"So God created man in his image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." God blessed them and said to them : 'Be fruitful and increase in number' (Gen 1:27f)
"Yahweh God said, ' it is not good for man to be alone; I will give him a helper who will be like him.' .. Then Yahweh God caused a deep sleep to come over man and he fell asleep. He took one of his ribs and filled its place with flesh. The rib which Yahweh God had taken from man, he formed into a woman and brought her to the man. The man then said, 'Now this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken from man.' That is why man leaves his father and mother and is attached to his wife, and with her becomes one flesh. Both the man and his wife were naked and not ashamed." ( Gen 2: 18, 21-25 )
Man and woman becoming one is God's plan for marriage. This union is life-giving to both of them as helpmates and companions. It is also fruitful and open to life. Let us reflect on sexuality and conjugal union in the plan of God.
We live today in a world where there is a lot of confusion about marriage and sexuality. Many couples today live together before marriage. Some see no need to get married. There are same sex unions who consider themselves spouses. There are couples who do not want to have children at all. In many countries, couples cannot conceive, for a variety of reasons. Contraception is widespread and if it fails, children that are conceived are often aborted. Deep feelings of guilt lead to depression and escape into drugs. Some children are conceived outside the womb by artificial means. Donors supply the egg and the sperm, using a surrogate mother's womb. AIDS is spreading at an alarming rate and wiping out so many families and communities. The inequality of the sexes still remains a problem. How does this tie up with God's plan as revealed in the Bible and upheld by the tradition of the Church for two centuries?
A person is either male or female in every aspect of his or her behaviour and physical make up. No doubt women are men's equal.There is no superiority or inferiority, but complementarity. They do not have to compete with each other. Each one contributes to the relationship and to parenting as father or mother.
The Church has always taught that the sexual union of man and woman is for life and meant to be loving and life-giving to both spouses. It embraces all the dimensions of their union, physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. But it must also be open to conceiving new life. We know now how to recognise the fertile part of the cycle through certain symptoms of ovulation, so that a couple can determine when they want to conceive a child. There may be times when they decide to abstain during the fertile part of the cycle, but when they are still called to love one another as husband and wife.
The act of love must always be a human act, in which there is respect and no force. It is not detached from the rest of their lives. A woman needs to feel loved the whole day in order to receive her husband later on. She cannot switch on suddenly. Man and woman must recognise each other's need for love, affirmation, encouragement, comfort and forgiveness in the totality of their relationship, but expressed more perfectly in union.
It is up to the couple to generously decide about spacing their family. But let them remember that God is the life giver who will never leave them in the lurch. Sacrifice is part of love. The union of man and woman in married love, can continue well beyond the child bearing age. They are always helpmates and companions.
A woman needs to educate her husband about her body and her make up as a woman person. She must also understand her husband's needs which may differ in intensity and frequency from hers.
She on the other hand is capable of much more sexual satisfaction than him, if he knows how to love her. So it is necessary for them to trust each other, by sharing vulnerably and also praying together.
There are physical, spiritual, emotional and psychological needs of these two persons who enter into holy wedlock. When one is tired, sick, depressed or stressed, the other needs to understand and reach out to accompany, comfort and heal the one who is hurt. One can find fulfilment in being life-giving and showing concern at such times.
Where there is good self-esteem, a sense of belonging, a sense of achievement and autonomy as a person, there will be a more satisfying sexual relationship. But when these psychological needs are not met, one may use the other as an object. As a result there may be resentment and frustration. They are equals. A woman was not taken from man's head to hen-peck him. Nor was she taken from his feet for him to stamp all over her. She is taken from his side, close to his heart, so that he may treat her as his equal and protect her.
We need to have a custody of our senses, especially today, when we are bombarded by explicit pictures meant to tease and seduce us. Not everything is good for us, however mature we may think we are. Pray to Mary who was a virgin yet also a very loving, life-giving mother to us all. Ask her to intercede with her son to change the water of your married love into wine again. Spiritual needs are important to having a good, fulfilling sexual relationship. The Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life. A husband and wife, who daily surrender to him and allow him to be their spiritual director, will be able to be a sacrament of God's love and presence in the world.