By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Marriage Family & Life
Over the course of the previous year, with a few exceptions, my column has reflected on Pope Francis’ review of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, St. Paul’s great discourse on love. The Holy Father reviewed this in his fourth chapter of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ and he concludes this chapter with a lengthy reflection on conjugal love, “the love between husband and wife”. Part of conjugal love is the marital embrace – sexual intimacy shared by husband and wife – which was designed by God to both deepen the life-long bond of the marital union while also cooperating with God the Creator in the creation of new life. Thus, God created human sexual union for a sacred purpose within the Sacrament of Marriage.
I once used the previous statement when someone asked me, “Why should the Church be in my bedroom?” The person was of course implying that the Catholic Church should not comment on sexual behavior because everyone should be able to make up their own mind and follow their own path when it comes to sexual behavior. When I replied that God created humans as male and female, that God created husband and wife to become “one flesh,” and that God created sexual union to exclusively be part of the marital union he looked at me like I was out-of-touch with reality. He even said, “Oh, come on, no one really believes that!”
He bought into the prevailing notion in society which holds that sexual behavior is just one of many pleasurable behaviors in which we should be able to indulge. If we are not violating the rights of others, so this thinking goes, two consenting adults should be able to participate in sexual behaviors with each other. Some will put certain restrictions on sexual behavior such as “the two should be in love with each other,” or “the two should be in an exclusive relationship,” but there are many who say that sexual behavior can take place between any two consenting adults outside of marriage, or even with only oneself, without any prohibition, guilt or remorse. Yes, there are many in society who say that sexual behavior is just like any other behavior and “if it feels good, then do it.”
But Christ teaches something to the contrary. For you see, God created us out of love to be in relationship with God, ultimately when we are in heaven. God created the world so we could grow in our love of God, grow in our relationship to God and grow in our preparation to meet God when we move from this life to the next. God the Father sent his son Jesus as part of this plan: to live with us, die with us, and rise from the grave to show us the way to God. Jesus created his living mystical body, the Church, to guide us to God and in turn the Holy Spirit came and dwells with us. Jesus gives us unique experiences of God’s loving grace in the sacraments through his Church. Included in the sacraments is Holy Matrimony, the life-long and life-giving union of husband and wife created from the beginning to be a sign of God’s love in the world. And for the Sacrament of Marriage, “God himself created sexuality, which is a marvelous gift to his creatures” (“Amoris Laetitia”, 150) and is meant to be part of a “sexual dimension of marriage”.
In brief, human sexual intercourse is not meant to be a pleasurable animalistic urge of our biology. Rather, God created sexual intercourse to be a part of the sacrament of marriage so that married couples could serve as a reflection of God’s eternal and creative love. In marriage, we are called to make a life-long commitment and the marital embrace is the loving sign of this commitment. This is why the Church teaches that sexual behavior is to only be practiced within marriage between a man and a woman, after a husband and wife have entered the life-long covenant of Holy Matrimony. Also, in marriage we are to be open to cooperating with God in the creation of new life when we engage in the marital embrace, open to the blessings of children which may be a fruit of marital union.
Just think of how things would change if our world recognized sexual behavior as a gift created by God exclusively for a married husband and wife.