Homily on Spousal Love
First Given at St. James the Greater, Concord, NC, 14 July 05
by Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB
I am very happy to be here.
This is going to be a soul-searching homily. It will give you much to think about, to reflect upon, and with God’s grace to act upon.
I’m going to talk about God’s beautiful plan for spousal love, for marriage and family. For all important things in life, God has a plan, a design. He wants us to know that plan, and then to freely choose to accept it, and to live it. In this way, we will find happiness.
So, what is God’s plan for marriage and spousal love? Go back to the beginning, to chapter 2 of the book of Genesis:
“The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: ‘This one, at last, is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Gen 2:22-4).
Marriage, as God designed it, is between one man and one woman. It is a lifetime commitment, and requires total devotion and fidelity. Spousal love, as God designed it, is making the total gift of a husband, of himself, to this wife. She accepts that gift, and then, in turn, she makes the total gift of herself to him. And he accepts her self-donation. It is a total gift, an unconditional gift, with no reservations. A couple grows in their love for each other over the years. They form a communion of persons, sharing their lives, their love, their life-giving powers and their destiny.
Simply put, God’s plan for spousal love is total abstinence before marriage, and total fidelity in marriage, and always reverencing life.
Today we have drifted, and deviated, a long way from this plan, and we need to find our way back to the truth of real love. Look at the divorce rate today: 40% and then some. That is not God’s plan for marriage. Nationwide, one out of every four unborn children is aborted. That is not God’s plan for human life. There is massive use of contraception and sterilization. This goes contrary to God’s plan for spousal love. Now we find a widespread reluctance on the part of young people to get married. Cohabitation and single sex unions are not God’s plan for human sexuality. We need to find our way back to living God’s wonderful plan for life, love, marriage and family.
God gives us lots of help through His Church. The Church gives us good teaching about morality, so that we can know what is right and good. The Church gives us the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation, so that we have the strength to acquire self-mastery and self-control. Through the Church, God gives us the sacrament of Marriage so that we can live the requirements of total fidelity and remain open to the goodness of our fertility. And the Church teaches us Natural Family Planning, so that we can exercise responsible parenthood using morally good means.
NFP teaches us how to value and understand our fertility. But it teaches us much more. Couples teach other couples. They learn more about what all goes into “making the total gift of self.” They learn that love is more than instant gratification; sometimes it demands patience, giving priority to the needs of the other, and even a willingness to suffer for the well-being of another.
A person caught up in the contraceptive mentality has a lot to learn about real love, about God’s plan for spousal love. NFP is exactly what our times need. It is much more than a method. It is spirituality, a way of living. It builds good marriages, loving spouses, and healthy-happy families.
[That is why there will be a three-hour conference this afternoon on “God’s Plan for Spousal Love,” beginning at ___________ in the __________________. And for those who can’t make the conference, there will be a shorter presentation immediately after this Mass at the __________________ by Dr. _______________ and ____________________________________. I cordially invite you all to come to these events.]
Today there are some attitudes among Catholics that need to be challenged.
1) Some people think that contraception and sterilization do not affect their marriage. But just look at the divorce rate today. It climbs steadily with the spread of contraception. Many wives feel they are being used. They feel like objects, instead of persons. Many couples complain about a lack of communications. But this lack of communication begins in the bedroom.
2) Another contemporary attitude that needs to be challenged is that children are a by-product of marriage. They come when we want them, at the time we want them. This attitude implies that we can turn our fertility on and off. Children become a commodity, instead of being our peers, equal to us in their value and worth. You sometimes hear the attitude: “We are entitled to a perfect child.” If the sonogram reveals a defect, then abort. Or you hear the statement, “We can’t afford more than two, and day care.” This is something like having a “hobby- family.” Have you heard this before? “We must space them five years apart, because we can’t have two in college at the same time.” All these attitudes imply that we can turn our fertility on and off. But God’s plan for our fertility is that it is always a good, always a gift. And we are to treasure it as such.
3) Another attitude that need to be challenged is that contraception is a great technological breakthrough for our times. It eliminates the need for self-control. But real manhood doesn’t rely upon pills to substitute for self-mastery. Every young person must acquire self-mastery and chastity. The Catechism teaches us “Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and find peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy” (Sir 1:22) (CCC #2339). Without self-mastery we can only have “safe sex,” since we can‘t have good sex. What does the term “unprotected sex” tell you about contraception? Protect yourself from what? From your spouse? From love? From the gift of fertility? If a husband uses the argument “I can’t control myself,” then what happens on a business trip, or when his wife is sick?
Brothers and sisters, we all must make a leap of faith. Trust in God, not the Pill. The Pill attempts to avoid real challenges; it lures us into thinking that there is no need for making sacrifices. But God wants more from us. He wants more than our money. He wants persons who will live forever. You might have to change your life, but God will help you. He will show you the way. And he will give you the strength. When we stop trusting in God, then we rely just upon ourselves.
Think about our God who created us, and the entire universe, for one reason: because He loves us. Think of our God who created us as male and female, with the gift of fertility, so that we could learn how to love. Think of Jesus, the perfect husband, who so loved his bride, the Church, that He was willing to lay down his life for her on the cross. Think of Jesus when he tells us: “Come to me all you who are burdened and weary. Take up my cross and come follow me, and I will give you rest. For my burden is light and my yoke is sweet. Think of the Holy Sprit who is “the Lord and Giver of all Life.” The Holy Spirit makes you and me become temples of the Holy Spirit.
My brothers and sisters, reflect upon God’s wonderful plan for us: for marriage, for spousal love, for children and the family. God wants what is best for us. But we must be willing to accept his magnificent plan for us, be willing to trust in God’s grace in our lives to help us live His plan, and be willing to always remain in His love by keeping His commandments.