jesus one usage of the term was in reference to incestuous marriages. While such unions did not occur in Judaism (Leviticus 18:18-29), they did in the surrounding Gentile cultures – the very cultures that the Christian Church was expanding into when Mark and Matthew wrote. With these people’s acceptance of the Gospel would have come the recognition that their “marriages” were not valid before God. Matthew’s “exception” needs to be taken in context too; look at the conclusion the disciples drew from Jesus’ words, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” The bond between husband and wife is so unalterable, and marriage therefore requires so much work, that the disciples concluded it was better to just never take the plunge! Jesus reminded them however that it is only by God’s grace, that a husband and wife can live out the marriage covenant. Now what sense would that exchange between the disciples and Jesus make if the marriage could be voided simply by one of the spouses cheating? It wouldn’t.  No, Jesus’ prohibition of divorce and remarriage, recorded in Mark, was an absolute prohibition and our English translations of Matthew faulty.

“Porneia” and this issue of the invalidity of certain marriages does bring up another topic however, what the Catholic Church calls an annulment – the recognition that the Sacrament of Marriage never took place. Taking its cue from Jesus, the Church distinguishes between sacramental and legal marriages. Two Christians could profess vows to one another, but if one of them interiorly had no intention of remaining faithful or of being open to children, then God did not unite the two  If one of the spouses were emotionally or physically coerced into marriage the same would be true. Without an investigation into the particulars, the Catholic Church operates under the assumption that a marriage between baptized Christians, Catholic or not, is sacramental. Before someone could “remarry” in the Catholic Church he/she would have to go through a process of showing why the first marriage was not a sacrament. The Church would then issue an annulment, a statement that the first marriage may have been binding legally, but not sacramentally.

"What's the Deal with Annulments?"

Photo by Alan Light, 9/14/97
Nope, not a Seinfeld routine - but it sounds like one doesn't it?

Seriously though, what is the deal?  Why does the Church insist that Catholics go through the annulment process prior to remarriage?   A lot of people out there who sincerely love God are confused about it.  In the hope that one of them might stumble upon this post, I wanted to open up a bit about my own life and the wisdom I've come to see in the Church's practice:

I experienced an unwanted "no fault" divorce.  I never foresaw it; divorce didn't exist in my mental universe.  On the day my wife and I exchanged vows, I understood it to mean that no matter what the future held, God had forged a bond between us that nothing but death could sever.  We didn't just get married; we received the SACRAMENT of Marriage.  As two baptized Christians we vowed our love to one another and Christ effected a lifelong union between us, a manifestation of His union with the Church.  No change of feelings on our part or decree from a civil court can undo the action of Jesus Christ - that's the Sacrament of Marriage.

But we live in a culture that no longer recognizes marriage as a sacrament.  Heck, it's not even looked upon as a contract.  (Tell me what other legal-binding agreement we enter into that one of the parties can decide - for any reason - they will no longer be bound to, and the court says it's perfectly fine.)  When a contract is broken, one side pays damages, and you both go your separate ways.  But in the Sacrament of Marriage, the marriage bond continues to exists "until death do us part."  State courts may issue decrees of divorce every hour on the hour, but they are impotent to dissolve the sacramental bond, a spiritual reality.

A Christian may receive a decree of divorce, but in Jesus' eyes, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery” (Mk.10:11-12). Adultery - that's a sin that, if not repented of, will separate us from God for eternity (hell).  Any Christian who has been sacramentally married cannot remarry so long as their spouse is alive; to do so would be to turn their back on the God Who brought the marriage bond into existence.

"So what, are they supposed to remain single for the rest of their lives?"  Well yes, if they are sacramentally married, then it is the only thing a child of God can do.  Jesus' commitment to us, His Church (Bride), does not cease when we sin; and our commitment to our husband or wife does not cease with a state-issued decree of divorce.  That decree is meaningless in the eyes of God.  Our life on this earth might seem long, but it is actually oh so short, and eternity is ... well, eternity.  To bear the Cross of Christ for a short time now, to live His love for the members of His Church (our distant spouses) for the next few decades is as nothing compared to the fulfillment we are going to experience for all eternity!  That's our Faith; that's what we signed on for in Baptism, Confirmation, and every time we said "amen," before receiving Him in Communion.  It's what we committed to on the day we celebrated the Sacrament of Marriage. 

So what is an annulmentEverything I have written up until this point has pertained to the Sacrament of Marriage.  But what if the Sacrament of Marriage didn't actually take place?  What if the liturgy was celebrated but there was some defect present that kept one or both of the parties from giving their vows freely?  There are a number of factors that, if present, could have invalidated the sacrament.  

When you find yourself in a position like mine you think, "I sure thought of myself as sacramentally married.  Yet, here I am divorced, so there was clearly something wrong.  Did that happen over time, or could it have been there from the beginning?  If it was there from the beginning, was it something so serious that it would have prevented the sacrament from taking place?"  

These are huge questions and not the sort of things we should wade into on our own.  From a practical standpoint, how many of us are experts on the intricacies of what makes for a valid or invalid celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage?  But then there's the emotional aspects as well.  How many of us can look at the past and evaluate it impartially, objectively?  If we are hoping that our marriage is invalid, what are the odds that, left to ourselves, we will arrive at that conclusion?  I'd say it's somewhere around 99%.  Lets not kid ourselves; when we reflect on our lives we find plenty of examples of times we've justified some course of behavior ... only to admit later that it was just that, a justification for what we had wanted to do from the beginning!  As members of Christ's Church on earth, we have the annulment process as a safeguard against that.

It begins by meeting with a priest for a preliminary discussion to see if there are any grounds for beginning a "petition for a declaration of nullity."  I have done that, and I've got to tell you - what the priest saw as grounds for a petition and what I had imagined were two completely different things.  I told him from the beginning that my goal was to discover who I was in God's eyes - a sacramentally married man with two wonderful children, or a single man with two wonderful children?  I am committed to living however God wishes.

Right now I am answering a number of essay questions - questions about my family life growing up, my spouse's, our dating relationship, engagement, preparation for marriage, various aspects of our life as man and wife, and the end of the marriage.  It's not easy; you think about a lot of things, tough things, you put out of your mind twenty or thirty years ago.  I was never unfaithful to my wedding vows, but I look back and see more instances of immaturity and selfishness than I'd ever care to admit.  I'm putting it all out there on the table though, putting it before Christ and these loving shepherds and brothers and sisters He's provided to help me know His will and go forward.

When I have everything down on paper the priest I am working with will submit it to a "tribunal," a three-person panel, here in my archdiocese.  They will look at the case from every side, even contact witnesses that I have identified as knowing my wife and I before and after our wedding day.  When they reach a decision as to whether the Sacrament of Marriage was celebrated validly or invalidly they will forward their recommendation to Rome.  Mother Church will review their recommendation and contact me with their final conclusion - an objective decision that I can put my trust in.  If they conclude that I validly received the Sacrament of Marriage, then I will live Jesus' love for my wife ... at a distance.  If they conclude that the Sacrament of Marriage was not administered then I will ask the Lord to show me what He desires for my future and if the Sacrament of Marriage might be part of it.

It wouldn't be wise for me to begin dating anyone before the Church finishes her investigation.  If I am a married man, then God doesn't want me giving my heart to another.  The Church recognizes every marriage as valid, even those among non-Catholic Christians, until proven otherwise.  It's impossible to be sacramentally married to more than one person at the same time, so I am not free to pursue a relationship. I don't feel diminished by that in the least.  The Holy Trinity lives inside of me, and I receive Jesus in the Eucharist!  I have all of the saints and angels as siblings, and I'm surrounding by a loving family here on earth - most importantly by my two kids!  And then there's all the awesome friends!  If I am free to pursue marriage someday in the future then I don't want to do so in a quest to fill a need within me, but because I am bursting with a love that needs to be given away, day after day, to a special someone.

Anyway, these are the thoughts I wanted to share this evening about the Sacrament of Marriage and annulment.  If you are a Catholic who has been divorced, I want you to know that I feel your pain.  And if you have found someone that you want to give your heart to, I just want you to proceed very, very cautiously.  Without going through the annulment process, you may very well still be married - not in the eyes of the State, but of God; and His are the ones that matter.  You owe it to yourself - and this new person you have feelings for - to find out for sure.  Seek the Church's guidance.  Jesus told her shepherds, "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Mt.18:18); so if Rome grants your petition for nullity you can proceed with a clear conscience, and celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage within the Church.  Otherwise, if you decide to "remarry" you will have to go outside of the Church to do so.  It will not be a Sacrament.  And if you are still sacramentally married to your first spouse, both you and your new spouse would be living in an adulterous affair.  If you truly love this new person, then you can't put his or her soul in danger.  (You can also understand why it would be inappropriate, if remarried, to receive Jesus in Communion.)   
Go through the annulment process - discover where you stand.  You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.  If God is at the center of your new relationship, and the person you are considering marrying sincerely wants what is best for the two of you, then he or she will wait.  And if not ... as hard as it may be to hear, it wasn't the relationship God wanted for you.  If you love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength and commit yourself to living His will, you know He won't leave you brokenhearted; He will complete you in ways you can barely fathom.  That is our Faith.
A couple of common questions that come up with annulments are answered in a related post.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Theology of the BODY?

The Book of Revelation ends with the “wedding feast of the Lamb,” the consummation of Jesus’ courtship of the Church. Like Jesus, many of us experience God’s call to share our lives with a spouse. The Catholic Church recognizes the love of a Christian husband and wife as a unique participation in Jesus’ spousal love for the Church:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her…no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,and the two shall become one” [Gen.2:24].
John William Godward,via Wikimedia Commons
This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:25-26, 29-32).
A great mystery – a great sacrament in Latin. Because of Jesus’ redemptive power, the marriage of Christians is supernatural. Through their vows to love one another till death do them part, they become sacrament – a material conduit of Jesus’ union with the Father and the Church. Let me say it again, because of a Christian husband’s fusion to Jesus, he becomes the Lord’s unique, chosen instrument for expressing the Lord’s sacrificial love to his wife. The wife, in turn, becomes a conduit of Jesus’ love for her husband. They share in His “passion” in the truest sense of the word: through one, Jesus pours Himself out to the other and for the other, unconditionally. The struggles they inevitably face become their participation in the “passion” of Jesus’ suffering and death.

The transformation of marriage into sacrament is at the center of Jesus’ work of redemption. Remember what we saw in our discussion of humanity’s creation in the image of the Trinity? The love between a husband and wife is meant to be a sharing of all they are. It is so real, so completely imbued with life, that it becomes its own person – a son or daughter. The human family is a reflection of the God Who is Love, the Three in One! It is written into our very bodies; man and woman were made for union. 

This view, expounded in great depth by Pope John Paul II, has come to be known as the Theology of the Body. It calls us to recognize the implications of Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection for married life, placing sexual expression within the context of living as images of God. Sex is meant to be an icon of both the Love between the Father and the Son, and a participation in Jesus’ Love for the Church. In the sexual act a man and woman say to each other, through their bodies,“I am making a complete gift of myself – my body, fertility, mind, and heart – to you, until death parts us.” This type of married love is only possible if it is animated by the Spirit, the very Love of God.        

As we look at the world around us, perhaps even within us, we see how God’s plan for married love has been hi-jacked. Our culture has become obsessed with sex but terrified of commitment. We have allowed Satan to twist our vision of sexuality. Sex without the marriage bond, sex in which our God-given, God-imaging fertility is eliminated, is a bodily lie.

Historically Christianity has focused so much on the lie, the perversion, that it neglected to teach the infinitely more powerful, beautiful Truth that sex is the husband and wife’s way of imaging the Trinity. It is only when we have comprehended the magnificence of the original that we can recognize the counterfeits. The Truth is where the Church needs to begin her proclamation, in chastity and the Theology of the Body. With that in place, the flaws in the counterfeits of non-marital sex, contraceptive sex, cohabitation, divorce, and homosexual acts become glaring. Christians cannot be motivated by the desire to condemn, but to bring others to the full experience of God’s Life-giving Love.