It is difficult to escape the message that it is ok to be having sex outside of marriage.
I think we need to hear more often about the sacredness of the sexual union, and why the Catholic Church tells us it belongs inside the sacrament of marriage.
The truth is that sex is a powerful expression of love. Today we find many meanings and misconceptions surrounding love. The word is used to describe various feelings and emotions, love of food, love of pets, love of our family and friends. But the use of the word in this way does not reveal the whole truth of love. It confuses our understanding of the fullness of the truth and how love manifests itself in the human person, particularly in the experience of the love between man and woman.
But what is love? Love, real love, wants what is best for another. To love is to be a gift of our self to another in a way that affirms and draws out true goodness in that person. Deep down in our hearts, we all desire to give and receive this kind of real love. It’s what our hearts yearn for and it brings us true happiness. We all simply want to love and to be loved.
Without real love, we tend to fall back into satisfying our own desires. Sex can become an act of using another to satisfy our own desires. It’s no longer an act of self-giving love, as it’s meant to be. It becomes just an act of self-gratification, at the expense of another. That’s not the real meaning of sex.
Sex speaks the language of real love. Much more than just something we do, sex is a way of communicating with another. It speaks a language of giving ourselves completely to another. Through our body, it’s saying to someone, “I give my whole self to you, forever”. Whether we realise it or not, this is the language our heart hears and understands.
Sex is the ultimate expression of love and commitment between a man and a woman, and it’s an expression of love designed for the context of marriage. Some might say marriage is just a piece of paper, but the real meaning of marriage reflects the ultimate meaning of love – the gift of self.
Marriage is a freely given but permanent commitment between a man and a woman to love each other for the rest of their lives. They promise to nurture and take care of each other through all the good and difficult times ahead of them. Their love is exclusive and they share trust and an intimacy unmatched with any other.
Sex is the ultimate reflection of this complete gift of self. Through the sexual union of husband and wife, they make visible with their bodies the commitment they’ve made with their lives. It creates an emotional bond that strengthens their marriage and helps them live out their commitment. Even when times are tough, this bond helps to ensure that their love emerges even stronger.
Before marriage, sex isn’t the answer to finding love and happiness in our lives. Pleasure and intimacy might be there, but there will always be parts of the expression that are false. It will always be a frustrated expression of what it’s meant to be.
Sexual relationships outside of marriage leave a lot of people feeling used, hurt and lonely. They leave us with a feeling that something is missing. Our deep desire for real love isn’t satisfied, because our heart knows that real love is always whole and true.
Saving sex for marriage not only respects the true meaning of sex, it respects the essence of who we are as individuals. It helps us protect our own dignity and helps us to see and respect the true beauty and dignity of others.
When we discover the true meaning of sex and marriage, we discover the beauty of God’s plan. And it’s by living according to His plan that we come to experience real love and lasting happiness in our lives. That’s exactly what God wants for us. It’s what we were made for!
Bronia Karniewicz is executive officer of the Perth Archdiocesan Respect Life Office.