Lies constrain us. If we do not know the truth, the full truth, we cannot exercise our free will completely and therefore we cannot be free, and without being free we cannot truly love. Our culture today seeks to imbed in us an idea of freedom and of love that is contrary to the truth. This idea of freedom teaches us that contraception, abortion, transgenderism, homosexuality, and separating sex from marriage and from procreation are all valid ways of expressing love and that without these “rights”, we cannot be free. Nothing could be further from the truth, and yet, it seems impossible to retaliate against these evils without leaning either to severity or to sentimentality. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body helps to enlighten us on how this modern idea of freedom and of love devalues the body by separating it from the image of God. Using this reimagining of age-old church teachings, we can learn about true freedom and love that can only be fulfilled in submission to Christ’s will.
Without a commandment, man would not truly be free because he would be like the animals, unable to choose wrong and therefore unable to choose good and to choose love. This choice, the choice to love, is what will truly set us free
To begin to understand freedom we must first follow John Paul II back to the beginning. God created us for freedom. As Mary Healy, in her book Men and Women are from Eden puts it, “unlike the animals, [Adam] is given a commandment so as to be able to exercise his freedom” (Healy, 13), which shows us that we truly are created for this freedom. Without a commandment, man would not truly be free because he would be like the animals, unable to choose wrong and therefore unable to choose good and to choose love. This choice, the choice to love, is what will truly set us free. Slogans such as “love is love” seek to devalue this profound truth and apply it to immoral acts of lust. However, love is not a superficial feeling that we can throw around in order to have sex whenever and with whoever without respect for God’s original and amazing plan for sex and for unity. In order to know what true love is, and how we can become free by being in love, we must examine how Jesus, the perfect man, loved.
This reality of Love is something that modern culture fails to grasp. Contraception is love for your current children and for yourself, and so is abortion. Accepting your “identity” as transgender or homosexual is loving yourself and the only way you can fully love. Sex is an expression of love that anyone can partake in whenever they feel like it. These are all ideas that we must accept if we are to be received by s
St. Paul says, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church” (Ephesians 5:22, 25) At first glance, this passage seems to reduce women to the status of servant and to raise men up as the benevolent master. But looking deeper, we can see the true meaning of this passage. Men are instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the Church: totally, forever, and even unto death. Women are instructed to be subject to their husbands as to the Lord: they must receive Christ’s love, and likewise their husband’s, totally, forever, and even unto death and likewise they should reciprocate that love back to their husbands. In this mutual giving of self to the other, the two truly “shall become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31).
How is giving completely of oneself forever in love freedom? True love enables to live life in purity, free from lust. Our culture seeks not just to accept this sin, but to glorify it. We are told in countless ways that we cannot control ourselves, so we might as well accept it. We are told this is freedom, but if we have no control, how can we be free? In order to be free, we must have a choice. And God gives us that choice: the choice to love. Temperance reveals to us the true nature of the body and of the person without denying the natural passion that God has instilled in us. With temperance, “the innermost layers of the person acquire a voice, layers that the lust of the flesh would hide” (Healy, 49) By showing our true selves, free from lust, we can be able to love and to be loved, and in that love, to be free.
Contraception seeks to separate procreation from sex. This is portrayed by the Culture of Death as freeing since you are not restrained by the possibility of children. But the truth is that contraception cheapens sex to merely a pleasurable activity and not the fullness of love and truth that God created it for. This in turn once again portrays the body as a mere object to have pleasure with and not to respect and love as God intended. With contraception, we inevitably become trapped once more in the cycle of lust in which we cannot be free.
Modern culture imbeds in our minds the idea that to be free, you must choose your own “sexual identity” and that to love you must choose your own “sexual orientation” separate from how God made you. This idea ties down the fullness of your dignity and masks it with this one urge and temptation, making this your “identity”. But this is not true, for “Male and Female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) God created us uniquely as man and woman for one another. You are not defined by your sins or your temptations, but by the fullness of your dignity. It is in realizing this that one can become free to love as God intended, whether that be in family, in friendships, or in marriage.
These ideas that constantly assault us from all sides each seek to ignore the truth of love. With each of these ideas, the person becomes nothing but an agent of lust. This dehumanizing identity can become imbedded in the person’s mind so that they believe that there is no other way to live but in submission to these temptations. But there is hope. Christ shows us His infinite love by dying for us on the cross. It is with this sacrificial love that He has redeemed us, and it is in following in His footsteps that we can become free to love.
Marriage is the first sacrament, the sacrament that God gives us in the very beginning, with Adam and Eve, in order to fully live out love and freedom. Modern culture seeks to destroy marriage and replace it with the cheap, lustful alternatives it has to offer. But without the mutual total gift of self that is only possible in the exclusivity of marriage, one cannot love totally, and therefore cannot be totally free. When we reject the chains of lust and accept the reins of purity, we can be guided towards God. Accepting the love of God and reciprocating it back to Him, and back in turn to those around us, is the only way to become truly free. When you fall in love with Christ and in that love completely submit to His Divine will, that is when you become truly free.
Healy, Mary. Men and Women Are from Eden: A Study Guide to John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Servant Books, 2005.