Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Spirituality and Marriage

There are 613 laws, which an observant Jewish person is expected to keep. In the rabbinical tradition, there was a discussion as to what was central and essential in all of these laws. What did God truly expect of a faithful person? Jesus is asked this question in Luke 10:27; Matt. 22:37-40; Mark 12:30-31. He responded by citing two passages of scripture. Both are taken from Torah. The first is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This passage was committed to memory by pious Jewish people and prayed as the "Shema Israel" [Hear O‘Israel], as Christians have committed to memory the passage from Matthew as the “Our Father.”

"Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might."

The second passage is taken from the Book of Leviticus 19:18. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Most Christians think of this as teaching us to love God and neighbor; however, when read closely, these two passages direct us to love three: God, neighbor and self.

Unbelievably, the hardest of those three for most people to love is self. Christians think of such a concept as “indulgent” or “worldly.” Yet, Christ specifically commands us to love our neighbor as our self. If you do not love yourself, then you cannot love your neighbor and for that matter, you cannot love God. You have not learned to love, period.

Most people in our society have a negative self-image. If you think of yourself negatively and you treat your neighbor as yourself, you will probably think of your neighbor negatively. Phrases such as “People are no good” and “that’s human nature.” Creep into our vocabulary from our minds and hearts. These people are really saying: “I’m no good” and “others are like me.”

The Prophet Jeremiah says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” and “before you were born, I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1: 5.) Do you believe that about yourself? Do you believe that you are not “an accident” that your life has value and purpose? You are unique, gifted with a combination of talents, intellect; life experiences and attributes which no one else on earth possesses.

The two commandments, which Jesus teaches his disciples, serve to integrate us. First with our self. First, we must appreciate that we are created by a God who is love, a God who does not make mistakes, and a God who does not make trash. You are not defective, you are not disordered, and you are not deformed. Your gender, your eye color, the pigmentation of your skin, your intellect, and your sexual orientation is all willed by the Creator. You are willed by the Creator and the fact that you live and draw breath at this very moment is willed by the Creator.

The Creator has also created each other person on this earth as well as all other creatures and the planet and cosmos which sustain life. We are part of a larger organic whole. To hurt another person, creature, the planet, etc; is in fact, to hurt you. The consequence of hurtful decisions and choices creates a ripple effect in other lives and in the whole of the created order.

Once we learn to love and accept our self, we begin to move to greater personal wholeness and integrity within our self. We begin to see and actualize our yet unrealized potential. We begin to learn from errors of judgment. We become more sensitive to the hurts we have caused others and learn to ask for forgiveness and to avoid hurting others in the future.

We learn to become a living reflection of the Creator who is love itself. Who has moved beyond self to create others and me. We begin to see all of the created order and being ordered towards love, towards reintegration, towards potentials, which can only be realized in and through the other.

Sex is designed by God to require us to move beyond the self. If you look at the physical act of sex, it teaches you something of what is suppose to happen between two people in an intimate encounter. You undress, for intimacy to occur between two people it requires you to undress. Not just physically, but also emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. You reveal yourself to the other. Your true self, with all of your strengths and weaknesses. Your hopes/dreams and your fears and what haunts you. You become vulnerable to the other in this moment and they to you and the wonderful occurs when the other accepts you “as is.”

In physical sex, you give yourself unreservedly to each other. True intimacy requires no less than this. It is a self-donation to someone else. It is the greatest gift you can give. This is the great difference between lust and love. In lust, the relation with the other person is a strip-mine operation; you are there to take what you want and then leave. In love, you are there because you appreciate the other and are there to give yourself unreservedly to the other. In marriage, two people stand before each other, others and God and promise that they will be there the one for the other, unconditionally. This is the beauty and strength of marriage. It doesn’t matter what the race, religion, or sexual orientation is of the two people who enter into marriage.

I have included this video clip from a psychologist Dr. James Walton speaking on the human dynamics in marriage. I hope that you find it helpful.

I plan on posting articles on "Spirituality and Divorce" and "Spirituality and being single" in the near future.


Blindman said...

How can I ever thank you Father? This post comes to me at the pinnacle of my struggle to integrate my gay self into the Roman Catholic Church.

One may not be able to prove that God exists, but your dismissal from ministry proves (for me) the existence of the devil.

Blindman said...

I will never be able to thank you enough for this post, and its timing.

One may or may not be able to prove the existence of God, but Father, your dismissal from the ministry proves the existence of the devil.

Anonymous said...

This is not on topic but I would like to have your input on the subject matter of condemnation of gay youth. It saddens me that many gay people do not believe in God. Is it maybe because they are told that they are sinners and not worthy of the love of God and not welcomed in churches? I often think, why don't the religious leaders condem parents for throwing their gay teenage children out on the street without any support just for being gay? When religious leader's time on earth is over and they are before God, a question I would like answered by these religious leaders is when God asks "Why have you driven my gay children away from me"? I admire your courage and wish you all the best!

Fr Craig said...

Fr G - well done. I haven't had the guts to preach to this issue, but (straight, married 36 yrs) I have long been convinced that we are never closer to God and the joy of the Kingdom than in the orgasm shared by two who truly love and give to each other sexually. Not that we can't experience God's joy elsewhere - I certainly have. I don't if others do this, but we found that we were saying, 'Oh, God!' a lot as we love each other! Surely, gender has nothing to do with this kind of self-giving love. (thanks for losing the white on black!!)

Mareczku said...

Another excellent post. Anonymous, I think the Catholic Church did well in addressing gay youth in the pastoral teaching, "Always Our Children." I think that Catholics tend to be more supportive of their gay children than people in some of the protestant denominations. I do think, however, that Catholic priests who are gay could do better in their outreach to gay youth. My personal opinion is that pretty much all our gay Catholic youth hear from our clergy is silence. Perhaps Father Geoff can answer, are some gay clergy afraid to serve as mentors and role models for our gay youth?

Kevin said...

Great Post Father. Am really looking forward to your other posts on single life. If you could touch on an important issue: What about the gay person who isn't in a relationship for whatever reason? They are still sexual beings. Sex within a committed relationship is the ideal, but what should one do who hasn't found that? The church says no sex, but I wonder if that is realistic. Can someone who is single be intimate with some one ( a friend perhaps), set up boundries and still the act be okay?? Any further insight would be great because there is a lot of us who have experienced only unrequaited love! Thanks...

Mareczku said...

I can't believe it. I read a link from California Catholic Daily about how much money was spent by the Portland Archdiocese in Maine in the marriage battle. The Philadelphia Archdiocese gave $50,000 to this. They are closing schools and they have money to give to the Diocese of Portland to fight gay people and their supporters? Also, Marc Mutty, the Diocese of Portland's resident homophobe was given almost $5000 a month. Bishop Malone has won a victory though and his message to gay people in Maine is loud and clear. YOU ARE NOT WELCOME. WWJD?

Joe said...

Hunted out of the ministry for not complying with a bishop's directive that you tell people how to vote? What kind of gangstas are those US bishops? They have no scruple about doing violence to individual conscience and trampling on the freedom of American voters. Your angelic patience with them bespeaks Christlike compassion.