The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Not Right Now

It's a common scene that plays out in nearly every marriage. The husband approaches the wife in bed for intimate relations and she dismisses the advance with an excuse of "It's too late;" "I'm too tired;" "Maybe later;" or the most famous "Not right now, I have a headache." The rejected spouse turns away disappointed, confused, frustrated, and maybe even a bit angry at the summary dismissal he just experienced. The wife feels bad that she has hurt her husband. What was intended to be unifying quickly devolves into self-absorption, which becomes a near occasion for sin. Rejection by one's spouse often serves as the catalyst to sins of the flesh like self-pleasure, pornography, and even extra-marital affairs.

Self-donation defines what the marital union should be for Catholics. Pope John Paul II described it as bi-subjectivity in his Theology of the Body. He exhorts Paul's teaching in Ephesians 5 that husbands should love their wives as Christ loves His Church; to give all of himself to her and even die for her; and that wives should receive that love and return it to their husbands. And while that looks good on paper, living it can be a far bigger cross, especially if both spouses are not on board with the program.

How many husbands view their wives as outlets for their lust? How many wives know this, and use the above mentioned excuses to preserve their dignity? It is a constant battle in man's fallen and unredeemed view of sexuality. With such a mindset living the Catholic ideal of not refusing the advances of one's spouse seems almost Pollyannish.

Yet marriage is supposed to be an icon for our union with God at the wedding feast of the Lamb in Heaven. The marital union is supposed to be a free, total, faithful and fruitful exchange of self with one's spouse. Where can one turn to learn how to live this reality without perverting its true meaning?

Christ in His mercy and love gave us the ultimate, tangible example. Every day He approaches us with His body, blood, soul and divinity in the most holy Eucharist. How often do we, His bride, tell our Lord in the same offhanded manner that the wife rejects her husband in bed, "I don't have time to go to mass, today;" "I'm too tired;" "I'll come to you on Sunday as is required." Our Lord yearns to physically be with us, every day. He desires to give His very essence to us in communion, and so often we summarily dismiss Him. Christ doesn't come to us to take from us what He can get as does the lustful husband, but rather Our Lord offers Himself in that free, total, faithful, and fruitful way and asks that we simply be receptive to receiving Him and to give ourselves back to Him in return.

When we give Christ our "Not right now" excuse, He doesn't abandon us. He doesn't withdraw His love or seek that love He so desires from another source. He doesn't go off and pout or whine. Instead he looks down upon us from the cross and mercifully exclaims,

"Forgive them father, they know not what they do."

My brothers in Christ, treat your wives as Christ treats you His bride. Approach her not to use her as an object of sexual consumerism, but rather with a sincere gift of self-donation, and if she rejects you, unite your suffering to His. Jesus knows what it feels like to want to give all of Himself to His bride only to be brushed aside as an annoying inconvenience or imposition. Hold your wife and silently pray that she will accept you tomorrow. Don't begrudge her. Love her as Christ loves both of you.


Blogger Amber said...

Wonderful post!

10:14 PM  

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