The Meaning of Human Sexuality

by Jenny Barrett, Offutt AFB

Creation is sacred. It has sacramental meaning. It reflect God’s glory. This includes our bodies. Our sexuality has the power to procreate and shares in the dignity of being created in the image of God. We need to live accordingly. (Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive, Chapter 3)

Continuing to reflect in preparation for the World Meeting of Families, we arrive at the third theme, The Meaning of Human Sexuality. A good place to start is in Genesis: the Creator God said “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness,” (Genesis 1:26), and it was done. Scripture goes on to tell us what form that image took: “male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). The two sexes were God’s perfect and holy design. It was his plan, even before the fall into original sin, to write this complementary way of loving on the human heart and body. How beautiful it is, then, when we recognize the role of the masculine and feminine in a relationship, particularly in marriage, because this is where we most especially love: in and through our bodies.

There is no denying that we are bodily creatures. We depend on our bodies, and through them we seek comfort and pleasure. However, we are more than just bodies. We have souls which are united to our bodies in such a way that what we do in the body expresses the soul.
Husbands and wives experience a true communication of self in their sexual relationship. Spouses, through both body and soul, become an authentic gift of self to each other. This speaks of a love that is total, faithful, fruitful, and forever. Priests and religious, who have chosen a life of chastity and abstinence, also maintain a reverence for human sexuality. Through their celibacy they confirm the truth and beauty of marriage. In this way they point to the even greater love of God in heaven. This preparation for heaven is the ultimate meaning of human sexuality. The shame attached to it only comes from how we have failed to see its full goodness.

In a culture which falsely glorifies the body and reduces sexuality merely to pleasure-seeking, it is crucial that the Church continues to preach the beautiful message she has about human sexuality. It is also important for parents to take up the task and privilege of teaching the truth and goodness about sexuality to their children.