Sexual Attraction: Heaven on Earth?
If our children would one day live in heaven, heaven must live on earth today. The purpose of the human family is to become a link that connects our children with their heavenly homeland. Therefore, the human family—our families—must become living, breathing, symbols of the Triune God; and the purpose of this symbol is to provide mankind with hope—with a link between heaven and earth—a reminder of our destiny which inspires hope in the joy of what awaits us in heaven. So how do our families become symbols of the Trinity? To become like God we must know God. To become a symbol of the Trinity we need to know the Trinity. What is—or Who is—the Trinity?
We’ve heard that the Trinity means “One God-Three Persons.” But what does that mean? What implications does that statement have on our lives as fathers? It means that “God has revealed His innermost secret, God Himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and He has destined us to share in that exchange.” (CCC221) God is eternal self-giving love: three distinct Persons Who give themselves to one another so unreservedly that They are eternally One. And yet, God does not want to keep this love to Himself, but destines us to share in this exchange. God will eternally pour His love—Himself—into us, and we will give ourselves eternally in return. This will be a bliss, rapture and ecstasy that will never end. God’s desire for us to share in this exchange is evident in His words, “Let us make man in our image and likeness.” (Gen 1:26) We are called to share God’s likeness in order to share in our destiny. But what is this likeness? It is nothing less than self-giving love.
Before the institution of the Sacraments, before Christ established His Church, before the event of the Incarnation, before the role of the prophets, before the calling of Israel, God intended to communicate and reveal basic knowledge of His divine identity – of His self-giving love. God created the human race to be comprised of both male and female sexes, granting the sexes a holy attraction toward one another, instilling an inherent need within the person to be drawn into self giving love. The human race cannot survive without males and females giving themselves away to one another in the one-flesh union. By making us male and female and giving us a holy, sexual attraction toward the other, God allows humanity to discover that it has the capacity to be an image of God. Indeed, “man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion.” (TOB 46) By granting man attraction toward the woman, and calling the sexes to the one-flesh union, God has programmed us to reveal the self-giving love of the Trinity.
The Trinity is self-giving love because each of the three Persons are truly distinct and yet really one. Because each of the divine Persons has complete self-possession they are able to give Themselves to one another. God teaches us that to give ourselves away to another person we must possess our own person. We cannot give what we do not have. The more that we possess our real person and our sexual energies, the more capable we are of giving ourselves to another (particularly our wives and children.) This is how we image God. The Trinity’s self-giving love can be defined by three attributes: 1) Distinction—each person completely distinct 2) Unity—they share themselves completely with the other 3) Fruitfulness—They give life to the full. For God is the “Lord and Giver of Life”. Like the Trinity, man and woman are distinctly different and yet are called to give themselves away to one another, and the consequence of this union is life—both spiritual and physical. In other words, they make babies. This is the key: sexual attraction, in its original goodness, give us the power to image the Trinity.
Sexual attraction is the very power within us that launches us, our vocation, and our family to heaven. Or, it can become a malignant cancer that destroys our marriage and family. Our sexual attraction toward females is a perpetual reminder that God is attracted to us and that we are attracted to God. Sexual attraction, in its pure character, is not a sin, but rather, a holy reminder that we are destined for the eternal exchange of the divine Persons—the Trinity. This is precisely why the evil one uses sex for evil—to keep the symbol of our sexes from pointing to the divine reality.
Over the next couple of FOSJ meetings we will discuss how to harness this power of sexual attraction in order to express the three attributes of the Trinity, which are essential for building a holy family: distinction, unity and fruitfulness. We’ve all fallen short in harnessing our sexual attractions. The good news is that Christ says, “whoever comes to Me I will never reject.” (see John 6) Christ asks us to bring Him our sexual desires and wounds and allow the Holy Spirit to breathe its redemptive grace into our masculinity. Christ’s redemptive power—the same power that raised Him from death to life—has been won for us that we can become like St. Joseph the “most chaste spouse”, “Joseph most pure”, and “Guardian of Virgins.” But here is the key: it is imperative that we admit that we struggle in this area. We must bear our wounds to Christ in order that He may heal us.
If Joseph had not assumed his role as father of Jesus and husband of Mary, the Holy Family would not have been the primary image of the Trinity—earth would not have been linked to heaven. Because of Joseph’s purity, and unwillingness “to expose Mary to shame,” (see Mt 1:24) that is, the lusts of men—even his own—the Holy Family became an icon of the Trinity, a link between earth and heaven, giving to families the ability to also become links between heaven and earth. If we follow Joseph’s example of becoming men who harness our sexual desires, we too will set the pace of self-giving love in our own families, helping them to become icons of the Trinity.