Jesus continues to speak up for the dignity of human beings in today’s Gospel with his second of six antitheses: “Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt 5:27-28). Again, by disciplining our mind we can have more control over our actions.
Too many people today believe that our sexual urge is too powerful to channel and direct in chaste ways. In fact, to even attempt to do so, some would say it is damaging to our development. The Church has lost some credibility in this area in directing and guiding us because of those within her number who have not only abused children sexually but also those who have turned a blind eye to warning signs, as well as those bishops who have covered up the abuse.
Yet, even these horrific acts by a few do not change the fact that Jesus still calls us to embrace our sexuality, yet channel it positively through the respecting of others as people endowed with dignity. Our sexuality is a powerful gift that has the potential to participate in creating new life, and it is not to be misused to objectify women, children, or men, as has been done throughout the ages and continues into our own day.
To be able to discipline and channel our sexual desire in healthy ways, we have to begin by choosing better what we put into our minds. If the majority of our reading, our music, what we watch, what we think and fantasize about, are erotic and evocative, then yes, being chaste is not a realistic goal. Since we live in a culture that is hyper-sexualized, such that there are large support and normalization of acting out sexually at a younger and younger age, enticing advertisements on TV, the computer, billboards, pornography, and the like, again, this is no easy task. To counter this momentum, we do not literally have to tear out our right eye as Jesus offers in his hyperbolic word display. But we do need to follow Jesus’ guidance so to help us recognize the seriousness of an undisciplined approach to our sexuality.
We need to realize that we can be disciplined with our thoughts and actions. If Jesus’ starting point is that we are not to look at another with lustful thoughts, then that is where we ought to begin and realize that this is possible with his help and a change of lifestyle. We need to resist seeing each other as objects for our own fantasy and pleasure and instead look to one another as people endowed with dignity, not to be objectified but respected.
The normalization of lust, pornography, objectification of another must be countered with healthier and chaste ways of living our lives. We figuratively tear out an eye or cut off a hand that leads us to sin by recognizing that any of these three or any variations of them are not acceptable thoughts or actions to entertain. Nor are we to fall into the puritanical, opposite extreme, that our sexuality and all things human are bad. Suppressing our sexuality is not a helpful practice either. God created us good, and our sexuality is good when we integrate it into the wholeness of the physical and spiritual aspects of our humanness.
Living a chaste life is possible by recognizing that we and other people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. We need to put into practice the cardinal virtue of temperance, which is the disciplining of our mind such that we weed out at the roots those thoughts and actions that will lead us to sinful actions. While at the same time we replace them by making a firm decision to live chastely.
We then communicate that decision with friends and family, we surround ourselves with those people who will support our decisions, respect our boundaries, and help to keep us accountable. We need to establish a healthy and moderate diet and be engaged in an exercise program that will help us channel that energy on the physical level. We also need to seek the help of Jesus, especially through his presence in the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, to develop a consistent practice of meditation and prayer, and participate regularly in worship in a community. It is also helpful to be engaged with other people in acts of service and in healthy activities through work, hobbies, and interests.
In these ways, we will be better able to build chaste relationships that are more stable, have more meaning, and are mutually encouraging as we support one another to live lives of holiness and participate with Jesus in guiding one another to actualize the fullness of who God is calling us to be. One last point, we are not to equate lust with love. The sole pursuit of lust is to objectify another for our own self-gratification. The sole pursuit of the love that Jesus calls us to is to will the good of the other as other.
Photo: From Gallery Quotes –
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, June 12, 2020

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