News outlets are still discussing the HHS mandate. I just read an interesting piece on www.lifesitenews.com on how Planned Parenthood used a carefully planned media strategy combined with social networks to completely overwhelm the Susan Komen foundation.
Given the news cycle I thought it might be helpful to discuss sacrificial love and the cross as being the heart of every marriage. At a mass of thanksgiving in Rome following the ordination of a class of deacons I happened to be concelebrating mass with the newly ordained. In very graphic detail on the walls of the church was depicted the martyrdom of the apostles. One of the concelebrating priests jokingly noted, "this is the chapel with the most weddings in Rome and hear we have the martyrdom of the Apostles!" It was a strange irony, I thought to myself, but then I realized, marriage really indeed is martyrdom, martyrdom in the sense of death to self. In his catechesis on Theology of the Body Pope John Paul II boldly proclaims that man's fundamental existence is "Gift." We are to model in our life the mutual self emptying, self giving love of the Trinity. Original Sin turned that upside down and now it is only through the cross that we can get back to the original intent of God for us before the fall. The following excerpt is from Christopher West's book Theology of the Body for Beginners: "John Paul says it was nakedness that revealed God's holiness in the visible world. God's holiness is his eternal mystery of self-giving love-the 'exhange of love' between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Human holiness, in turn, is what 'enables man to express himself deeply with his own body....precisely by means of the 'sincere gift' of himself (Feb 20, 1980)....Here the Pope draws from another favorite passage from Vatican II: 'Man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself.'"
This sincere giving of oneself begins in the battleground of the heart. Listen to these great words from Pope John Paul in a General Audience of July 23, 1980: "The heart has become a battlefield between love and lust. The more lust dominates the heart, the less the heart experiences the nuptial meaning of the body. It becomes less sensitive to the gift of the person, which expresses that meaning in the mutual relations of man and woman. Certainly, that lust which Christ speaks of in Matthew 5:27-28 appears in many forms in the human heart. It is not always plain and obvious. Sometimes it is concealed, so that it passes itself off as love, although it changes its true profile and dims the limpidity of the gift in the mutual relationship of persons. Does this mean that it is our duty to distrust the human heart? No! It only means that we must keep it under control." To keep the heart under control we need education in chastity-something greatly missing in our pornographic culture. A young Karol Wojtyla, before he became Pope, wrote an epic work on human sexuality titled Love and Responsibility. On page 167 he has an amazing quote: "People are unwilling to ackowledge the enormous value ot chastity to human love because they reject the full objective truth about the love of man and woman." Wow! To avoid the pitfalls that Humanae Vitae outlines and for a couple to live fully Natural Family Planning there has to be education in chastity. This inevitably involves the cross-sacrifice, but as a result it opens up communication and leads to a much deeper love. Is this ever discussed in marriage preparation programs? I don't think so. The contraceptive culture does everything to promote Sex for Sex's sake. The church has a better answer. It says if you return to the true meaning of sex through sacrificial love not only will your love increase but actually the sexual pleasure will as well. Dawn Eden outlines this thesis in her book The Thrill of the chaste. She shares openly her personal conversion to Christianity from Judaism and her conversion from a life of one-night stands to a hard earned life of chastity.
We all have to carry the cross. If couples embrace the cross and live sacrificial love in Natural Family Planning they will find the grace is there to sustain them. Where is this grace? The sacraments of the church-particularly eucharist and marriage-the sacraments God intended each of us to depend upon. Not our own strength.
Isn't this great news!