The Happy Priest: On Valentine's Day, What is Real Love?
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CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - On Valentine's Day, it would be good for us to remember exactly who Saint Valentine really was. Catholic Online offers an excellent history of his life. A little more than a year ago I published my first book. Man to Man: A Real Priest Speaks to Real Men about Marriage, Sexuality and Family Life has helped thousands of men how to truly love their wives and to have a successful and joyful marriage. On this Valentine's Day, I would like to offer to you selections from the second chapter of my book.
Most men, and for that that matter, most women, have no idea what love really is. Today, the word love is equated with sex. For most young people, the words "to date" mean dinner, movie and sex. For most young American men, if the dinner and movie could be dispensed with, all the better.
The damage that this cheapening of sexuality has done is enormous. Most single men and women are terrified about getting close to anyone. Most single people are suspicious about anyone who wants to be a true friend. Most Americans have shut down emotionally and socially. They have become isolated and incapable of friendship.
St. John's First Letter also provides profound insights into the nature of Christian love.
"Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us" (1 John 4: 7-12) .
Nevertheless, in order to really grasp the meaning of love, we need to begin with the mystery of the Incarnation.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (John 3: 16-17).
As we contemplate this one singular event, we need to also contemplate and put into practice what Jesus teaches us about love.
The Sermon on the Mount, the parable of the Good Samaritan, the washing of the feet at the Last Supper, and his first words at Calvary are not mere suggestions. This is how we are to live our lives.
"We love, because he first loved us. If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also" (1 John 4: 19-21).
Marriage is one of the seven sacraments. A man and a woman give of themselves by pronouncing a vow to love each other totally and unconditionally until the end of their lives here on earth. The indissolubility of marriage is an essential part of Christian marriage. "Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate" (Mark 10: 10).
The total and free gift of each to the other expressed in the exchange of the marital vows comes to fulfillment in the consummation of their yes through the gift of themselves to each other in the marital act. The act of consummation is a profound expression of giving their entire beings, body and soul, to each other, in the marital embrace of love. The honeymoon should never end. The love between married couples should intensify more and more each day, as it grows and matures.
Love is the total gift of self lived out day by day within the ordinary circumstances of daily existence. To live love authentically within the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is not an easy enterprise. Both husband and wife are called to die to self totally and completely, for it is within their daily existence that they live out every detail of the Christian way of life. This is hard work and not easy to accomplish. It is only through grace that we can overcome our sinfulness and our selfish tendencies caused by our fallen human nature.
So, what is love? Love is the total giving of oneself to God and to one another within all of the practical circumstances of daily life.
As a married man you are called to love everyone, most especially your wife and children, through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Everything that you do as a married man must be an act of love. Going to work in the morning, cutting the grass, taking out the garbage, playing with your children, going to church with your family on Sunday, and the way that you make love to your wife are just some of the practical ways in which you live out the virtue of love.
True Christian love means total commitment and total dedication. It means that you are going to make a total gift of yourself to your spouse and to your children. Remember what Jesus said in the Gospel of John: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 16: 13).
As soon as you become engaged to the woman that you are going to marry your entire life must change. Your relationship with your parents, your siblings, your relatives and your friends must now be subordinated to your love and dedication to the woman that you are going to marry.
Let us recall what Pope John Paul II wrote in his first encyclical letter: "Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it" (Redemptor Hominis, 10.1).
Father James Farfaglia, the Happy Priest, is the pastor of Saint Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas and is a member of the Board of Directors of Human Life International. Father has a hard hitting blog called Illegitimi non carborundum. He has also published a book called Man to Man: A Real Priest Speaks to Real Men about Marriage, Sexuality and Family Life. You can click here for the audio podcast of this Sunday homily. His second book, Get Serious! will be available soon.
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