John Paul II’s New Vision of Human Sexuality, Marriage and Family Life(3)
Marriage and Family Life (Theology of the Family)
C. Marriage and Family Life (Theology of the Family)
"God created man in his own image and likeness: calling him to existence through love, he called him at the same time for love. God is love and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in his own image and continually keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. As an incarnate spirit, . . . . man is called to love in his unified totality. Love includes the human body, and the body is made a sharer in spiritual love. . . . Consequently, sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death." (See John Paul II, The Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, Familiaris Consortio, no. 11, and Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2361.)
The readers will notice that portions of the same quote from The Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, Familiaris Consortio, are used both for the theology of the body and for the theology of the family. Of course, they have the same starting position: our creation in the image and likeness of God and they both pertain to human persons created as masculine and feminine. They are also interdependent in the sense that the proper understanding of the theology of the body is essential to an understanding of the theology of the family. Nevertheless, these are two distinct points of view with the theology of the body emphasizing man's dignity, especially in regard to the body, and the theology of the family emphasizing the noble and almost unbelievable vocation of man and woman to enter into a familial communion in imitation of the Blessed Trinity. In the nuptial blessing of the wedding liturgy, the Church recognizes the extraordinary gift of marriage as the "one blessing that was not forfeited by original sin or washed away in the flood." (See The Roman Missal: The Sacramentary, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on April 3, 1969, translated by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, [New York: Catholic Book Publishing, 1985], p. 843.)
As images of God, married couples are to "be fruitful and multiply." (See Gen. 1:28.) Created in God's image and likeness, we are called to act as God acts. In other words, we are called to love as God loves. But before we can love as God loves, we need to know how He loves. Christ shows us how God loves because Christ is God and He came to reveal how God loves.
The sacrifice of Christ on the cross is the clearest and most dramatic revelation of God's love. It is clear from the account of the Agony in the Garden that Christ freely chose to die on the cross for us. It was His own choice. He sweat blood over this choice. (Some argue that He had to die because the Father willed it. However, it was Christ's own choice to do the Father's will. "I always do what is pleasing to Him." [See John 8:29.] Christ's prayer, "Not my will but yours be done," [See Luke 22:42] was not forced upon Him. He was not "made" to unite His will with the Father's. It was His own free choice.) Christ's choice to die on the cross was an informed decision. He knew that His death would mean our salvation. He made His choice based on that knowledge. Further, Christ's sacrifice was a self-gift. He gave Himself on the cross to the Father for us. How could He have given more? Christ's gift of Himself is permanent. He always remains the Lamb of God and the effect of His sacrifice extends to eternity. Finally, His sacrifice on the cross is life-giving. Through this act of salvation, we are able to share the very life of God: grace. There are five characteristics of God's love as revealed in Christ's sacrifice. They are: (1) a choice (2) based on knowledge. This choice is (3) a self-gift and this self-gift is (4) permanent and (5)life-giving.
If we are to love as God loves, our love must have the five characteristics of divine love. Our love must be a choice based on knowledge. This choice must be a decision to give oneself. The gift of self must be permanent and life-giving.
Since we are created to imitate God by loving as He loves, when we love and are loved in return it makes us very, very happy. As one married person once remarked, it is absolutely amazing how wonderful I feel when I am with the one I love. How can another person make me so happy? To love as God loves gives us great happiness, but it is also a testimony to the Trinity. When we imitate God and love as He loves, we show the world not just how we love, but how God loves. A married couple who loves as God loves becomes an outward sign of the love of the Blessed Trinity. As a preface of the wedding liturgy testifies, the "outpouring of love in the new covenant of grace is symbolized in the marriage covenant that seals the love of husband and wife and reflects your divine plan of love." The same sentiment is found in another preface of the wedding liturgy, "The love of man and woman . . . becomes the mirror of your everlasting love." (See The Roman Missal: The Sacramentary, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on April 3, 1969, translated by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, [New York: Catholic Book Publishing, 1985], prefaces for Marriage, nos. II, and III, pp. 519, 521.) When couples enter into marriage and strive to love in this way, they form a communion of persons, a union of themselves. This communion mirrors and reflects the communion of the Trinity. No other human union is as intimate a reflection of the Trinity as the bond of a man and a woman in marriage.
Excluding the supernatural relationship with God through grace, the most intimate and intense human relationship of love is marriage: the partnership of life and love. (See the Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes no. 48.) Even though other human relationships of love are expressed in and through the human body, the union of husband and wife in marriage is of a totally different order because marriage depends on the body in a way that no other human relationship does! The act of married love is the defining characteristic of marriage. So, in marriage, the union of two people in the physical act of married love is their love in a way that no other bodily expression of love can be.