This is the second Advent reflection based on Archbishop Chaput's address to the 1998 Couple to Couple League convention (Surviving as a Catholic Family in the Third Millennium):

"Recognizing already in 1930 the many trends treatening the family...Pius XI stated that if marriages are to be renewed, two things are necessary:

1. First, Christian spouses must meditate on God's plan for marriage;
2. And second, with the help of God's grace, they must seek to shape all their way of thinking and acting according to it.

"Following Pius XI's counsel, I'd like to encourage you in your mission by reflecting for a few moments on God's plan for marriage... This year marks the 30th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae. Three decades of discussion have shown us that, at its root, the contraception dispute is not primarily about how to regulate family size. Nor is it really about Church authority versus personal conscience. These issues are relevant, but behind them lies something more profound. What's ultimately at stake, as John Paul II repeatedly stresses, is the truth of the human person, created as male and female in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27). Let me explain.

"As creatures, our very being is a gift from God. Therefore, the meaning of our existence in the world is not something which we are free to invent. Rather, it is something we are called to discover. Only as we live according to the deepest meaning of our being, as it is given us by our Creator, are we able to fulfill ourselves as men and women.

"The Second Vatican Council teaches that man--male and female--discover in the revelation of his likeness to God, who "is love" (1 Jn 4:8), a profound truth: that is, that he can only find himself by making a sincere gift of self (Gaudium et Spes n. 24). By showing us the model of "sincere self-giving" in offfering himself on the Cross, Jesus Christ "fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear" (GS, n. 22).

"Now, what do these deep truth have to do with the dispute over contraception? The beauty of human sexuality in God's plan is that it reveals to us a fundamental truth of our existence: We are called to give ourselves away in love. Indeed, in a certain sense, the most radical "sincere giving" of one human being to another is that of man and woman in the "one flesh" union of marriage."

Next: What the Church specificially opposes (about artificial birth control) and why.