Intention: That we may become better friends with Jesus, and that our friendship with Him would help us to reflect His love for everyone.
Reflection: When we look at our society, we see a great deal of suffering, injustice, and heartache. We see people of inestimable worth who are looked down on or rejected because of their disabilities. We see women facing unexpected pregnancies who feel trapped and as though there is no life-affirming support for both them and their children. We see elderly men and women who fear that they are a burden.
Yet we know that “the LORD is close to the brokenhearted” (Ps 34:19). And we know that He invites us to help Him show all people His love. We might feel intimidated and overwhelmed because we don’t know how to respond to the great need we see, but He will show us.
Let us draw close to Jesus, spending time with Him and listening to His voice. Let us ask for help seeing Him in those around us and loving them with His heart: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).
Did you know? Today is the feast day of St. Peter Julian Eymard (called the “Apostle of the Eucharist”): “Belong entirely to God through love, entirely to your neighbor through a gracious charity, entirely to the divine Eucharist by the offering and sacrifice of your whole self. Bear with yourself in the patience of our Lord.” (See also: “A Holy Hour for Life: Prayers Before the Blessed Sacrament for the Gospel of Life”).
- Learn about the Bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty
- Sign the pledge to fast on Fridays for life, marriage, and religious liberty
- Join the Call to Prayer Facebook event
Today’s post is the third in a series about sexual difference, in honor of National Marriage Week.
- Is sexual difference a wound or a societal construct? (Shedding light on popular claims, part one)
- Is sexual difference a chasm or just “gender roles”? (Shedding light on popular claims, part two)
In this post, we will examine Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) on the subject of sexual difference.
Jesus takes us back to the “beginning”
Both sections of the Catechism that discuss sexual difference (CCC, nos. 369-373 and nos. 2331-2336) are called “Male and Female He Created Them.” Indeed, they both guide us back to the creation accounts in Genesis (Gen 1:1-2:4 and 2:5-25). It is here, in Sacred Scripture, that we see the sexual difference of man to woman and woman to man for what it really is, an essential good arising from creation itself. The Church’s teaching on sexual difference takes its cue from Jesus, who, when questioned by the Pharisees about marriage and divorce, referred his listeners back to the “beginning”: “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’…” (Matt 19:4). 
The book of Genesis gives us not one, but two accounts of the creation story. The first (Gen 1:1-2:4) has a distinct rhythm (“Then God said…And so it happened…And it was good”), a clear progression of events, and the crucial anthropological verse: “God created man in his image…” (1:27). The second account (Gen 2:5-25) has a very different feel. Here, we get a glimpse of the interior life of the first humans, and we are allowed a window into the first encounter between Adam and Eve. Taken together, the two accounts illuminate different aspects of the human condition. According to John Paul II, “When we compare the two accounts, we reach the conviction that this subjectivity [in the second account] corresponds to the objective reality of man created ‘in the image of God’” (TOB, sec. 3:1).
What does the “beginning” reveal to us about sexual difference?
- Sexual difference is willed by God as something good: “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them…God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good” (Gen 1:27, 31). Contrary to the myths of Aristophanes and Pandora (see this earlier post), sexual difference is not a wound or a lack, but is a blessing given to men and women by their Creator. The difficulties that sadly befall the relationship between the sexes are not part of God’s original plan, but are some of many tragic consequences of the Fall (see Gen 3:1-19).
- Men and women share an equal dignity and equal intimacy with God: “Man is a person, man and woman equally so, since both were created in the image and likeness of the personal God” (CCC, no. 2334; quoting MD, no.6). This point is said beautifully in the story of the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib (Gen 2:18-25). The original Hebrew uniquely captures the significance, as Fr. José Granados and Carl Anderson explain:
“Most of us probably interpret the account of Eve’s creation of how a male human being named ‘Adam’ got himself a wife. The picture changes somewhat when we learn that the name ‘Adam’ is actually a play on the Hebrew word for earth: hā’adāmāh. For, as John Paul II points out, it’s only after the woman is created that the Bible first uses the Hebrew word for man in the sense of ‘male’: ˈiš. When Eve appears on the scene, a new vocabulary suddenly emerges along with her: The text shifts from hā’adāmāh, which emphasizes man’s connection with the earth, to ‘is, which it then immediately pairs with the word for ‘woman’: ˈiššāh.” [ii]
They conclude, “Far from degrading women to an inferior status, then, the story of Adam’s rib actually underscores that Adam and Eve, male and female, are identical in their dignity and their common humanity” [iii]. Both Adam and Eve come directly from the hand of the Creator. As the Catechism puts it, “Man discovers woman as another ‘I,’ sharing the same humanity” (CCC, no. 371).
- Sexual difference reveals that men and women are created for communion with each other. When God created Eve and brought her to Adam, he cried out joyfully, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). The author of Genesis connects Adam’s exuberant cry to the institution of marriage: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Gen 2:24). Centuries later, Jesus quotes this verse in response to the Pharisees’ question about divorce, and he adds, “So they [husband and wife] are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mt 19:6).
Sexual difference, present as a blessing from the very beginning of creation, is therefore the necessary foundation of marriage. Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council stated, the companionship between man and woman is nothing less than “the primary form of interpersonal communion” (GS, no. 12). As the Catechism says,
“Man and woman were made ‘for each other’ – not that God left them half-made and incomplete: he created them to be a communion of persons, in which each can be ‘helpmate’ to the other, for they are equal as persons (‘bone of my bones…’) and complementary as masculine and feminine” (CCC, no. 372).
Sexual difference, inscribed in each person’s body, reveals to us a fundamental truth about human nature: we are not meant to be solitary creatures. Instead, we are created for communion with others, a communion uniquely witnessed by the free, total, and fruitful gift of self exchanged between husband and wife for a lifetime.
Next: Two Phrases about Sexual Difference to Put in Your Back Pocket
 See Bl. John Paul II’s reflections on these words of Jesus, as well as on the creation accounts in Genesis, in the first section of his audiences on the theology of the body: TOB, nos. 1-23.
[ii] Carl Anderson and Fr. Jose Granados, Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (New York: Doubleday, 2009): p. 45.
Background: The following is an excerpt from the Viewer’s Guide to the video “Made for Life.” Earlier sections include reflections on openness to life, the gift of self and the gift of life, and children as a supreme gift. In this section, we’ll look at the call to welcome a child, the call to be a child, and how children bring hope and joy to the world.
“The idea that we were adding on to our family brought great joy.”
“Since having children, it’s been the best reflection of God’s love that I could ever define or try to describe.”
To welcome a child is to welcome hope. Lashawntra and Kevin both attest to the love, joy, and hope experienced when a husband and wife welcome a child. The child stands as a sign at odds with the doomsdayers, those who turn life into constant worry and fretfulness, and counter to the overly self-assured, those who presume upon their own capacities without trusting and hoping in God. The child points to the higher way of hope, beyond despair and presumption, because the child reminds us, by his or her very existence, that life and love are stronger than death, [i] and that life is worth living.
How does this relate to marriage? Recall the scene in the video where the wife joyfully announces to her husband that a new little baby is on the way. Marriage, as the union of husband and wife, is the only relationship that, by its very nature, is made to welcome the hope that comes with each new human life, and to connect a child with his or her biological father and mother. The call—the vocation—to welcome a child is uniquely built within the essence of marriage. Husbands and wives who stand ready to welcome children are a decisive witness to joyful hope, despite whatever hardships and sufferings come in this life.
Jesus regularly pointed to the child. [ii] He knew that the child reveals to us our deepest identity and calling. This may seem ironic, since a little child is helpless, defenseless, and “non-productive” by worldly standards. Even the disciples had a difficult time understanding this at first. The great temptation over the centuries has been to overlook and dismiss the child. And yet remember Jesus’ words: “‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Mt 18:3-4). All the successes and riches of the world don’t add up to the gift of being a child of God, the fundamental calling that unlocks the meaning of life. We are all called to become children of God (see 1 Jn 3:1), sons and daughters in Jesus, the Son of God (see Gal 4:4-7).
In the presence of an infant, we are reminded that we do not create ourselves, but are given by God, through the help of both our mother and father. The child unlocks for us the beauty of life as a sheer, undeserved, abundant gift from our heavenly Father. Life is meant to be lived in hope and in joy. Marriage, as the total, faithful, and life-giving union of a man and a woman, has the distinctive mission to share this hope and joy with the world.
Today’s post is the third in a series about sexual difference.
- Sexual Difference: Shedding light on popular claims (part one)
- Sexual Difference: Shedding light on popular claims (part two)
In this post, we will examine Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) on the subject of sexual difference. (more…)