Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"...a bearing on the eternal destiny of men."

The first principal of the Christian life is charity, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines thusly: "Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God." (CCC, 1822). As Christians, we have a great responsibility to abide in God's love and to love one another with the same love with which Jesus loves us.

Because of Jesus' presence in the Sacrament of marriage, Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council teaches that: "Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ's redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that the spouses may be efficaciously led to God and helped and strengthened in their sublime mission as father and mother." (No. 48).

And what is this sublime mission? Lumen Gentium, No. 34 of the Second Vatican Council explains that: "The supreme and eternal Priest, Christ Jesus, since he wills to continue his witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.

For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne-all these become "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ". Together with the offering of the Lord's body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God."

The Lord Jesus calls men and women to cooperate with Him in completing his work of creation and in preparing for His ultimate act of re-creation, by which His plan for all of creation will be brought to fulfillment. As Gaudium et Spes, No. 50 explains: "Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents. The God Himself Who said, "it is not good for man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18) and "Who made man from the beginning male and female" (Matt. 19:4), wishing to share with man a certain special participation in His own creative work, blessed male and female, saying: "Increase and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). Hence, while not making the other purposes of matrimony of less account, the true practice of conjugal love, and the whole meaning of the family life which results from it, have this aim: that the couple be ready with stout hearts to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Savior. Who through them will enlarge and enrich His own family day by day.

Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love. Thus they will fulfil their task with human and Christian responsibility, and, with docile reverence toward God, will make decisions by common counsel and effort. Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God. But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel. That divine law reveals and protects the integral meaning of conjugal love, and impels it toward a truly human fulfillment. Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice, married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when with a generous human and Christian sense of responsibility they acquit themselves of the duty to procreate. Among the couples who fulfil their God-given task in this way, those merit special mention who with a gallant heart and with wise and common deliberation, undertake to bring up suitably even a relatively large family."

Marriage is a vocation (see Gaudium et Spes, Nos. 48, 49, 52; Lumen Gentium, No. 35), and the primary task of this vocation is "transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted." And, as Gaudium et Spes, No. 51 reminds us, "All should be persuaded that human life and the task of transmitting it are not realities bound up with this world alone. Hence, they cannot be measured or perceived only in terms of it, but always have a bearing on the eternal destiny of men."

When God creates the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21: 1-4), and the Lord Jesus hands over His Kingdom to His Father, love and all of its good fruits - that material which has been prepared for the Kingdom - will endure in an everlasting heavenly communion:

"We do not know the time for the consummation of the earth and of humanity, nor do we know how all things will be transformed. As deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away; but we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide, and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart. Then, with death overcome, the sons of God will be raised up in Christ, and what was sown in weakness and corruption will be invested with incorruptibility. Enduring with charity and its fruits, all that creation which God made on man's account will be unchained from the bondage of vanity.

Therefore, while we are warned that it profits a man nothing if he gain the whole world and lose himself, the expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age.

Hence, while earthly progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ's kingdom, to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital concern to the Kingdom of God.

For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: "a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace." On this earth that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower." (Gaudium et Spes, No. 39).

Parents have a serious and sublime vocation to transmit human life and to educate those to whom it has been transmitted. And their response to this vocation, will have a bearing on their eternal destiny.


Anonymous said...

The Catechism of the Catolic Church say that Every action - for example, direct sterilization or contraception - is intrinsically immoral which (either in anticipation of the conjugal act, in its accomplishment or in the development of its natural consequences) proposes, as an end or as a means, to hinder procreation.

Why aren't most priests preaching on this? Don't they care for the souls of the people under their care? Many souls are lost because pastors are negligent.

Anonymous said...

Paul, how we forget this as married people! Ours is a sublime (love that word) vocation which has ramifications for all eternity. We provide "material" for the Kingdom by cooperating with the Lord in His creation. What a beautiful and inspiring posting.

Brother, our community prays for you daily.

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