Showing posts with label Theology of the Body. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Theology of the Body. Show all posts

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sacrament of Reconciliation

Note from Steve Smith: This is part 3 of a series of three talks given by Carla Neupauer. Carla has most graciously offered these to Faith of the Fathers blogs for our readers.
Sacrament of Reconciliation
By Carla Neupauer

I want to start off by first stating that we are all sinners and that there is “Good News” in being a sinner. Why? Because we are the people that God came to earth to save. My personal prayer is that you soften your hearts enough tonight to realize the TRUTH that God did not come to earth in the form of Jesus to condemn us but rather to seek us out and save us. As St. Paul States:

“Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners- and I was the greatest of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as an example to show everyone how patient he is with even the worst sinners, so that others will realize that they, too, can have everlasting life.”

Based on this scripture, a favorite quote of mine is- “every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” We must realize and admit that we are all sinners. It wasn’t long ago when I lived very a sinful life. I’d try to justify my behavior by rationalizing- God has got to understand today’s world, times have changed, everybody sinning, God can’t possibly send us all to hell. However, if you read the bible, the truth is today’s world is no different from biblical times. The world has always festered with sin and this is exactly why we need our savior, JESUS.

Our modern day society is very successful in desensitizing us against sin and dangerously leads us to believe that we can determine for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. This thinking is dead wrong. Only God possesses the divine authority to determine what is right and good and what is wrong and bad. Our “FREE WILL” only allows us to choose between doing right or doing wrong- we don’t in any way determine it. So yes, we can all choose to go to hell by our own choices. But know this, God doesn’t send anyone to hell- we freely choose to go there ourselves.

I personally know that when living a life of sin against God you are not whole and complete. You are empty, restless and life seems totally meaningless. After I surrendered my life to Christ one of my saddest realizations was that a lot of people on this earth die before they ever truly live. I know for a fact that new a car or a bigger house will never complete you. In St. Augustine’s words “our hearts are always restless until they rest in You.”

I want to share with you that from the moment I met my husband, I knew he was a gift of my prayers. In college, I denied my Catholic faith and I essentially became an atheist/agnostic. When I completed college and was truly on my own I began praying again- it was out of complete emptiness and pure desperation. I truly believe my husband was an answer to my prayers because when I met my husband, one of the first, most beautiful things he did for me was he brought me back to the Church. And he brought me back on a regular basis- as opposed to when it was just convenient for me to attend.

Within two short years of when my husband and I first met, we were married. God has blessed us with a wonderfully strong marriage, not always an easy marriage but a strong marriage. I wholeheartedly believe that our marriage is blessed because before we sought the sacrament of marriage, we both first sought the sacrament of reconciliation. I now understand that at the moment we decided to first seek the sacrament of reconciliation prior to the sacrament of marriage we were both consciously seeking to place God at the center of our marriage. Subconsciously, Jim and I knew we both had barriers or walls of sin in our life that would prevent us from fully receiving all of God’s love and blessings in the sacrament of our marriage.

For me, just the thought of going to confession after living a life of sin for so many years gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. However, I wanted nothing more than God’s entire blessing on my marriage to Jim so I died to pride and that dreaded feeling inside of me and surrendered my life to God. I actually physically shook and cried inside the confessional as I confessed all my past failings. Then, when I finally finished, the priest simply and lovingly replied, “Welcome Home”. That was a truly pivotal moment in what I now recognize as my long and continual spiritual journey in faith. All I thought is that God truly loves me and wants me here despite the fact that I am a sinner. So in the confessional, which at that time, was the weakest and scariest moment of my life God began to make Himself known to me. God is unconditional love- God is good, kind, and extremely merciful to a sorrowful, humble heart. God hates sin BUT He loves the sinner.

It was many years and many struggles later that I realized that it is in the solitude of the confessional when I most live by the way (or power) of the cross. It is in the confessional that I become soulfully naked and surrender my sinful life to God. He then gifts me with new life (His Grace). It is through God’s grace that the possibilities for life become endless and exciting. Philippians 4:13 reads “I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.” Realize the sacraments are living. God is actually present in the sacrament of reconciliation through His grace (the power of the Holy Spirit). God loves humility so when I completely reveal my weaknesses and failings to God in the sacrament of reconciliation, God gifts me with His grace and through His grace HE inwardly strengthens me against future sin and temptation. The Holy Spirit fills me with love, joy, peace, true happiness and a feeling of being content no matter what my life circumstances may be. Ultimately, in the confessional, I am slowly being set free from the bondage of sin because in my deepening love for God I loose desire to sin.

And, let me tell you, the world’s definition of “love” is not enough to maintain a marriage. To have a strong marriage there must be three people involved- you, your spouse and God. You and your spouse’s relationship with God will have a direct and powerful effect on the strength of your marriage. Including God at the deep center of your marriage will keep your relationship alive, strong, and exciting. But, it is up to you both to actively pursue God through the beautiful life-giving sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation. If you do not seek and pursue God, you cannot receive the grace and healing God has to offer you. To quote Luke 11:10-13, “For those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks.” If you had not actively pursued your fiancé seated next to you, do you think you would have fallen in love? God is always waiting for us to pursue a relationship with Him so we may totally and completely fall in love with Him. If you allow God, He will transform you inwardly by a complete change of mind and heart.

God has the gift of a new life waiting for all of us who choose it. However, contrary to modern society, the new life involves a lot less of me and a lot more of the other person. We live in an I, me, and my society. What’s he/she doing for me? I need more time for myself, I need to spend more time with my friends, I need to go to the gym again, I need more affection and attention- it’s endless. This is a deadly pattern of thought. Because of our original sin, we tend to think too highly of ourselves and think we always deserve something more from others- particularly our spouse. Your spouse is not your savior and through original sin we are all born very selfish and unwilling to sacrifice. Only through the grace of God can we turn our inner selfishness into the mind and heart of Christ. Christ’s love is a TRUE love that desires to give rather than receive. Jesus fully portrays this true love for us at the cross- this is my life and body given up for you. It wasn’t until just recently that I realized we aren’t just called to recall the very important scripture of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection; we are called to relive this Scripture on a daily basis. To quote Luke 9: 23-24, “If you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, take up your cross every day, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it.” 
The sacrament of confession unveils us and humbles us before God. Confession removes barriers of sin so that the love from the Father can be completely received by us and then we in turn are strengthened to return that beautiful unconditional love back to the Father and share it with others around us, particularly our spouse. Christ conquered the death of sin at the cross- He became sin itself, died and defeated it through the resurrection. Ironically, it is through Christ, that our sin brings us to new life. The more we reveal of ourselves, the more we are forgiven- where there is much forgiveness there is much love and gratitude. Our anger dies, our bitterness dies, our resentment dies, our critical spirit dies, and our desire for revenge dies. We are now set free so that we ourselves may forgive and live a joyful, fulfilling marriage in and through the grace of Christ. (And, believe me, in marriage there will be no marriage if there is not much forgiveness.)

My prayer is that you don’t miss out on all the good gifts God has to give you to maintain a strong loving marriage. The world and society that we live in is against you and the beautiful sacrament of marriage. The traditional family of mother, father and children all living together in one house and getting along in a civilized manner is becoming extinct in today’s society. I want you to think about building your marriage on the rock of the sacraments and not the sand of society.

I know that the wedding planning and preparation for the ceremony is now very important to you. However, please realize that the ceremony will quickly come and go but your marriage is to last a lifetime. Please prepare for this very important sacrament of marriage by first partaking in the sacrament of reconciliation. Don’t foolishly only be concerned with cleaning and dressing yourself outwardly but more importantly cleanse and prepare yourself spiritually. May there be no barriers of sin between you and God on your wedding day so you and your future spouse may fully and completely receive all the love and blessings God has waiting for you.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Note from Steve Smith: This is part 2 of a series of three talks given by Carla Neupauer. Carla has most graciously offered these to Faith of the Fathers blogs for our readers.

Nobody Can Be God for Somebody Else
By Carla Neupauer
I am going to being discussing the Sacrament of Marriage and how we are to live out that sacrament according to God’s word. It may seem that I am unfairly directing most of my talk to the women and, I am, because as a woman I am very much aware of our sinful tendencies. However, the sacrificial life that I am proclaiming applies to you both- you are simply each called to die to one another in a different way.

Now, I want to begin tonight by first stating that our current culture is really hard on men. Ladies, I truly want you to realize as I speak tonight that men are not bad; they are just different. And that goes vice versa men. And, by the way, those differences that truly make you crazy are a gift; they are actually a gift from God. I know that may seem very hard to believe but right here and right now I’m going to attempt to explain how your annoying differences in marriage are actually meant to assist and help you in your our own salvation.

Unfortunately, over the years our culture has successfully stripped men of much of their God given authority in the family. Present day culture frequently portrays men as bumbling idiots. Women, on the other hand, are constantly portrayed as the heroines who know everything and can do & fix anything. This cultural attitude has resulted in much confusion, misery and unhappiness for women today. After being married for a while, the thought process for women typically goes something like this- “I can’t believe I married this idiot who has no idea how I feel or what I think…I’m not at all happy in this marriage and it’s all his fault”. “If he would just------ fill in the blank-----then I’d be happy.” I’m sure men go through a very similar process.

Additionally, our culture feeds both sexes the false message that if you just do it all right, you can have it ALL. You simply need the right career, the right neighborhood, the right friends, and the right soul mate and, Voila- complete fulfillment is achieved. This cultural notion results in nothing but a life of empty searching and continual disappointments.

With all that being said, I want to make the clear statement that nobody (not even your future husband or wife) can be God for somebody else. Therefore, tonight I am asking you to seek your Savior and your happiness in Jesus Christ and not your future spouse. I want to challenge each person here to become more introspective. I want to challenge each of you to stop focusing on what may need to change in your fiancé to make you happy- instead; I want you to redirect that focus to what needs to change in you to make you happy? Now, I’m not in anyway insinuating that your significant other does not need to change too. I’m simply stating that it is not your job to change them. One of the most detrimental false expectations in marriage is to believe that it is your spouse’s responsibility to make you happy. I know, because MY believing in this false notion caused both my husband and me much pain earlier in our marriage. Believe me, I can truly attest that this simple shift in your focus will have a phenomenal effect on your future marriage.

Now- before I move on I want to clearly address the issue that my talk does not in any way apply to an abusive relationship. If there is name calling, humiliation, isolation from family & friends, control issues, verbal threats, pushing, slapping or any other type of physical abuse, drug or alcohol abuse- this talk does not apply to your situation. Women and men should NEVER stay in an abusive relationship. If you are involved in an abusive relationship, you need to leave the relationship immediately and seek professional help.

Now, moving forward, a Dr. Paul R. Giblin points out in his article, “Stages of Growth in Marriage” that there are essentially four stages that we cycle and recycle through in marriage:

Stage One- Romance & Passion
Stage Two- Settling Down & Realization
Stage Three- Rebellion & Power Struggles
Stage Four- Discovery, Reconciliation and Beginning Again

We must see life as a movement. Life is a verb or action word. Life involves changing and adapting. Life involves marriage and marriage involves life. We need to understand and accept that our marriage will change for better or for worse from day to day, month to month and year to year. As we cycle and recycle through the various stages of marriage, our primary focus needs to be on Christ and our relationship with Him- not our spouse. So for a moment, let’s set our fiancé aside and focus for a moment on Jesus and on how he loves us. Realize:

It is Christ who loves us anyway….
Even though we disappoint Him, it is Christ, who loves us anyway,
Even though at times we ignore Him, it is Christ, who loves us anyway,
Even though we may ridicule Him and get angry with Him, it is Christ, who loves us anyway,
Even though we sin against Him daily, it is Christ who loves us anyway.

Christ’s love for us is completely independent of how we behave- we nailed Him to the Cross and it is Christ who loves us anyway. And Christ specifically tells us in John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Therefore, fulfillment and joy in marriage can only be achieved through Christ and the way of the cross. Only in death can new life be found. When we die to our selfish ways, Christ fills our empty tanks so we may properly and completely love our spouse the way Christ loves us…. Christ, He loves us anyway. At this point, I’d like to share a little of my own story with you.

For those of you who don’t already know, my husband’s name is Jim. Jim is the love of my life and father of my 3 beautiful children. Do I always Love Jim- Yes, I choose to. Do I always “feel” Love for Jim- No, sometimes I’m “feeling” anything but love but I choose to love him anyway, regardless of my “feelings” for him at that moment. Understand... true, mature love is a choice and not a feeling. Regardless of the challenges, misunderstandings, hurt feelings and disappointments that we deal with as a married couple….I choose to love Jim anyway…. and my prayer is that Jim continues to grace me with that same type of heavenly mercy and that he chooses to love me too.

Life became seriously challenging for me sometime after the birth of my third baby…my sweet, little girl, Dana. After her birth, I became clinically depressed- I was absolutely miserable and it was all Jim’s fault…not at all true but that was who I was blaming. Even today, I really don’t believe Jim can fully comprehend exactly how far gone I was. If he were honest, I believe he simply saw me as a miserable, overbearing, controlling, screaming “you know what” back then. And, it is true; I was not a gentle, loving wife or mother at the time. I needed help- help to see myself for who I truly was and help to become the person that I really wanted to be. I can only thank God and His good grace that I began to stop blaming Jim for my own unhappiness.

I remember the day I surrendered my life to Christ quite vividly….I was having quite the conversation with God while ironing that day. Truthfully, it really wasn’t a conversation; it was me really hauling off on God. See each day I had a plan and an agenda and God wasn’t fulfilling His end of the bargain by assisting me to get done all that I deemed important and necessary. God wasn’t helping me, my husband wasn’t helping me and my new baby, 2 ½ year old & my 4 year old sure weren’t helping me either. I felt so alone, empty and absolutely miserable. Did I mention we were newly relocated to the Bethlehem area and I was an at-home-mom with no girlfriends…I was truly hopeless. I don’t remember at what point in the “conversation” I submitted to God but I did. I actually said, “OK you win, at this point forward my life is yours. You are now completely in charge of me. I don’t want to be in charge anymore. I give it all to you.”…. And I fell to my knees beside that darn ironing board or what I fondly consider “my iron cross.” There were a lot of tears but there were no bells, singing angels or funny lights; however, I stood up with a renewed sense of self. I stood up with hope and I made a call for an appointment to discuss my depression with my doctor.

I died that day…I hung on my own personal cross that day and I died with Christ. And, Christ being my Lord and my Savior blessed me with new life from that day forward. I would never want to live my old life ever again. That is not to say that my new life in Christ is without struggle or hardship…I wish it was but that is not true. The difference is that Christ leads and I now follow not vice versa. Now when I enter a valley, even though His presence may not always be evident to me, I know Christ is with me and in time He will lead me out to safety. Following Christ affords a peace that this world cannot give.

Now…I found my true Savior in Christ and I was set free to love Jim for who he really was, my husband. Life began to dramatically improve not because Jim had changed (not saying he didn’t also need improvement at the time) but that fact is life became enjoyable and fun again because I had changed. I immediately began praying and petitioning the Blessed Virgin Mary to assist me in being a kind, patient, gentle, loving wife and mother. Mary, my sweet Mother, she is my inspiration and love who leads me to Christ.

Mary, in her great wisdom, gentleness, meekness and mildness never steals the show from Jesus. She never fought the crowd that she should die instead of her Son. Mary formed Jesus by directing the attention away from herself to her Son, so he could live out His destiny as our Lord and Savior. When Mary was advised that they were out of wine at the Feast of Cana, Mary did not handle the problem herself. Mary called for Jesus and she told the waiters to do whatever “He” tells you to do.

Click…the light went on for me as to what my role is as a wife and mother. In Eph. 5:21 we are told to, “Honor Christ by submitting to each other.” As a wife and mother, I am not called to headship of the family. I am not called to death for the love of my family. Eph. 5:25 states, “And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the church when he died for her…”- that’s my husband’s job and I’m not complaining. The wife is called to deeply respect her husband. Eph. 5:33 states, “So again I say, a man must love his wife as part of himself; and the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband- obeying, praising and honoring him.” God is sooo funny… Notice, He does not command the woman love her husband. Loving is easy for women. The command is obey and honor; here comes death again. This submissive role into which God is calling us as women involves a death to self, a death to our pride and a call to humility. And, humility is not that we think less of ourselves BUT that we think of ourselves less.

Ladies, we all have a little bit of Eve in us (me, I had a lot). I’m still working on getting her to fully vacate me. Eve is that modern day, take charge; I can do it all sort of woman. Eve is so powerful and overwhelming that when trouble pops up in the Garden, Adam is sure that she wants to handle it all and he happily steps aside and may even hide to protect himself from the chaos that is sure to ensue. See, by nature and because of our original sin- this is typically the unhealthy role we fall into as husband and wife. Christ and Mary, not Adam and Eve, are whom we need to emulate in order to have a good, healthy, strong and happy marriage- notice, I did not say easy.

As Mary formed Jesus, we need to form our husband. Form, not change. Mary formed Jesus by directing others to His authority. She never did for Jesus what she knew He had to do Himself for our salvation. Ladies, my point is in marriage please give your husbands their God given authority in the family. If you don’t humble yourself before your husband, like Adam (by nature), your husband will happily step back and allow you to do it all. Then, as a woman, our favorite mantra is “He never helps me”…believe me, I know!

O.K. so when you are married and the children misbehave, direct your husband to handle it and allow him set the punishment. No comments or interference, please. When problems arise in your household ask for your husband’s input, advice and counsel…and heed to it. You may not always agree with him but he has does have the ultimate responsibility for the welfare of the family. Give the authority to your husband as Mary gave the authority to Jesus. Believe me, this is easier said than done. Over 10 years of having come into relationship with Christ and I still struggle.

You may ask what do I do if my future husband refuses this headship? Maybe, in your relationship your fiancé has already gotten very comfortable with you handling it all and quite frankly he has no desires for the responsibility. Chances are your relationship did not start out this way. But, overtime, you took on more responsibility and your fiancé slowly relinquished his authority. It did not happen overnight and if you are interested in correcting the problem- that won’t happen overnight either. Remember, Mary never once interfered or tried to stop Christ’s suffering, she stood by Him and she suffered with Him- Mary did not physically assume any of the suffering for Christ. Ladies, in the future, if you fail to allow your husband to assume headship out of fear of the suffering that it may cause you or your children you are hindering God’s work in your family.

Mary is the “elicitor” of manhood. Mary called man forth- she drew Christ forward to be our Redeemer and Savior. Again, when Mary told Jesus at the Feast of Cana that they have no wine, Jesus replied, “Woman, how does this concern affect me?” Even in the face of this sharp retort, Mary continued to trust in the power of the word of Jesus; again, she said to the waiters, “Do whatever “He” tells you.” Mary patiently waited for Jesus to take over…and thank God she did.

I can assure you of this- I found hope, freedom and happiness through submitting to God and His will for me as a wife and mother. I changed by falling into a submissive relationship with Christ and when I did this I slowly began to be the wife and mother that God wants me to be. My marriage improved, my children weren’t so bad after all and I became filled with peace, joy and happiness. Jesus Christ became my Lord and Savior- Jim was off the hook for my happiness and I assumed that responsibility for myself.

My advice in marriage, please don’t have over-expectations, unrealistic or unjust expectations of what your future spouse should be doing for you. Only God can truly measure-up. Life is so much more enjoyable when we realize that pure, complete joy is neither possible nor attainable here on earth. Learn to enjoy life for what it is- imperfect. Stop placing false pressure on yourself and fiancé. Have a humble, grateful attitude- count your blessings daily rather than counting what you think you should have (but don’t) and what you believe you are entitled to from others. Live a life of humility, submission, obedience to God and you will discover freedom, joy, and happiness. And, in order to help us accept the limitations and imperfections of life, we need the Church, the sacraments, family and friends.

Remember, perfect joy is reserved for heaven in our true and complete union with God. Marriage & family is simply the boot camp for heaven. As husband and wife joined in the Sacrament of Marriage we cannot ever expect not to disappoint and upset one another. Our spouse is a Gift from God to draw us outside of ourselves into the deep needs of the other. Love is not with limits or restrictions. True love challenges us, true love involves total commitment, true love involves setting your own wants and desires aside to fulfill the needs of the other. Marriage involves continual dying and rising with Christ. Marriage involves dying to self and Christ is the provider of new life through His grace. There are two sides to every cross- the place of Death and the place of New Life. We must embrace the death in order to experience the new life. If we fight or refuse the cross, we will never have the opportunity to experience the new life it has to offer.

The resurrected life or the resurrected marriage only comes out of loss and a personal death. Self-pride and entitlements must die, self-centeredness and self-pitying must stop and you must relinquish control to God. Do not hold onto anger, bitter thoughts, or past resentments. These deadly sins in marriage hold us prisoners to misery. And, of course, to begin anew as many times as necessary you simply need to take a long honest look at yourself and do a good confession. John 8:32 states, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” When you are blatantly honest and truthful in the confessional, God’s infinite love and mercy fills you with new life. You begin to change and grow in ways you never imagined, so that you may love as God loves you; He loves you anyway. Praise God for His endless mercy and love.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

An Introduction to Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body

Note from Steve Smith: This is part 1 of a series of three talks given by Carla Neupauer, Family Life Coordiantor, Office of Family Life Ministries, Allentown Diocese.. Carla has most graciously offered these to Faith of the Fathers blogs for our readers.

“Sex and Marriage”
By Carla Neupauer

When you begin to study Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body the first thing you realize is that our cultures view and denigration of the human body is a far cry from God’s original nuptial meaning of the male and females sexes. For most of us, the last place we would look for the presence of God would be our body and the gift of our human sexuality. But Pope John Paul explains that in understanding God’s original plan for marriage and the meaning behind our sexuality we find the very meaning of life- a “communion” of persons. I ask you please remember the meaning of life- a "communion" of persons because I will return to it throughout this talk. Unfortunately, today we tend to associate sex with profanity instead of the original sacredness and holiness that God intended. Why? Well, I believe Satan hates God and he attacks what is most precious, sacred and Holy to Him- our sexuality. But, thanks to the blessing of Pope John Paul’s teachings, we are now openly proclaiming the profoundly beautiful and sacred meaning of our human sexuality.

To begin, I must first talk about God and “man” and with the word man I am referring to both the male and female gender- Biblical correctness not political correctness matters to me. So before I move into the discussion of the man/woman – husband/wife relationship, I first need to discuss God and man as God created him. I am going to start by restating Gen 1:27, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Here we should understand that, sexually, God (Himself) is neither male nor female- God is completely beyond a gender. We are in likeness and image to God only in so far as the kind of relationship that should exist between the male and female sexes. So, it is through our relationship as a married couple, that we are being called by God to make visible the invisible eternal exchange of love that exists in the Holy Trinity. God’s three unique persons in the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son & God the Holy Spirit) relate so intimately that the three Persons are actually ONE unified being… And, similarly, as husband and wife we are called by God to “become one flesh”- one unified being in likeness to the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit – Husband, wife, child. Remember, God is love and love is generative- real love always moves beyond itself and into a "communion" of persons- the very meaning of life.

Next, I want to call your attention to John 1:14 where God again points to our bodies. John states, “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” In scripture, God calls attention to our bodies or flesh because we (man- as created by God) are a united body and soul- we are not separate but a united body and soul. Our body is the vessel that makes visible our invisible soul. St. John tells us, God is Love and Jesus Christ is divinity or God’s love made flesh. So when we gaze upon the face or “personhood” of Jesus Christ, we are actually looking through a window and getting a vision of God, our loving Father. Therefore, we should understand that “body” of Jesus makes God who is invisible, visible to us. John 10:30 states, “I and the Father are one.”

Now from this understanding of who God is and who we are in relationship to God, I want to move to God’s love story of Creation with Adam and Eve. This story is not a scientific explanation of our beginning but rather a letter of love from God. When God first created Adam in the Garden, God had Adam name all the animals of the earth. In naming all the animals, Adam realized that he was alone. Adam longed for someone like himself to love- see from the very beginning; God created us with a strong desire to love- a strong desire to have a "communion" of persons. Now, to fulfill His plan, God placed Adam in a “deep sleep” and created Eve from his rib. Upon waking, Adam declared, “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” (Gen 2:23). Adam was joyously declaring that finally this is a person that I can love. And, in the beginning, Adam and Eve loved one another as God loves- their love was free, faithful, fruitful and total.  Their love was a sincere and total gift of self. There was no shame in their original nakedness. However, after Adam and Eve ate the apple from the tree of knowledge, that all changed. When they defied God and ate the forbidden fruit, they lost God’s grace and holiness and shame entered into the picture with lust taking over their hearts.

Adam and Eve gave into the lies and temptations of the serpent or Satan. The serpent cleverly first addressed Eve, bargaining that Adam would not step up to defend her. Adam stood by and watched Eve as she boldly grabbed the apple from the tree of knowledge. She wanted to be like God and possess God’s knowledge of good and evil. Eve dismissed God’s fatherly love and acted directly against his word. She desired to decide what was best for her rather than trusting in her loving Creator and Father. And where was Adam??? Well, as we already know, he was standing by watching Eve fall to sin. See the serpent was right- Adam was afraid to protect and defend Eve from the lies. He was afraid the serpent would kill him should he try and defend his love. Adam selfishly put himself and his own welfare before Eve. Understand the exact opposite of love is not hate- No, it is selfishness. The serpent bargained that Adam would be selfish and care more for himself than for Eve and the serpent was right. So rather than defend Eve, he joined her in sin. Adam and Eve both failed God.

God’s love story of our beginning enlightens us as to why we need a Savior. We, alone, are not humanly capable of responding to God’s love in such a way as to reconcile ourselves to Him for our sins. We are all born with a strong propensity to sin (to be selfish) and only Jesus Christ (who points us directly to the Father) can save us from this “original sin”. Here on earth, we all need to reopen ourselves to God’s grace and holiness that was lost in the Garden. Only through the work of the Holy Spirit can we again be liberated from sin- particularly, the sin of lust. It is obvious that today, most of us act no differently than Adam and Eve and, guess what, the serpent is more alive than ever. Our culture tells us that God’s commandments are not for our happiness…And, by the way, they are not really commandments either. At best, they are probably just some good suggestions. And of course, to be “politically correct" these suggestions are not for everyone because what each of us believes as an individual is in fact the truth for that person- in other words “Divine Truth” does not exist. Our culture tells us that man creates his own Truth. All this is the lies of Satan and we continue to believe these lies. It is so easy for us to embrace lies rather than follow the Truth. Our culture screams that God has too many constraints- he is not a loving Father and is he not interested in our happiness…we, as individuals, know what’s best for our happiness and well-being, not God. To this day, we continue to eat the forbidden apple.

Let me assure you that God does love every single one of us and does in fact know what is best for us as individuals and on a societal level. God is not hiding from us. However, Satan is doing an excellent job in continuing to deceive us to this day….. But I’d like to expose some of those lies to you. Pope John Paul II’s teachings are instrumental in exposing one of Satan’s biggest, most harmful lies- the naked human body is profane; it does not merit dignity and respect and, sexually, its main purpose is self-gratification. The TRUTH is God wants us to intimately know Him through the beautiful, sacred gift of our human sexuality and the fruitfulness of our bodies. Our bodies are beautiful and sacred- not “dirty” and profane, as Satan wants us to believe. The Sacrament of Marriage is truly a physical or outward sign of God’s own love in this world and that is why I believe it is very much under attack today.

Let’s ponder the continuation of humanity for a moment. A man in and of himself makes no sense and a woman in and of herself makes no sense. But remember God states in Genesis, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” The result of this loving, faithful, complete union is children. Love freely, faithfully, totally and fruitfully given and received between a husband and wife is the visible image of God’s own Trinitarian Love and this is clearly evident through understanding that the eternal love shared between God the Father and God the Son which is freely, faithfully, totally & fruitfully given and received begets the Holy Spirit. This Trinitarian type of love relationship is God’s plan for marriage and the means by which we attain an intimate relationship with Him. Wow, who would have ever dreamed that the physical union between the husband and wife is meant to icon or image the Holy Trinity? Now, knowing this Truth, from this point forward, your nuptial union should never be the same again. Remember, we are created in God’s image (we are created to be generative or fruitful), so allow me point out that by respecting and honoring the natural fruitfulness of our bodies through the practice Natural Family Planning our marital union will logically form a deep dependency and trust in God. When we don’t barricade God out with contraception, our intimacy with God and our spouse naturally increases. God is life-giving love and we are here to icon or be a visible image of God’s love- Ladies, I need to point out that there is no room for artificial contraception in God’s plan for marriage. Again- the meaning of life is a "communion" of persons.

As I mentioned earlier, Adam and Eve failed at fulfilling God’s Plan for love. However, the good news is, Christ (the new Adam) was a complete success. But Christ did not work alone. Christ too worked in communion with others. To explain this lets look at our salvation on a deeper level. First, God the Father had to humble Himself to actually want to enter into our humanity- Divinity coming to dwell among us. Now, if that isn’t humility nothing is. Next, and it’s a biggie, Mary then had to say “yes” to God for the birth of our Savior to actually happen. Mary had to willfully and positively respond to God’s love and submission. Now, with Mary’s “yes” to God she in turn humbled herself as God’s servant or handmaiden. So our Savior was actually delivered to us through a "communion" and mutually submissive relationship between God and Mary. Through God’s own example here, we need to recognize that this type mutually submissive relationship is Holy.

Mary went on and nursed, taught, and cared for Jesus. Mary ultimately formed or helped Jesus to become our Savior. Mary fulfills God’s Plan for femininity when she becomes Jesus’ or God’s helper- in Genesis 2:18, God assigns the married woman the responsibility of being a helpmate to her husband. Not for reasons of inequality but for reasons of order. Jesus, likewise, is the authentic male role model for men. Jesus did not stand quietly beside Mary and allow her to die for us- Jesus sacrificed Himself to demonstrate his great love for us. Adam watch; he failed God. Jesus sacrificed and died; He fulfills God's plan for salvation. Also ladies, for the Eves’ in all of us, Mary did not scream and fight with Jesus’ persecutors that she should die instead of her Son…. think about this huge sacrifice moms. Mary was the quiet strength and support for Jesus. Mary knew God’s will and she actively participated and formed Jesus to fulfill it. Through the "'communion" of God, Jesus and Mary- Jesus was formed as our Savior to die for us. What I’m attempting to show here is Mary and Jesus perfectly fulfill God’s original plan for marriage. Men, you are to love your wives so much that you would die for her (I’m not necessarily talking a physical death but a death to self- that you place your wife’s needs before your own selfish wants and needs) and ladies you are to form and help your husbands to serve and protect you- please do not allow your husband’s to take a passive role in the family (no Adams allowed). Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reads, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the wife is a symbol of the Church and the husband a symbol of Christ. Men like Jesus are to serve, not be served- Christ laid down His life so the Church may live. Men are to protect their wives and family from sin- they are not stand by idly and do nothing as Adam did. Women we need to allow our husbands to be the men God created them to be. Do not overpower or manipulate your husbands- do not crush their spirit or make them doubt their position of authority in the family. Women respect and support your husbands and allow them to love you so much that they would lay down their own life and die for you. This is God’s Plan for marriage- that you work together and in complete unity and "communion" to eventually get each other to heaven.

Here on earth- we essentially have the choice between two different types of marriages. We can choose a marriage from hell or a marriage made in heaven. I believe all of us would prefer the latter of the two but, unfortunately, in today’s culture we have an over abundance of marriages straight from hell. What we need to remember to get started on a marriage made in heaven is the unity and "communion" of persons. In likeness to the Trinity, unity is essential in marriage. In fact, in order to have a satisfying, fulfilling marriage there must be a union or "communion" of the entire persons- body and soul. Remember, physical or bodily union is meant only to express a deeper spiritual and personal intimacy between the couple. Ultimately, bodily union is always meant to be the end result of something larger- the joining or "communion" of the souls. Sex is never to be an end in and of itself; it may be hard to believe but God did not create sex to be just a self-satisfying sport. God gifted us with the ability to “become one flesh” not only to be fruitful but to also make physically visible the deeper union or "communion" of the souls. And again, let me repeat that love is free, faithful, total and fruitful. Total means total person- union or "communion" of body and soul.

Now, right here, is where some real differences become very evident between the sexes. By nature, men can be quite easily be satisfied with the mere act of the physical union between husband and wife. However, this physical act alone can no way meet a woman’s deep inner desires and longings for a soul connection (a "communion" of the persons). Because of this significant difference between the sexes, a lot of confusion, misunderstanding, and conflict develop in the husband/wife relationship. But, as we previously learned, God created us for self-giving or self-less love. Again, Satan is the one who entices us to succumb selfishness, which is the exact opposite of love. Godly love or real love is self-giving love and we clearly see this love demonstrated by Christ on the cross. Therefore, when a husband and wife each individually die and give in different self-sacrificing ways they become fully and totally satisfied and achieve the union or "communion" of body and soul. It is no accident that God created the basic male & female needs to be so different.

Women, it is not o.k. for husbands to think of sex merely as a physical act with their wife who happens to give them pleasure- this is not love but a selfish exploitation of his wife. And, women, husbands need to know that we are not stupid and we easily discern and at times deeply ache from a lack of sensitivity and concern for us as a person. Yes, it is true, wives can and often do feel used in marriage. Let me explain the vicious cycle we often move into- the consequence of a woman feeling used by her husband is the woman withholding sex from her husband. Now, with the sex being withheld, the husband begins to feel undesired and unwanted by his wife. He begins to doubt his own manhood because sexually his wife no longer desires him- the husband now begins to also feel rejected and unappreciated as a person. In this type of relationship, there is no fulfillment, just emptiness. Here we see neither spouse is happy and neither spouse is looking to fill the deep needs of the other. In this scenario, each partner is only selfishly looking to have their own needs met and blaming the other person for their own unhappiness. At this point, if a husband and wife fail to deepen their understanding of the true meaning of marriage, the marriage will end OR, if it endures, it will be living hell for the next 30 or 40 years.

It is of utmost importance to realize that God created us differently as a couple so we may help each other to grow in holiness- let me repeat that, we may help each other to grow in holiness (HOLINESS, not happiness). The vocation of marriage is to draw us outside of ourselves into the needs of the other (whose basic needs by nature are very different from our own). Here, in unity and "communion", we find fulfillment in marriage. True love is sacrificial love- meeting your spouse’s needs and then your spouse freely, faithfully, totally and fruitfully accepting that sacrificial gift and then returning that love again and again through sacrifice after sacrifice. Remember, through God’s own example in His relationship with Mary, we have learned that mutual submission is Holy. Understand, that true love is not about having someone else always make you feel good or feel happy. Your personal Savior is Jesus Christ. Your inner joy and peace can only be found in Jesus. And yet even in our life with Jesus we have struggle- Jesus never promised to remove our struggles; He does, however, provide us with new sight so we may view those struggles differently (Jesus makes the blind man see and we are all born the blind man). Think for a minute of St. Paul- forever struggling but forever joyful. We only ever meet Christ face to face at the cross- Therefore, our own crosses or struggles are what actually bring us into an intimate relationship with Christ. After we realize this, we slowly begin to no longer view our suffering as suffering but as an opportunity for growth in our loving relationship with our Savior. What we need to understand is that we can only sacrificially love others after we first experience Christ’s deep love for us. So, please realize, that a sacrificial love relationship with your spouse is only possible through your own loving relationship with Jesus Christ. We can love only because He loved us first.

The point I want to drive home is we all need to come to accept Jesus Christ as our own personal Savior. Jesus is the only one who is able to re-gift us with the grace we lost in the Garden. We need God’s grace or His life in us to sacrificially love our spouse or anyone else for that matter. Not one of us is capable of living this type of sacrificial life without the Grace of God… And the means by which we readily receive His Grace is through the living sacraments- particularly the repeatable Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation. In marriage we need to work in true unity and "communion" with Christ and with one another so our hearts may experience the beautiful, transforming true love that God has to offer (receive the grace you need to sacrifice for your spouse as Jesus sacrificed himself to the Father). Remember, as I stated earlier, Pope John Paul explains that in understanding God’s original plan for marriage and the meaning behind our sexuality we find very meaning of life- we are called to form a “communion” of persons. God’s own example of sacrificial love is what makes a marriage made in heaven right here on earth. I pray that you please remember something my husband always says, “sacrifice equals love and love equals sacrifice”- know that real love is always by the way of the cross.

In conclusion, Pope John Paul believed that a culture that does not respect the truth about human sexuality is doomed to be a culture that does not respect life- it is doomed to be a culture of death. I believe that we are now living in that culture of death. And let me just boldly state, that if we are to rebuild this culture of death, we are obligated as individuals to understand and spread the truth about our bodies and our human sexuality. God bless.