A young man recently asked me a question after a talk I gave at a Catholic University that caught me off guard.
“You said in your talk that God wants to marry us, but I don’t want to marry God. I’m attracted to women!”
Christopher West is often heard saying in his lectures, “You can summarise the Bible in five words: God wants to marry us!” The Bible begins in Genesis with the marriage of a man and woman (Adam and Eve) and ends in the Book of Revelation with the Marriage of Christ to the Church. Smack bang in the middle of the Bible is the Song of Songs, an ode to passionate, erotic love, shared between a husband and wife. When Israel fell into idolatry, God the Father accused them of adultery! The Bible is rich with marital imagery and if we miss it here we miss the purpose of the Bible as a Love Letter written to us, his Bride!
As revealed by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, God is an eternal exchange of love – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (CCC 221). But this is only half the story. The full story is that we have been destined to share in that exchange, and participate in the Divine Life of the Trinity. God created us out of his pure and passionate love, so that we may have the freedom to choose Him in return. To be with him forever in eternal, unending bliss. It is for no other reason we exist. It is to no other end that we will be truly happy.
In order to help us understand this mystery, God inscribed into our “embodied spirits” the call to communion or spousal desires. As humans we experience deep desires for unending happiness, ecstasy, communion, intimacy and fulfillment. There is no perfect fulfillment of these desires on earth, but if we listen to them carefully, they draw us further up and further into relationship with the God who alone can satisfy.
However, God does not stop at merely spousal desires, he goes a step further and stamps the same spousal desires into our bodies. Our bodies as male and female possess a spousal meaning. If we analyse our bodies, it is clear through our sexual organs that we have been made to become one flesh and image the “exchange of Trinitarian Love” with our bodies! Wow!
But this is only an icon, or a sign of the great mystery of God. Our sexuality is sacramental; it points to and reveals supernatural truths about God. In Heaven we will not be “married” to God in the same way that a husband and wife are married on earth. It will utterly transcend that of a husband and wife. Our sexuality is an earthly sign that helps us understand the kind of total, self-giving love that God has for us, but the union with God in Heaven will not be a sexual union.
In a hypersexualised and pornified society, it is difficult for men to say that they “love Jesus” without us feeling somewhat uncomfortable. I have struggled with this is in my own life. As a porn addict for many of my teen and early adult years, the notion of being totally in love with Jesus was incredibly confusing to me, and was an obstacle to me moving closer to Him. It was through my encounter in my late teen years with Theology of the Body, that this fear or confusion quickly subsided.
What I discovered in the Theology of the Body that helped in my understanding of this was the true meaning of spousal imagery. As stated already, God exists as a communion of persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Within this dynamic of love, God the Father acts in the masculine, by initiating the gifts of divine life and love to the Son. In response to the Father, although Jesus incarnate is male (masculine), he actually takes the role of feminine, active receptivity. This is beautiful – Although God has been revealed as “Father” by the Son, and the “Son” Jesus is male, there still exists a beautiful interplay of masculine (initiation) and feminine (active receptivity).
It is through this dynamic interplay of masculine and feminine, that we come to understand the meaning behind why we as humans were created male (masculine) and female (feminine) in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). In my manhood, I am called to imitate the Father’s love for the Son as m
asculine initiator, and Madeleine my wife is called to imitate the Son – in his relation to the Father – as active receiver.
Lets add another layer to this analogy. In Jesus’ humanity, he comes as a male (masculine). He comes as the masculine Bridegroom, who will initiate the gifts of divine life and love to His Bride the Church. This is where it gets interesting and exciting! In relation to the Father, Jesus, although male, is actively receptive (feminine) to the Father, but in relation to us the Church, he is the masculine Bridegroom. Following this, all of humanity, male or female, is called
to be actively receptive (feminine) in relation to God! Men are called to be receptive to God even as Jesus is, but are called to be masculine initiators of the gifts of life and love in relation to women. This is to image the marriage of Ephesians 5:21-33, where St Paul speaks of the union between Christ and the Church, and marriage being the icon or sign of this union.
Now we get to the crescendo of this story – woman. With this understanding we see that woman is the model of the human race, because the entire human race is called to be receptive before God (male and female), but only woman is called to be receptive both in relation to humanity and God. Woman is truly the icon of receptivity in the world. In order for a man to truly be human, he must first learn to receive Divine love in his receptive relationship to God, in order to initiate life and love to woman. But woman is truly human always and only when she is receptive both to God and humanity.
When this became true for me, I understood that my love for Jesus is not sexual, but rather my sexuality helps me to und
erstand how to love Jesus. I discovered that as a man I must be passionately in love with God, as a bride loves her husband.
Of course we cannot understand fully the kind of love and communion we will share with Jesus in Heaven. Even St Paul says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things prepared for those who love God” 1 Corinthians 2:9. Sexuality serves as a sign of the kind of love we will experience in Heaven, although it is just that, a sign! We will no longer need the sign of heaven (sexual love) when we are experiencing heavenly love – complete and total union with the Blessed Trinity! This is great news, and should lead us to hunger and thirst ever more greatly for the love in Heaven that awaits those who love God.