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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - How to Fall in Love

Robert Barron - How to Fall in Love

Robert Barron - How to Fall in Love
TOPICS: Love, Marriage, Relationships

Peace be with you. Friends, our readings for this weekend are of extraordinary importance. They have to do with, to give it its technical term, Christian anthropology, that is to say, who we are in the presence of God, and the Christian understanding of marriage. These two issues are of enormous significance in our culture today. And so this brief passage from the Old Testament, from the book of Genesis, and our brief passage from the Gospel warrant close attention. The opening line now of our reading is well-known. "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone.'" It's one of the most basic statements of biblical anthropology. It's not good.

So God has created Adam, but he says it's not good for the man to be alone. That we belong in society, in community, that we belong together, is a fundamental intuition of a biblical anthropology. And here's why it's interesting. Because modern philosophical views are predicated really on the opposite assumption, that we're dealing, first and foremost, with individuals. Think of political theories coming from Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, the people that influenced our Founding Fathers. You begin with the individual and his rights. Then individuals come together in a somewhat artificial way to make a social contract. And by means of that contract, they have a kind of shared life. That's not the Bible. The Bible doesn't begin with the individual and his rights. The Bible begins with community. It's not good for the man to be alone.

It's interesting to me, too, there is a correspondence between the Bible here and ancient philosophy. So Hobbes and Locke inform the modern view, but go back to someone like Aristotle. He defined the human being as the "zoon politikon," the political animal. Well, you know what that means. That means the animal that lives in a polis, in a city. That means he lives with others, that togetherness is basic to his way of being. Even Aristotle's famous definition of the human being as the "zoon logicon", we say rational animal, but "logicon," logos, it means tongue. It means speech. It means the animal who speaks. Well, see to speak means to speak to another. To speak means conversation. So in the classical view, both biblical and philosophical, something like community is basic, not individuality.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago used to say, he's making the same point, "Catholic social teaching begins not with the individual, but with the family". Ah, there's a world of difference there. You're looking at now our political thinking. Don't start with the individual and his rights. But see, that's the dominant view today, isn't it? Individuals clamoring for their rights. But Catholic social teaching doesn't begin there, but rather with the family. It's not good for the man to be alone. Okay. So in accord with this truth, God endeavors to make a partner for Adam. Notice the little prelude though, it's very interesting; it's prior to the creation of Eve, he brings forward before Adam all the different animals. And Adam, one by one, names them.

Now look at it positively first. The Church Fathers saw this. This is science and philosophy and all of the ways that we use our intelligence to catalog the world. That word in English from the Greek "kata logon," according to the logos. So all the animals come before the human being, as the scientist, the philosopher names and catalogs and categorizes all things. Beautiful. We're meant to see in this a basic form of human flourishing. But here's the second point, and I might put it a little more negatively. But none of these animals brought before Adam is construed as a proper partner for him.

Now notice why. Why? Because all these animals, he's able to dominate and master and catalog. If I'm naming them, I'm giving them their names and putting them in their categories, then I'm expressing a dominion over them. Okay. That's appropriate vis-a-vis the other animals. But they're not suitable as Adam's partner. Why? Because they're not co-equal to him. What he needs is someone now who can respond to his intelligence and to his emotion and to his creativity and to his depth of personality. And so we hear that God puts Adam into a deep sleep, and from his rib he creates Eve.

Now don't read this as a symbol of a woman's inferiority. It's not meant that way. But rather of her radical co-equality. She's not like the other animals that come before Adam, over whom he expresses properly dominion. Rather, now listen, Adam says, "At last, this one is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh," in other words, my co-equal partner. Aristotle too said this long ago, that I can really only have friendship authentically with someone who is my co-equal, someone whose gaze meets my gaze, whose intelligence meets my intelligence, whose curiosity meets my curiosity, whose capacity for love meets my capacity for love. It's only with an equal that I can be friends. Well here now, Adam has found his friend, the one who's bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.

Now let's keep pushing. We're talking about basic anthropology, but now we begin to speak of a biblical theology of marriage. Listen. "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh". I don't know about you, but I don't know anywhere in the literature of the world that the meaning of marriage is better expressed than in that line. The two of them become one flesh. Now it certainly signals the physical facticity of the sexual act, but see, for someone in the biblical context, flesh didn't mean something opposed to spirit. Flesh meant the person, meant me. "The two of them become one flesh" means the two of them fuse in such a deep and thorough and complete way that their friendship comes to fullest possible expression.

It's not good for the man to be alone. He needs an equal. He needs a friend. And then in marriage, in this relationship of marriage between a man and a woman, friendship comes to its fullest expression. The mutuality, complementarity, the play of co-equal friendship reaches its culmination in the context of a married relationship. Beautiful. Beautiful. Marriage is the deepest and fullest kind of friendship. Husband says to his wife, "My life is no longer about me". It's a very interesting thing, I think, when young people get married. It's that extraordinary transition from a fundamentally self-regarding attitude. And that's typical of kids, and it's appropriate as far as it goes. Their lives are about them, meeting of their needs.

When a man marries a woman, though, he says, "My life is not about me. It's about you". And the woman, by the same token, says, "My life is no longer about me. It's not meeting my needs. It's about you". The two of them become, in this beautiful mirroring way, one flesh. It's not good for the man to be alone. And so God establishes friendship, yes indeed, but this most extraordinary, intimate type of friendship that we call marriage. That's the biblical anthropology. Now let's turn to the Gospel. It's this very text from Genesis that Jesus cites when he's questioned about marriage and divorce.

I know these texts are much talked about today. He's asked about God's attitude toward marriage and divorce, and we might expect him to soften the teaching or to relativize it. No, no. On the contrary, he intensifies it. Listen. "Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate". He intensifies the teaching about marriage. He intensifies the prohibition against divorce. And he introduces, I'll use, again, Aristotle's language, he introduces the transcendent third. "What God has joined together, no human being must separate".

I've spoken about this often before. What makes a friendship long- lasting and durable? Not simply when the two friends love one another. That's essential, of course. But if it's simply the two friends loving each other, that can devolve into a kind of shared egotism. Rather, Aristotle said, a friendship will endure in the measure that together the two friends fall in love with a transcendent third, with some great value that they are both devoted to that transcends the two of them. Together they fall in love with their country. Together they fall in love with wisdom or whatever it is.

Well, well, same principle. What God has joined together no human being must separate. Who is responsible for this most intimate expression of friendship that we call marriage? Who is responsible for the two of them becoming one flesh? It's not just their mutual love. Oh, they met each other, and they found each other interesting, and they fell in love, and they decided to get married. Well, that's just a purely secular or purely psychological account. The biblical reading is, "what God has joined together".

What did God want from the beginning? It's not good for the man to be alone. God wanted us in community. He wanted us in friendship, and he wanted this most beautiful and most intense form of friendship. See, friends, that's why the Church from the beginning has stood so strongly against divorce. Because it's not simply a matter of two people for their own psychological reasons coming together. No, no, it's a question of God bringing them together. Okay. One last thought as I bring it to a conclusion. How wonderful that this Gospel passage about marriage and divorce ends with this. At a time when children were seen as an annoyance, had no particular social status, children are coming to Jesus, and the disciples want to block them.

And the Lord says, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these". What's the fruit of this most intimate, abiding, and beautiful form of friendship? Children. Now we have the full picture. Two people falling in love, but yes, under the guidance of God, finding this friendship that makes them one flesh. And then, in a fruitful way, it gives rise to children. That's the image, everybody. That's the picture. I do think at a time when this conception of marriage is under assault, it's very important for us to revisit especially this text from the second chapter of Genesis to see what God intends in regard to this most beautiful form of friendship. And God bless you.
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