January 2015: Chapter 3: The Meaning of Human Sexuality

In preparation for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015 and the visit from Pope Francis, a catechism on family life titled “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” has been prepared. Each month CatholicPhilly.com presents a reflection on one of the 10 chapters of the catechism.


“Love is Our Mission” because God created us for a reason: to love us, and for us to love one another (Chapter 1). God’s covenant with Israel and the Church reveals what God’s love is like: tender and passionate, but also steadfast and sacrificial (Chapter 2).

In Chapter 3, we learn that the bodily, earthly world has spiritual significance. Tangible things — sacramentals, acts of charity, sacred art and culture, our liturgical feasts and fasts — have the capacity to reveal the glory of God.

Marriage, as one of the sacraments, reveals this to us in a special way. The bodies of the spouses, in the complementarity of their masculinity and femininity, have the unique role of revealing God’s nature as a communion of life-giving love.

How can a man and a woman imitate God’s love together? How can they live in a way that is intimate and committed, joyful and merciful, forgiving and fertile? Through their participation in the life of the Church, this kind of love becomes possible.

God’s love is not an audition, or a temporary experiment, or a self-seeking negotiation. In the same way, marriage is never a private, inward romance, but always discovers its true nature in relation to God and his wider purposes.

A sacramental marriage is called to be a little parable of God’s love, always ordered to joy and service. All Catholic sexual ethics flow from these ideas.