Nowadays, it seems as if there’s more confusion than ever as to what it means to be made male and female. Our creation as such, and the call of the two to become “one flesh” is not merely a metaphor for Christ’s relationship to us. As St. John Paul II affirmed, it’s the foundational way in which that eternal mystery of love becomes “visible” to us (see TOB 19:4, 95b:6). As Pope Francis observes, at “the very heart of the Gospel is life in community” (EG 177), and the fundamental human community is that of man and woman in “one flesh.”
Perhaps this is why sexuality, marriage, and the family are under such violent attack today. Perhaps behind it all there is an enemy who wants to keep us from understanding and entering into “the very heart of the Gospel.” Perhaps there is an enemy aiming all his arrows at the very foundation of human life, of the Church, and of civilization itself.
Social re-engineers do not like this fact, but when we let the data speak, it’s clear: civilization rests on the family—that is, on the committed union of a man and a woman and their naturally resulting offspring. But family life of this kind is only possible to the extent that we undertake the often difficult project of civilizing our sexual desires, orienting them toward upholding the dignity of the human person, the truth of selfless love, and the grandeur of procreation.
When the indulgence of sexual desire becomes an end in itself, society becomes utilitarian. You are valued if you are useful. And, in this case, you are “useful” if you are sexually stimulating. If you are not, or if you get in the way of my pleasure, you will be ignored, discarded, maybe even exterminated. When pleasure is the main goal of sex, people become the means and babies become the obstacle. So we take our pleasure and we kill our offspring—and anything that gets in the way of my “right” to indulge libido (however I desire and without consequence or responsibility) is anathema.
This is not some dire prediction of an apocalyptic future. This is the world we live in now. Without a return to our senses, only societal chaos and collapse can result. But if a selfish “me” approach to sex spells societal breakdown, selfless sexuality (borrowing an acronym from Father Stan Fortuna) spells F.A.M.I.L.Y.—Forget About Me, I Love You.
Two thousand years ago, the first evangelization transformed civilization by showing the world an alternative to self-centered sexuality and the infanticide and cultural breakdown that inevitably results. By following Christ’s example of selfless love—“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church” (Eph 5:25)—early Christians transformed the world by witnessing to the true meaning of sexuality, marriage, and family. We can and must do the same in the new evangelization.
Christopher West’s new, best-selling eBook, Pope Francis To Go: Bite-Sized Morsels from The Joy of the Gospel, is now available through PopeFrancisToGo.com. Christopher is known throughout the world for his work popularizing the theology of St. John Paul II. He is founder and president of The Cor Project. He will also be leading a Footsteps of St. John Paul II pilgrimage of Poland Aug. 20-29. Details can be found here, or one can register by calling 800-842-4842.