This is the second of a two-part series on how Saint Pope John Paul II’s the Theology of the Body can be used to help young, confused Catholics to understand the true nature of marriage. Part I is here.
True love is demanding. The source of the beauty of this love is its demanding nature. That is why true love builds up the true good of man and allows it to radiate to others. Saint Paul gives us the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
We first learn about love through our parents. Love involves giving ourselves to another. Love helps us grow and mature as persons. True love builds up the good of persons and communities. A good healthy, loving family will have an effect not only on the family members, but the whole community. It is difficult for a person to love who has never experienced love.
Perhaps this is why there is so much confusion about marriage today. So many people have been raised in broken homes. Divorce rates have skyrocketed since the advent of contraception and the “sexual revolution” in the 1960s. But young people are not condemned to repeat the mistakes of their parents. Instead of forsaking marriage for fear of divorce, we need to look back again for God’s original plan for love, sex, marriage and family life that is written on the heart of every man and woman.
True love in marriage as designed by God must be:
- Complementary – between a male and female
- Exclusive and faithful – no other sexual partners, not even by mutual consent
- Enduring – lasting until death
- Total – without holding anything back from the other
- Open to the transmission of new life
God created us male and female with the intention that man would form families which also reflect the image of God as a Trinity of persons. In the Trinity, the Father makes a gift of himself to the Son. The Son gives a gift of himself to the Father. The Holy Spirit is the personification of the Father and the Son.
In the family, the husband is called to make a total gift of himself to the wife. The wife is called to make a total gift of herself to the husband. The children are intended to be a personification of love between a husband and a wife.
Homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law. God designed the human body so that male and female would be complementary and capable of transmitting life. Homosexual acts are not complementary and incapable of transmitting life.
By opposing the redefinition of marriage to accommodate same-sex couples we are not, as we are often falsely accused, “standing in the way of love.” It’s precisely the opposite. By defending authentic marriage we are defending true love.
Proclaiming this truth and opposing any change to the definition of marriage should not be interpreted as opposing the persons who have a homosexual orientation. Christian charity obligates us to respect even those who vehemently disagree with us. The Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes says:
Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions. (10) God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.
The truth is often challenging, but it is the truth that sets us free. The teaching of the Church, especially as it is so beautifully put by Saint John Paul II in the Theology of the Body, is not simply a set of man-made prohibitions; it is based on the recognition and promotion of the gifts God has given to us: life, knowledge, freedom and love. Society prohibits racism because it is contrary to human dignity, just so any prohibitions in Church teaching are oriented to protecting real human goods. Behind every “no” regarding sex, there shines a great “yes” to the recognition of the sacred nature of human sexuality as an expression of true love.