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Contraception is Contra-Easter

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Apr. 02, 2012

     I would like to write this week about three things you might think are unrelated: contraception, religious freedom, and…Easter.  You can thank my wandering mind that connected these crazy dots while I sat listening to the liturgical readings for the Palm Sunday Mass…

     Let us begin with a question: Why is contraception offensive to the well-formed Catholic conscience?  There is more than one answer; but the one that I would like to focus on this Holy Week involves TOTALITY.  Contraception is wrong because it limits the gift given to the spouse.  Contraception essentially denies a part of you to the other, it says, “You can’t have this;” or it says, “I don’t want this.” 

     It is an undeniable truth that sex is a gift from God.  The odd thing about the contraceptive mentality is that fails to recognize the depth and value of the gift.  It assumes the gift is summed up in a single orgasmic moment.  But sex is more than that—it is a whole series of events during which time the persons engaged in the sexual activity receive the gift of one another.  However, the requisite means by which a gift is received is that a gift must be given.  The true gift in sex is the gift you give of yourself to the other: hence, self-gift.  Contraception, however, is a filter of self-gift.  Sex is not about self-service or self-gratification—its focus is exclusively and entirely other-oriented.  Yet contraception remains a control; a conscious withholding of self from the other, a purposeful admission that you will not relinquish this element of yourself to them.  Simply put, contraception denies your ability to give yourself TOTALLY, while it also denies the other the ability to receive you TOTALLY. 

      If you ask most people why they practice contraception, the answer obviously revolves around fertility—people want sex without fruitfulness.  They don’t want children, pregnancies or interruptions to their nicely controlled lifestyles.  They view new life as disruptive to their own lives—possibly demanding their time, possibly demanding their resources.  The modern-day youth are thirsty for fuller lives; but they make a critical error of judgment fueled by the contraceptive mentality—they foolishly equate fuller lives with cluttered lifestyles.  They mistake “stuff” with “happiness.”  If you want fuller lives, be open to fruitfulness, be open to God gifting you new lives for which you are responsible.  Contraception denies God the ability to be God.

      Which leads me to Easter.  To the Cross.  Remember Jesus—the fellow that “did not deem equality with God something to be grasped”? (Phil. 2:6)  The one who relinquished all control to God the Father—who let the Father’s Will be done.  During the Palm Sunday Mass it suddenly dawned on me how fortunate we are that Jesus didn’t suffer from the contraceptive mentalities that so many of our leaders and our neighbors (even some Catholics!) do.  What if He was willing to undergo all of the Passion except the Cross?  What if He withheld even the slightest bit of Himself?  What if He went all the way up to the edge of death without actually dying?  Where is the Empty Tomb without the death on the Cross?  The Cross is the most striking testimony to the power of self-gift; how relinquishing control, while it may hurt (in fact, it could kill you) is the only method by which to achieve the fullest life possible—eternal life. 

      The Cross is the podium from which Christ speaks so eloquently about the virtue of TOTALITY.  He gives Himself wholly, unreservedly, no-holding-back.  This is the very essence of His life—constantly serving the other, humility personified, relinquishing control, never grasping, but always giving.  Like everything we do in our Christian lives, the Cross stands as the example of how we are called to do it.  Sex is one of the things we do (if we are married, mind you), and therefore the Cross is the method.  It may sound alarming or irreverent to speak about sex in the same breath that you utter the virtue of the Cross—but it only sounds this way because we have denigrated sex to a silly, self-promoting activity.  Yet hear St. Paul’s own words concerning how husbands are to love their wives—like Christ loved His Church (Eph. 5: 25).  Jesus did not love contraceptively; He loved TOTALLY.

     This Easter thank God for His Son’s TOTAL self-gift.  Thank Jesus for emptying Himself so that we may be filled with life.  Thank Him for going to the Cross, for publicly practicing His religion—even if it did kill Him.  Then (the ever-pivotal “then”) let us begin to apply His story to our own lives so that we can begin to see how we can best follow Him.  Let us live as He did—giving ourselves entirely, emptying ourselves for the sake of life, putting our Faith into practice publicly, privately, and, yes, TOTALLY.