"Big Four" Highlights


 

Heart to Heart

A meditation for St. Valentine’s Day

By Brian Caulfield, FFG Editor

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her … So husbands should love their wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:25, 28).

Men, we have a high calling. Meditate on the words of St. Paul in Ephesians Chapter 5, and decide what gift for St. Valentine’s Day will be worthy of this mission to love you wife “as your own body”?

Heart to Heart

Sure, there is that passage that tells wives to “be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord,” (Ephesians 5:22), and I’ll say just one thing about that. If wives are to be subordinate in this way, then husbands should behave toward them as the Lord Jesus does. A husband will “rule” as head of the family by doing all he can for the good of his wife, just as Jesus does all he can for her salvation. Make sure that you seek to measure up to that standard and the “subordinate” clause will take care of itself.

But let’s look at what it means for a husband to love his wife in the way that our faith demands – and a demanding calling it is! When my future wife and I were preparing for marriage, the Pre Cana instructors said one thing that has stuck. Marriage is not a bargain, not simply an agreement or contract between two people who seem compatible. Love is a covenant, like God has made with his people, first with Israel, and then with all people through Christian Baptism. Nuptial love is not a 50-50 proposition where two people meet in the middle as a compromise for getting along. Nuptial love is 100-100, in which husband and wife give all they have – their entire substance and being – to the other, holding nothing back and becoming vulnerable to each other.

100-100, with each seeking to “outdo the other” in love. This is the love of God for his people, the father for the Prodigal Son (when he saw the son at a distance, he ran to him!), Jesus for Lazarus whom he raised from the dead, and ultimately Christ on the cross for the salvation of the world.

This is the love we are talking about when the Church witnesses the vows of a man and a woman in Holy Matrimony. Let’s not fall for the minimum standards the world thrusts upon us – the counterfeit love that’s pledged for a season, with prenuptial agreements and easy divorce. This is merely love that begins and ends with the senses, the sensual, the sexual desire – these are a great part of love and help form that glue and bond between spouses, but true love is more.

Some may find it strange that this higher form of love is expressed in the decisions and actions of our two most recent popes – the men who lived celibate lives for the sake of God’s kingdom. Blessed John Paul II continued to live out his papacy despite severe illness and the decline brought by Parkinson’s. He did this as an expression of his fatherly love for the Church and her people, to show that infirmity does not reduce a man’s dignity, and to be an example of how to live and die nobly in the arms of God.

That message has been sent to the world, and our present Pope Benedict XVI knows that he need to make that point again. Our beloved Holy Father has decided to resign his position (as of Feb. 28) because of the illness and infirmity that prevents him from fulfilling his duties to the fullest. He too is doing this out of love for the Church and her people, telling us that love must be disinterested, not selfish or possessive. We must place the good of God and the Church above any earthly position or power.

What can the actions of the Holy Fathers tell us for St. Valentine’s Day? Men, give yourself to your wife in loving service and leadership, for her own good. Will and work for her good every moment of every day. Give till you think you cannot give any more. Offer yourself to God through her love for you. You may spend all your married life together learning how to do this, day after day. But never give up. Be a true man who has become a loving husband.