What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? Are there distinctions or differences? Are they merely biological concepts? Can they be manipulated and conditioned? Can we alter, recreate or refashion our bodies however we want? Is our sexual identity as male and female just like parts that can be replaced or rearranged? Or is there something more than just biology about our bodies? Is there a theology?
Is there something cosmic, something spiritual or something distinct in our creation as male AND female? Is there something “complementary” in the very universe that echoes a Masculine and Feminine? It seems that every culture and every religion since the beginning has seen in earth and sky, seed and sower, flower and bee, a great truth manifested for us. What is that truth? That the very difference between man and woman is literally what unites us together. Our sexual difference is literally what brings LIFE into the world.
Now bear with me, but I have to mention the “S-word” really quickly: SIN. I know, I know, it’s really out of date. Speaking of sin today is like referring to pimples as carbuncles, or to CD players as gramophones. But sin was a very popular word once and helped us to diagnose heaps of problems in the culture and inside our own messed up hearts too! And naming and claiming sin helped us get the remedy, like an antidote to poison.
So what is sin? Its Greek root means to miss the mark, like when an archer’s arrow misses the bull’s eye. Sin is a distortion, a bending of the good, a twisting of the original design to make it fit in our own little pocket. Some may not like to hear this, but homosexual acts are classified by Sacred Scripture and the Catechism as disordered, as sinful. And like any sin, it’s a seeking after what’s deemed a Good. It just misses the mark. Do those with same-sex attraction love one another? They can absolutely love one another.
But there’s love for all, and then there’s the genital expression of love meant for man and woman as part of God’s plan for bringing LIFE into the world. Is homosexual love in this sense even possible? No. The very act itself is an act that biologically doesn’t work. No word, no agenda, no person can change that or should try to. Does this mean that people with homosexual inclinations are evil and are going to Hell? Hell… no.
It simply means that we are living in confusing times. It means that all of us are still looking for Love, and some are peering through foggy, distorted lenses that have been out of focus since the Fall. That’s when our first parents, Adam and Eve, reached out to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and decided that they would rather make up the rules for themselves. That’s what sin is at the end of the day.
Sin says “I don’t trust this plan of love. I want it another way.” This is a hard teaching today, I know. It’s difficult especially for those suffering from strong often overpowering emotions towards members of the same sex. And there’s no magic wand of wood that can make it go away in an instant. But we’re not bound by sin anymore. The Wood of the Cross can set this right, re-order our hearts and lead us to Life! The Serpent in the Tree of the Garden had twisted its roots and its fruit has deceived us. But the Tree of the Cross has the figure of a Man upon it. And He says, “This is my Body, given up for you. Take and eat, and you will have Life.” And the Church, the Bride of Christ, says, “Amen!” Therein is the answer to the question of finding the meaning of our sexuality. It’s there at the foot of the Cross, the cross-roads of our horizontal questions, and God’s vertical answer. Our love can be remade, our hearts refashioned! There a man loves a woman, and he gives the gift of himself, totally. And there a woman loves a man, by letting the gift be given unto her. And this mystical marriage of man and woman, Jesus and Mary, has borne spiritual fruit, we are the fruit of Mary’s womb, we are other Christs, Christians, made in His image. And our call as men and women is to keep that paradigm alive, through giving and receiving, loving and being loved, opening wide the doors of our hearts to that Divine Life that wants to flood the world with Mercy. Come Lord Jesus, the Spirit and the Bride say “Come!”
Christopher West is a renowned educator, best-selling author, cultural commentator, and popular theologian who specializes in making the dense scholarship of the late Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body accessible to a wide audience. As founder of The Cor Project he leads a global outreach devoted to cultural renewal through a dynamic and fresh proclamation of the Gospel. West has been teaching graduate and undergraduate courses on the Theology of the Body and sexual ethics since the late 1990s. Since 2004, he has served on the faculty of the Theology of the Body Institute and his courses continue to draw clergy, religious, and lay people from around the world.