Family: Catechesis on sexuality, the covenant of marriage
Editor’s note: The Family Life Committee for the Diocese of Austin is sharing catechesis on family life and marriage topics in preparation for the World Meeting of Families, which will be held inPhiladelphia in September.
By Michelle Browning and Chris Sperling
The human body, as God created it, is an expression of both the physical and spiritual parts of the person it embodies. Our sexuality is an extension of the physical and spiritual and has purpose in God’s plan. The purpose of our sexuality is revealed in his covenant with us; it is intended by God to unite us to one another and to himself, as well as to bring life into the world.
Our sexuality is an intimate part of who we are and what our eternal lives are meant for. The two bodies, male and female, enflesh our Lord’s divine design and explain how we are dependent upon one another –– in marriage and in community. When spouses answer God’s call to love one another with total giving of self and unconditional fidelity, they experience original and true communion.
The experience of sexual desire reveals that we are not meant to be alone; we were not designed to rely only on ourselves. We long to be in relationship, we long for intimacy with another –– to be in communion. True communion relates to chastity in that we honor our bodies and other people’s bodies; we do not use the physical body (ours or someone else’s) for selfish purpose or gain.
There are two aspects to our sexuality: procreation and unity. Procreation and unity illustrate our creation in the image and likeness of God. God calls us to be a visible sign of his invisible love to our spouse in the unitive act.
We, as created beings, have been given the gift of love for bearing fruit in the world. God, our Creator, is inviting us to share in the gift of creation! Husbands and wives bring new life into the world or adopt children to nurture. God calls celibate persons to bear fruit and give of themselves to a person, a group of persons or an entire community –– through love, nurturing and extending God’s mercy.
Celibacy is not exclusive to single lay persons, religious men and women or clergy. Married couples are celibate while they are physically away from each other, are practicing natural family planning and during illness or health concerns.
Married, single, religious men and women and clergy all have a role in giving life. God invites all to share in his gift in bringing life to the world, leading us into unity with him.
Two become one
God designed us to be in relationship. He designed marriage to consist of a husband and wife completely dependent on each other, becoming their own church. Couples have the task to enrich and honor each other’s respective genders. They are to share each other’s burdens, grow closer together each day and do so with virtuous faith, love, hope, prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude.
We were created to love. In marriage, giving of ourselves helps us create an inner life together –– a life that honors each other’s thoughts and opinions, welcomes influence and abandons feelings of entitlement or control. An interior life between spouses, filled with unconditional love, avoids the pitfalls of possessing each other or seeking power in the relationship.
A marriage fortified in genuine love makes a true commitment. God’s design of a sacramental marriage ensures that egoism cannot exist nor threaten it. A true commitment between a man and a woman will lead them into unity with God.
A married couple’s love should move beyond their intimate church. Love between husband and wife should go outside and bear fruit, be it biological offspring, adoptive children or persons and causes in need of love and nurturing.
A husband and a wife visibly love each other as Christ loved and died for the church. A sacramental marriage is based in surrendering the self to the marriage with mercy, fidelity, chastity and lasting permanence. Take joy in being created male and female, this is integral to God’s design for the marriage covenant and his true meaning of love.