I had a call from Radio New Zealand last evening as I was relaxing at the end of a full and satisfying Sunday. The reporter wanted a comment about the Synod on the Family which concluded yesterday in Rome, and I was happy to oblige.
I have been following the synod with interest and realised very early on that relying on media sound bytes and newspaper headlines gave a pretty meagre dose of the synod’s reality of robust discussion. The real point at issue is not so much the doctrine of the church on human sexuality and marriage but the impoverished communication that has marked the church’s communication of her understanding of God in relationship with people.
It is a ultimate tragedy that the beauty of intimate relationship with God, lived in relationship with wives and husbands, friends and family is most often heard as the church imposing rules that demand a NO to everything that is attractive. Given that we profess a faith in the one who came to us bringing life in abundance (John 10:10), this is a serious problem facing the church, and it was encouraging to see the participants in the three-week meeting wrestling with this problem of language and communication.
While there has always been resistance to the teaching of Jesus, our Catholic problem today is that many Catholics, who are filled with desire for God and good-will toward the church, have little appreciation of the full beauty of life with Jesus lived in the family of the Catholic Church.
In the midst of the synod discussions, one intervention stands out for me as a wonderful example of a path forward for all of us who seek to communicate matters of life and love. I shared this with the reporter last night but it didn’t make it to this morning’s news bulletin. This inspiration came from Dr. John Kleinsman, a lay man who was one of the four New Zealand participants. Here are a couple of his key points:
Within the sacrament of their marriage a couple experience and enable God’s tenderness in a special way through their sexual loving. In giving themselves to each other faithfully, joyously, generously and exclusively through the gift of their sexuality, their love is nourished and they become open to the possibility and miracle of new life: in the form of their children who are the fruit of their sexual self-giving; by moving towards ever greater self-transcendence in ways that seek the good of the beloved and which involve a real discovery of the other, (Deus Caritas Est, n. 6); by delighting in each other (Song of Songs 7, 6) so that they confirm and are confirmed in their commitment to each other; by forgiving and being forgiven; by healing and being healed; by constantly nourishing the well-being of each other so that they are sustained in their networks of familial, social, ecclesial and vocational relationships and commitments; by developing an attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude for the goodness of their bodies and the world created by God; by growing in their ability to move beyond their relationship and to work for goodness and justice in the world; by growing in their faith and love for God who is present wherever there is genuine love (1 Jn 4, 7).
At a time when the rich Christian vision of sex and sexuality has increasingly been replaced by a much narrower and impoverished understanding for many, Christian couples are called to witness more than ever to the beauty, joy and richness of human sexuality and the proper place of sexual loving in a committed, exclusive and permanent relationship. The sexual expression of love within marriage thus has the potential to establish itself as a special expression of Christian evangelisation.
Thank you John Kleinsman for your superb communication!