Thursday 19 July 2012

First Reflection on Humanae Vitae: Where is God in Our Struggles?

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

The papal encyclical Humanae Vitae (HV) released on July 25th, 1968 – has been a topic of intense debate; it has been both staunchly defended and heavily criticized. As the anniversary of its publication approaches, several of the Ibo Et Non Redibo bloggers will give a few reflections on this document.

What is often misunderstood about HV, with its focal point on the use of contraceptives, is that it is not merely a “do this” and “don't do this” document. The Church has a bigger picture in mind. This vision is about how love between a married couple reflects the love of God, and also about our human nature as God intended it, a nature that does not restrict our individuality or creativity, but rather leads us to a true authenticity.

I think that many of us agree on this basic outlook, but some may disagree on the interpretation of certain details of the document, such as the legitimacy of the “totality” of marriage, or the exact definition of the “procreative” and “unitive” aspects of marriage, but these are not the points of my blog entry. What I am interested in is rather our reaction towards the seemingly demanding teachings on married love put forth by our Church through HV.

Many say that only having intercourse during infertile periods is difficult for both husband and wife on many levels, be it physically or emotionally. Sometimes it seems that the theoretical suggestions given by the Church do not align with the practical reality encountered by married couples. While I do not underestimate the difficulties experienced by those who try to live out the Church's teaching on married life, I think this is a point worth dwelling upon: how do we deal, in general, with difficulties, harsh realities, and struggles? What do we do when things do not go our way?

Hardships and difficulties in life do not go away when we follow Christ. Indeed, Jesus tells us to carry our own crosses if we want to follow his footsteps. It is a "narrow path" that calls for sacrifice and sometimes includes suffering. This is the reality that Christ demonstrates, and one can only attain authenticity – to become who one is truly meant to be – when the meaning of struggle and sacrifice are properly understood. More importantly, this understanding must translate into an embracing of one's cross.

Furthermore, the way we deal with hardships is also a direct reflection of our relationship with God. How do we relate to the Lord in these situations? Or to put it in another way, do we want to be the lord of our own lives, or do we let God to be our Lord? I am in no position to tell anyone how they should behave, but my invitation is to simply observe whether we are drawn closer or farther to the Lord during our struggles. Do we get mad at God for not allowing us to do what we want? Do we pick and choose the sacrifices that we would like to make? Do we want to draw up the blueprint of our world and ask for God's blessing, or do we allow the Lord to paint the picture for us? This will show itself in our prayer lives – or lack thereof – and it is an often-neglected aspect.

Since HV, many have elaborated on the wonderful fruits that can come from embracing the Church's teaching on married love, and I believe the key to this is to understand the role of sacrificial love – how it makes us authentic human beings, children of God in the way the Lord intended.

[Go to Second Reflection on Humanae Vitae]
[Go to Third Reflection on Humanae Vitae]
[Go to Fourth Reflection on Humanae Vitae]

1 comment:

  1. excellent reflections. I look forward to further ones.