Believing that it’s important to wait until marriage is as old fashioned and out of step as the person suggesting it — or so they say. The they’s cut across age, political party affiliation, occupation, religious beliefs, and geography so us old fashioned’s really have our work cut out for us! Especially as we try and teach our loved ones that waiting until marriage will have life-long benefits.
It is nearly impossible to make the case for waiting until marriage in 2020. Especially among young, practicing Catholics who cohabit with their girlfriend or boyfriend. Yes, it’s great that they still go to Sunday Mass; but, what about the fact that the moral teaching that sexual relations are wrong outside of marriage. How does one go about being a witness to their faith while living as if Church doesn’t really matter in their own personal life? How does one go about being a witness to authentic love while acting as if love is merely having feelings for someone; or, just a matter of being tolerant of different peoples and ideas; or just living for one-self?
How will any of us manage to fight the ugliest excesses of sexual immorality when we fail to understand what love really means? The ugliest of sexual sins include the illegal trade of human persons for sexual pleasure and income; rape, abortion, and adultery. Most readers are too young to know that abortion rates hit record highs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For nearly a decade, abortion rates approached over a million per year. In 1990 there were over 1.6 million abortions performed that year alone, according to the Guttmacher Institute. (“US Abortion Rate Falls To Lowest Level Since Roe v. Wade.” NPR: Jan 17, 2017. Sarah McCammon)
And so, depending on what side of the fence you stand on, today’s rates (around 340,000/year) are either too high or too low. Consider that this rate is roughly 80% less than two decades ago. What have we learned? What does this statistic have to do with waiting until marriage? They help reveal the gap between everyday, ordinary love and authentic LOVE as revealed by God thousands of years ago. And the disconnect makes authentic love — the kind designed for marriage — that much more difficult to argue for!
Can words adequately describe authentic love? While talking is important, the living of it provides the proof of what it is. This means stopping an activity that we are enjoying to help our spouse or children. Sometimes it means forgiving our spouse — and telling them they are forgiven — for something that offended you. Sometimes it means taking the time to practice an extreme act of kindness or patience when confronted by a demanding spouse or child. Sometimes, it means giving that much needed listening ear. Sometimes it will mean making a delicious meal even though we don’t feel like taking the time necessary to make it.
Authentic love is always virtuous; it is self-giving, generous, kind, considerate, patient, and honest. It is never self-serving, demanding, greedy, unkind, inconsiderate, selfish, dishonest, or closed to others.
Lessons in authentic love begin with offering encouraging words to someone who is discouraged. Sometimes it means picking up the phone and having that uncomfortable conversation you dreaded having. Sometimes it means telling someone you love them when they least expect to hear it. Sometimes it means gifting something significant to a loved one who needs it. Sometimes it means writing a much needed letter to a loved one.
And yes, it includes talking about authentic love with loving words. Something along the lines of Saint Pope John Paul ll’s theology of the body lessons on love will help. He taught us this truth: the “enjoyment experienced in sexual relations needs to be raised to something higher than the mere consent of two persons engaging in mutual objectification in order to gain pleasure for oneself and give pleasure to the other. Our expressions of love should always reflect God’s love and our intentions ought to express God’s intentions [including and especially our sexual expressions of love].”
Authentic love is always free, full, faithful, forever, and fruitful. Authentic Love gives another person something that is precious to us without our expectation of demand of a favor in return. That is exactly what God did for us – He sent us his Son without condition. And He also sends us his Divine Grace without condition!
That’s all the proof we need to hear about what is and what isn’t authentic love. Now we have to strive to live it in order to teach it.
Copyright 2020 Linda Kracht