“Trevor” is a husband and father who, like many of us, struggles to find meaning and purpose in his life while balancing the delicate relationship between work and family. What complicates matters is that—after being married for while—Trevor became “bored” and thought he could make life more interesting by indulging in a little pornography. “After all”, he thought, “What’s the big deal? I’m not hurting anybody and it will make me feel better about myself.” Like many men, Trevor journeyed down the slippery precipice of Internet porn.
After a few months, when Trevor’s marriage was in serious trouble, he came to see me and we talked for two hours. In an email to me afterward, he wrote, “I told my wife what you told me. We both cried. I really wish I could give her everything, all of me. I realize now how much she loves me, how much she has been loving me while I am still dwelling in this sexual mud and sin. How could I have given up everything that was good and beautiful for sexual pleasures? I am not very intimate with my wife and I would rather spend time with my computer and indulge in all the sleaze than to engage in any emotional or intimate moments with her. Through all of this, she keeps loving me and wants to help me. Why can’t I love her? What’s wrong with me? I am afraid. I can’t run away from God and I need to trust in Him to help me. I hope I will have the courage to break away from these sexual bonds and face life as it is, and find meaning in it. I hope I can love and, if I could, to love my wife.”
Trevor is infected with the disease of pornography, but if we men are honest with ourselves, Trevor’s situation becomes ours when we substitute “pornography” with those things that prevent and inhibit us from being the person Christ calls us to be: drugs and alcohol, contraception and abortion, apathy and laziness in our faith. Trevor’s life brings into clear relief that the opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is emptiness.
We husbands and fathers all ask the same question after the initial thrill and excitement of marriage wears off, and we are left with the cyclical routine of everyday life: is this all there is? But instead of recognizing Christ within the rhythm of the life to which we have been called, instead of serving our wives and children with the tenderness, love and mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, instead of working hard at deepening and strengthening our faith life, we allow ourselves to be shaped and influenced by the culture: by a way of thinking and being that doesn’t care about the truth of Christ, that could care less about the freedom of his Cross, and finds no meaning in the life-giving love of the Holy Spirit. We replace the fullness of self-donating love with the emptiness of a culture that mocks us.
When we look at the Christ on the Cross, what do we see? Do we see ourselves as husbands and fathers? The Cross is a mirror into the souls of men, but we are so immersed in those things that prevent us from making our families our highest and most important priority, that we have stopped looking at the Cross because it’s either too painful or we simply feel nothing at all. We have become the living dead. We live our lives in silent fear, ashamed and afraid to make ourselves vulnerable; afraid to give ourselves totally and completely to our wives and children. When we do this, we allow fear to empty us of love, leaving a deep void that needs to be filled. The culture has convinced us that being a real man means filling this emptiness with pleasure or power or prestige, and we fool ourselves into believing that it’s easier to live a lie than to seek the truth.
Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! He has given us his flesh and blood in the Eucharist to save our souls, to bring us back from the dead, to give us the courage to pick up our Cross and follow him to eternal life! In receiving the Eucharist, we say “yes” to the love and life of Christ, especially during those times that we feel like saying “no”: when we don’t feel like being married anymore; when our longing for true intimacy encounters the lie of pornography; when we mask our hurt and pain behind the false veneer of the “tough guy.” This is not who we are! It is only when we love our wives and children with all our hearts, in the depths of our souls, and with all our being—when we love our families with a love that is selfless and pure—are we then able to willingly sacrifice everything that separates us from them.
Open your hearts to Jesus! Just as a mother nourishes her child with her own body and blood, Jesus feeds and gives life to His Bride, the Church, with his own body and blood in the Holy Eucharist. In response to receiving our Precious Lord in the Eucharist, we are called to make a gift of ourselves to our wives and children: to give our minds, our hearts, our souls, our bodies—everything we have and everything we are in total, self-sacrificing love. When we make a sincere effort to do this, we begin to discover why “a man leaves his father and mother, and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh.”
The Eucharistic Jesus is our true model of holiness and it is in Christ that we discover the meaning of manhood. Fatherhood means embracing the Cross we have been given with love because it is in the Cross that we discover why we exist at all. In the Eucharist, we receive answers to the most difficult questions in our minds, and true meaning within the deepest longings and desires of our hearts. Through the Eucharist, we say can say with confidence and joy to our wives and children, “This is my body, broken and given for you. This is my blood, the blood of our marriage covenant, poured out for you.” It is the Cross that leads us to the Eucharist, for the Cross is the meaning of sacrifice; the Cross is the meaning of love.
©2011 Aurem Cordis and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers