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Created in His Image

Examining the love embrace that God offers us

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As a deacon, I have the great blessing of being married and experiencing the love of my bride while also experiencing love as the beloved spouse of Jesus Christ. There are many parallels to these loves, and, as deacons, I believe we are positioned directly in the crosshairs of the battle between belief in the necessary fruitfulness of the marital act and belief in the necessary fruitfulness of the Eucharist. We are living in a culture that denies both.

The focus of belief in Real Presence during the present three-year National Eucharistic Revival should be a clarion call to all of us as we preach to the People of God about the truth of both loves that are one and the same.

Exploring Genesis

“Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.

“God created mankind in his image; / in the image of God he created them; / male and female he created them” (Gn 1:26-27).

To understand God and ourselves, we must look at and apply the above verses. They tell us about “man,” but it gives us great insight into who God is. Since God created me in his image and likeness, then the best way for me to understand God is to look at myself. I am an image, a likeness of God. If I am an image, a likeness of God, then everything about me, except my sin, tells me something about God.

The Eucharist then plays a central role in the relationship between Christ and his Church. Just as without the love embrace between husband and wife, there can be no fruit, so without the love embrace of Jesus in the Eucharist, there can be no fruit.

But I am only male. The verse from Genesis says specifically, “male and female he created them” (v. 27). Therefore, since I am only male, something is missing from me that completes the image and likeness of God — female. Am I saying that God is male and female? Not at all. What I am saying is that there is something about us being male and female that tells us something about God.

Love Relationship

The Church teaches us that God is three divine persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — and yet he is one. God the Father and God the Son, in an everlasting love relationship, have, in their love for each other, been joined by God the Holy Spirit.

Something about us being male and female can help us understand this: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Gn 2:24).

When, as God planned, a man and woman come together in marriage as one body, their expression of an everlasting love relationship may result in the creation of a child that binds them together, and the three —father, mother and child — become one family, an image, a likeness of God.

In the Old Testament, God reveals his love for us as the love of a bridegroom for his bride. It is not without reason that God uses this image to explain his love for us. After all, the love in a family is the image and likeness of God. Just as a husband desires his wife in their love embrace, God desires us, his creation. This image of the bridegroom and the bride takes on its full meaning in Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us that he is the bridegroom, and the Church is his bride. What does a bridegroom do for his bride? He gives his body to her in a love embrace and it is fruitful.

What is this love embrace between Christ and his Church? The Eucharist. Christ gives his flesh to us, and we give ours to him, and it is meant to be fruitful. In a real sacramental sense, at the Mass we make love to Jesus, and it is fruitful. We should go to Mass with a great sense of anticipation as a bride waits for the love embrace of the groom.

The Eucharist then plays a central role in the relationship between Christ and his Church. Just as without the love embrace between husband and wife there can be no fruit, so without the love embrace of Jesus in the Eucharist there can be no fruit. Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (Jn 6:53).

Unitive

Our discussion to this point has looked only at the procreative (fruitful) aspect of the love embrace between a husband and wife. There is, however, a second element to the love embrace: unitive. The lovers need also just to be with each other. It strengthens the lover’s relationship if they are united in love. It is a blessing when the spouses look at each other in adoration. To be united to the other, and to just love, creates a bond and strengthens that bond. What would become of lovers if they did not spend time just telling each other how much they love and need the beloved?

It is the same with the Eucharist. Since the Eucharist is our love embrace with Christ and Communion is meant to be fruitful, then there also needs to be a unitive dimension to our spousal relationship with Christ. This unitive element in the Church is adoration. We need to spend time with Christ, time just to look at him as he looks at us. A time to simply enjoy his presence and talk with him, to strengthen our relationship with him. He wants to speak to us, to give us encouragement, to tell us how much he loves us. This is a critical element in the relationship between lovers.

The enemy wants nothing more than to destroy our love union with our spouse, and this is the same with our love relationship with Christ in his Church. The enemy does not want there to be any fruit from our love relationship with Christ. What is the best way to do this? Take away our belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. If we do not believe in the true flesh presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and we no longer receive him in this love union, then there is no fruit. Mission accomplished.

The love embrace between Christ and his Church is the Eucharist. Christ gives his flesh to us, and we give ours to him, and it is meant to be fruitful.

In the 16th century, during the Reformation, this is exactly what happened. The belief in the Real Presence was denied and many fell away from the Church. They were left with only a “symbolic” presence of Christ in their love relationship with him. Even though any relationship with Christ is good, a relationship without the flesh is incapable of producing the fruit that was intended by God.

What happened was that the Eucharist was “contracepted.” From that point until the present, the importance of the flesh union was no longer recognized as a critical part of our relationship. As discussed earlier, it is also necessary to have a unitive element to our love relationship, but there is no point in having a unitive element if it is only symbolic. We cannot adore a symbol.

The same mentality has carried over to our relationships with our human spouses. If it is possible to have a fruitful relationship without the flesh union, then why not contracept? If a symbolic relationship is OK with Christ, why not a symbolic relationship with our marital partner?

The enemy has won the battle. If Christ cannot produce the fruit in us that he wants, then we can choose the fruit we want. It is the age-old story of Adam and Eve deciding that they knew better than God and chose the fruit of their liking, rather than the fruit that God desired for them, and still desires for us. We want control, to be like gods ourselves. The enemy tells us that if we choose the fruit that we want, then we can be like gods.

My brother deacons, as men of the Kingdom, created in the image and likeness of God, we can proclaim hope to the People of God. The enemy has been defeated, and we win the battle in the end. Jesus is looking at his bride, the Church today, just as he looked at his followers after many left because they could not believe his teaching about the Eucharist. He is asking us, “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn 6:67).

Deacons, we should echo the words of Peter to those we preach: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).

DEACON DAVID PARKER is a deacon of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and is an assistant master of ceremonies and coordinator of episcopal liturgies.

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Celebration of Marriage

“In the Latin Rite the celebration of marriage between two Catholic faithful normally takes place during Holy Mass, because of the connection of all the sacraments with the Paschal mystery of Christ. In the Eucharist the memorial of the New Covenant is realized, the New Covenant in which Christ has united himself for ever to the Church, his beloved bride for whom he gave himself up. It is therefore fitting that the spouses should seal their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives by uniting it to the offering of Christ for his Church made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and by receiving the Eucharist so that, communicating in the same Body and the same Blood of Christ, they may form but ‘one body’ in Christ.

“‘Inasmuch as it is a sacramental action of sanctification, the liturgical celebration of marriage … must be, per se, valid, worthy, and fruitful.’”

— Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 1621-22

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