See also past Guest columns.

Theme two: The Mission of Love Print
Guest column
Tuesday, Jun. 16, 2015 -- 1:57 PM
Veronica Arntz

To prepare for the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September, the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Diocese of Madison is providing a monthly series on a particular theme on marriage and family. Each theme is a chapter in the preparatory catechesis developed for the event entitled Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive, available in paperback from www.osvparish.com or for free online at www.worldmeeting2015.org

God’s love story

The story between God and His creation is a story of love. Being perfect in Himself, He had no need to create the universe, the animals, or even man himself.

But, to reveal Himself as Love, He created time and space in one single act. In that time and space, He placed the oceans, the plants, and the animals. He lastly created man, male and female, as the only rational creature in the universe, and because of his rationality, God would have an everlasting relationship with him.

Through the Scriptures and our experience, we know that God is not a watchmaker, one who simply creates the machine and then steps back to allow it to run its course.

Rather, our God -- one God in three Persons -- is a loving God; indeed, He is Love itself. The unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the Holy Spirit being the sign of the love between the Father and Son) reveals that God is love, and in such a way, that He is communion.

In both the Old and New Testaments, we see that God reveals His love for man through a marital image. The images sometimes become erotic and almost uncomfortable: the omnipotent God is almost too fleshy for our minds to understand or accept.

For example, the Lord revealed the following words to Hosea, speaking of the Israelite people who fell from Him once again, "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her" (2:14).

In the "Song of Songs" often understood allegorically as the love between the Lord and His people, we read, "I slept, but my heart was awake. Hark! my beloved is knocking. Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one . . ." (5:2). Truly, these are the words of a lover to his beloved.

Therefore, despite our fallen human nature and propensity toward sin, God's love story with man does not end but continues to eternity. We see the ultimate sign of His love in the Paschal Mystery: the passion, death, and resurrection of His only Son.

Man had fallen from God and created an infinite debt that needed to be paid, and because man alone could never pay it, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger succinctly explained, "God created the universe in order to be able to become a human being and pour out his love upon us and to invite us to love him in return."

The love of God for man knows no bounds: even though we were like an unfaithful spouse and "played the harlot" (Jeremiah 3:8), God sent His only Son into the world to take on human flesh, that the infinite debt we had made could be paid.

God created man for love and ultimately for Himself; for that very reason, Christ needed to open the gate to Heaven so that our love story with Him could continue into eternity.

God's love story and human marriage

As we have seen, the love that God has for His people is not sentimental or based on feelings but rather an eternal, faithful, and, most significantly, sacrificial love. Christ suffered every humiliation and pain, becoming obedient and humbling Himself in human flesh, for the sake of His beloved, that she, the Church, would be united with Him in Heaven.

As members of the Body of Christ, this is the kind of love that we are called to give. We see that this sacrificial love of Christ is applied in a particular way to married couples, for St. Paul gives the image of the love between a man and a woman as mirroring the love between Christ and His Church. He writes, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25).

If we pause to think about what this means in the context of Christ's sacrifice, we cannot help but be intimidated by the call -- by the mission of love. The mission of love is not showing warm feelings to our spouse or ensuring that he or she is happy with material possessions and financial security.

While all those are good things, true love between a man and a woman is the sacrifice of Christ. It is surrendering one's life metaphorically, a complete sacrifice of selfish desires, so that the other might have the Beatific Vision after this mortal life.

It is, as Gaudium et spes says, "a sincere gift of himself" (24), and it is by freely choosing this love that man will be fulfilled. Thus, as a married couple, fulfillment comes through true love, which is the sacrificial love of Christ, so that both husband and wife will experience the eternal love story of God in the Beatific Vision.

Next month: The Meaning of Human Sexuality

The world around us is much more than just physical matter. All creation is good, holy, and sacramental, including in a special way our bodies. Our physical makeup, our maleness and femaleness, is a gift with a purpose -- that of communion and procreation.

Free online study guides are available at www.worldmeeting2015.org For more information, go to www.madisondiocese.org/wmof


Veronica Arntz is an intern in the Marriage & Family Program in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Diocese of Madison. She will be a junior at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyo., and is pursuing a degree in liberal arts.