“Selfishness is the enemy of love,” writes Ven. Fulton J Sheen. It is a strong statement of truth that cannot be denied. Let’s talk about love, the greatly misunderstood four-letter word, and what it demands of married couples.
Spoiler alert-men and women are different, and it is part of God’s plan. Our complementarity should not cause competition or contention. Our differences are what make new life possible.
The brilliant St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, “To love is to will the good of the other.” Love is an act of the will, a choice we make. We choose to love or not to love. Choosing to love when angry, hurt, exhausted, or feeling neglected is a mark of authentic love toward my spouse and children.
Confusion arises when we associate the giddy feelings of love with real love. When those fade, as they will, one might assume they have fallen out of love. Feelings are finicky and fluid. One cannot “fall out of love”; instead, we chose to cease our love. Even the word fall is misleading. “Falling” is something we try to avoid at all costs. My falls usually involve an ambulance and brain surgery to repair.
The Catholic Church holds the standard in the truth about love and marriage, for her Bridegroom is Love Incarnate. The truth about authentic love was proven on the Cross by our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is to be mirrored and witnessed through marriage as God established. (1:27-28, 2:24, Mt 19:3-6). When we live this love in our marriages, we demonstrate how God loves and is merciful, forgiving, and patient, (to name a few of his attributes). It requires heroic virtue to choose love.
What happens when our marriages don’t image God’s love? Just look around; infidelity, divorce, heartbreak, and the list goes on.
St. JPII stated in his Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, “The sacrament of marriage is a sign of God’s work in the world; it reveals and points to the origin of its existence, God.” (FC48).
If we truly understand love, we should also realize that it demands something of us. Here’s the good news, God will not ask us to do what we cannot do on our own. We must seek the source of love in God and beg for His abundant grace to love our spouse correctly.
What is at stake when it comes to loving rightly; “When love is carefully encased in truth, it radiates peace, men scale the heights of perfection, and societies prosper,” writes Fr. Perricone.
Finally, St JPII reminds us that love is love only when lived out in self-sacrifice andthat true love sets no conditions. It does not calculate or complain but simply loves.”
We can love as God loves, but only with God’s help.