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Catechesi ai Filippini. Seconda lezione
Roma, maggio 1993


Dear friends, my sisters and brothers,

We have to continue our reflection on conjugal love. And we must now reflect on the sublime vocation of couple. We will begin with some important reflections about human sexuality (first point) and after we reflect (second point) about conjugal sexuality. Some general, pratical reflections will conclude our meeting.

 

1/ Human sexuality

In order to understand the very nature of human sexuality we must understand some themes about human person. The human person is also his body: it is false to say that the person has a body or that the person is united to a body. The body enters into the very constitution of the person: the human person is a bodily person and the human body is a personal body. As consequence, the separation between person and body, in the sense of hypostasizing the possibility of getting a human body that is not a person is impossible. And also, as consequence, the relationship between man and external material nature is essentially different from the relationship between man and his body. This unity /body-person/ is so important to be understood that without this insight it is impossible to see the very nature of human sexuality. The body is the very person in its visibility. The person expresses himself, through his body, and the body is the language or expression of the person.

But, the unity of human person is the first presupposition of understanding human sexuality. There is a second and more important presupposition: the redemption of human body. What is meant by “redemption of human body”? Briefly, we said immediately: the redemption of our body is a participation in the resurrection of Christ’s body. Now I will explain better.

 

The key-ideas of mystery of resurrection are two: the risen body of Christ is the very same, that is, numerically identical with the crucified body of Christ; the risen body of Jesus is a spiritual body, a body of glory, a lifegiving spirit, the first fruits of the new creation, so that, the resurrection of Christ consists in passage (Pasch means passage) from humble, poor condition, to glorious and immortal condition. The glory of the person of the Word, of which he had emptied himself by assuming the condition of slave, now completely penetrates and pervades his flesh. And, the body of the believer is also redeemed by means of its participation in the transfiguration – glorification of the body of Christ. This participation will not happen only the last day, but now also, because in Eucharistic sacrament we partecipate to glorious Christ’s body. What means, we will see after.

Now in the light of two presupposition, we may begin our reflection on human sexuality.

First: human sexuality is very complex reality. Certainly, human sexuality is some biological reality: feminity and masculinity are biological difference. But, not only. Every woman, every man, feels mysterious and wonderful attraction: reciprocal attraction. That is not only biological reality. It is something psycological. But not only. The human sexuality is also spiritual reality: man loves woman and woman loves man. And we have explaned what is mean by “love”: it is a spiritual act. Person loves person and aims to self give. So, the human sexuality is constituted by three dimensions: physical (biological), psycological, spiritual dimension.

 

But, it is very necessary to see profonde unity of three dimensions (remember first presupposition): biology is not separate from spirit. Human person is a unity: human sexuality is a biological, psycological and spiritual dimension of human person. Every  woman/man is woman/man not only in its body, but also in its spirit: the spirit of woman, the intelligence of woman is different from man’s intelligence.

Second: human sexuality is not only complex reality, but it is also an orderly reality. There is an order in sexuality. I explain myself: We have seen that there are three dimensions in sexuality. Now we ask: is there some order among three dimensions? Some hierarchy? Certainly: there is. The biological dimension, genital dimension must be integrated in psycological and spiritual dimensions. More clearly, the sexuality is the sexuality of person: person is, and must be, involved in sexuality. Sexual act is act of person and not only biological, genital act. But, we have seen last Sunday, that the person is called to love, to give himself to other person and so, the human sexuality is called to be language of person’s love, of person’s gift. We will return on this point.

Third: human sexuality is not only complex reality and orderly reality, but it is also good reality. In what consists the goodness of human sexuality? We have seen the last Sunday that there are three kinds of goodness: something is good because it is useful, it is pleasant, it belong to human person. The goodness of human person does not consist in utility, in pleasure: in what?

The goodness consists in the fact that human sexuality is capable of procreating new person and in the fact that human sexuality is capable of creating loving relationship between woman and man. The goodness of human sexuality has two dimensions: procreativity – unity.

We can conclude the first point of our reflection. Sexuality is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the being of human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of love by which man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death and are open to gift of new life.

 

2/ Human sexuality in marriage.
Now, after our reflection of human sexuality generally, let’s speak about human sexuality in marriage.

There is profound relationship between human sexuality and marriage that can be expressed very simply in following form:

  • Sexual intercourse is intended by God to mean and realize the self-commitment of marriage. We must now reflect about this centre of christian teaching.

The Christian faith teach that sex is a gift from God even though that gift is frequently misused. Any reading of the Bible or even secular books quickly shows how frequently and in how many ways men and women have misused the gift of their sexuality, and from the biblical statement we arrive to core statement: “ … to mean and to realize…”

That leads to an obvious question: what is there about the marriage that makes morally good the same physical act that is morally evil outside of marriage? Or to put it like other way if honest sexual intercourse is (or can be) a moral good within marriage, why is it evil for those who are not married to each other? Certainly God knows that the degree of emotional love felt by unmarried persons is sometime more strong than that felt by many

married couples. To sharpen the focus a bit more: if Jim and Janet love each other, why is it the grave matter of mortal sin for them to have sexual intercourse on the day before they marry, but good for them to celebrate their marriage with honest sexual intercourse after they have married?

The answer is that when they married, they freely entered into a covenant of God’s making. They solemnly promised before God and their fellow man that they would exercise caring love for each other from that time until death will separate them. They gave themselves, each to the other, without reservation. This is what makes marriage so wonderful. They become “two in one flesh”. They have united their persons and their lives spiritually. Now with their whole person, soul and body, they have the right to express the oneness of their person in the oneness of the full sexual union. Precisely sexual intercourse means and realizes their complete oneness. The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of total personal self-giving, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present: if the person want to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding otherwise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally.

Two things need now to be noted about marital sexual intercourse.

First of all, it is a unique sign of their marital love. Of all the things they do as a married couple, this (along with its preparatory actions) is the only action that is morally right only for married couple. There are, indeed, many other acts that in fact they do with each other which reflect their conjugal love – common meals, financial sharing, common living quarters… - but these could also be practiced if one were living with a relative or even a very close friend. But only sexual intercourse is proper and exclusive sign of conjugal love.

Second thing that needs to be noted is that while sexual intercourse is meant to be a unique sign of marital love, it is not always really sign of love. This point is very important and must be reflected more longly.

I said in the first point that the goodness of human sexuality consists in the capacity of procreating new person and of creating loving relationship between woman and man. Now we have seen that the love to what sexuality is aimed, is only conjugal love. The consequence is the sexual activity in marriage is good only if it respects two dimensions of goodness of sexuality: procreativity and unity. Now, I would like reflect a little about this point.

  1. To respect unity. What means? It means that the sexual union must be an expression of profound love of married couple, of respect. It is not the use of other’s body. The sexual intercourse is first of all a spiritual intimacy between married persons.
  2. But today is more difficult to speak about the procreativity.

+ Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage: this statement must be always in our mind now.

+ Other observation is that human sexuality is not always fertile, as you know. And so we find two fundamental questions in conjugal sexuality.

FIRST QUESTION: is it licit to have sexual intercourse in fertile time and in the same time to impede procreation?

SECOND QUESTION: is it licit to have sexual intercourse in infertile time precisely in order to avoid procreating?

First question is question about contraception. As you know, contraception is to have sexual intercourse in such a way that germinal cells are prevented from arriving at their natural union. How is contraceptive behavior to be evaluated in terms of conjugal love?

 

Second question is question about responsible procreation. We have seen that to contracept is always wrong. But condemnation of contraception does mean that it is right to have sexual intercourse only in fertile time? Absolutely not. It is licit… also with intention of avoiding procreating. When? When there are serious reasons of not procreating. What serious reason? It is impossible to indicate all. The most important are physical condition of woman, economic grave situation, difficulty in education, for example.

In conclusion: sexual conjugal intercourse must be always an expression of profound, personal (spiritual) conjugal love and open to gift of new life. What is meant by “open”? first: never contraception; second: generous procreation; thirdly: if there are serious reason, to avoid procreating.

 

Some practical conclusions

God gave us the gift of sex like share with us his power of procreation and as a unique way of expressing married love. God has made it clear that sex is meant to be a marriage act expressive of marital love and not deliberately closed to the transmission of life. Everything God has revealed about love shows that love is inextricably tied-up with self-giving and sacrifice. We need to be educated to loving. More precisely,

  • It is necessary that you know Christian doctrine about marriage and sex: the ignorance is always bad and mother of all harm for human person.
  • It could be good that you ask to have serious marriage preparation course
  • It is important that married people learn WFP

 

Voglio concludere con un testo stupendo di S. Tommaso: esso riassume tutta la nostra riflessione.

“E’ necessario che Dio abbia una provvidenza speciale nei riguardi delle persone. Queste infatti sono superiori a tutte le creature sia a causa della perfezione del loro essere sia a causa della dignità del fine cui sono destinate. La perfezione del loro essere: solamente la persona è responsabile dei suoi atti, muovendosi liberamente all’azione; tutte le altre creature più che muovere se stesse, sono mosse dagli altri  ad agire. La dignità del fine:

solamente la persona può entrare in comunione immediata col fine ultimo dell’universo, conoscendo ed amando Dio.” (Contra Gentes III, cap.111, 2855).

A nessuno di noi capiti, sentendo parlare dell’uomo in questo modo, ciò che avvenne al contadino, vedendo le sue gambe e i suoi piedi ben vestiti: non sono io! L’uomo di cui parla S. Tommaso non sono io! Se così fosse, avremmo scelto la disperazione, non la beatitudine.