Sunrise on Keweenaw Bay

Sunrise on Keweenaw Bay

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

If Your Web Browser Causes You to Sin, Cut it Out! (or Jesus calls us to cut porn out of our lives)

+ J. M. J. +

Homily Outline for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
[Readings here]

In our Gospel, we have one of the clearest and most intense instances of Jesus’ making bold use of hyperbole… if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off! (This is the hardest one for me to imagine… what are you likely to do with your foot that's so serious?!?!  Kick someone, or go for a walk?) The Church has from the very beginning rejected any literalist interpretation!  There have a few times been men or women who have maimed themselves, and the Church has rejected this... (pace Origen) I doubt any cook here has ever started looking for a horse after someone said, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!” What, then, is the point, what is Jesus’ message through the use of exaggeration? We are called to cut sin out of our lives, sparing no effort or cost to strive for holiness. The call to holiness is universal, applying to every one of us, and Jesus exhorts us to lay down our lives, to makes sacrifices, to never accommodate ourselves to sin, to never get comfortable with our favorite sins.

Why is Jesus so vehement? It is because He loves us this much… He doesn’t want us sick and sad and heavy with sin, sin which is its own punishment… we all have the data, we all know that sin doesn’t make us happy. Jesus knows this too, and He wants us happy and holy, and so He urges us to fight sin in our own hearts!

One place where these words apply rather obviously is to the battle for purity of thought, and word, and action… the battle to embrace the virtue of chastity, whereby we use our sexual powers according to God’s law and according to His plan. It has never been easy for anyone to live this virtue faithfully, but it many ways it has gotten harder than ever! I want to speak to you this morning about pornography. The Church has rightly addressed this issue with discretion. Even just a few years ago... (OK, over 20 years ago...) when I was in middle school, to get pornography you had to go to some seedy bookstore and buy it… now it is universally available 24-7 on any internet-connected computer or phone. We live in a sea of pornography, much of it now incorporated into the ads and movies and TV shows we use for entertainment. These are new circumstances, one place at least where things are not progressing or improving, but rather devolving into beastliness.

Jesus words apply very obviously:  if we are going to follow Him, we have to cut unchastity out of our lives, we have to cut pornography out of our lives and minds and hearts. Current surveys show that porn use is VERY high and increasing… [The stats are so high, it's hard to deal with.] ...even if by God’s grace you yourself do not struggle with using porn, you can be certain that someone you love does. Studies show that now the average age of first exposure to porn has gone from 12 to 8 years old. This is no longer a topic that I can in good conscience be silent about.
Where do we begin? Well… with Good News! God created men and women in His image and likeness, and when He was done, He said we were “very good.” Our bodily-ness, our physicality, and our sexuality are in their essence and foundation good, part of God’s loving plan. Because they are good and sacred and holy, integral to God’s plan for marriage and family and thus for every person’s life (we’re all part of a family somehow), the Enemy attacks our sexuality. In an ironic sense, the very intensity of the attack on the virtue of chastity is some indication of how valuable it really is. God made us good… this has been broken by sin, but the goodness is still there to be restored, redeemed, healed. Our sexuality, our sexual desire, is not fundamentally dirty or dark or bad, even though it may be frequently attacked.

In light of this, by God’s grace we seek to live our sexual desires in the light of love. Love always seeks the good of the other person… never to treat them as an object, never to use or abuse them, never to objectify them and simply take what we need… but to seek their good, to love and protect and serve them. At its root, all lust is fundamentally selfish… it’s about getting and taking rather than giving and loving. If we train ourselves in lust, whether in thought or word or action, we train ourselves to be unable to love. Pornography takes something sacred and holy and treats it as the occasion of mere entertainment or distraction. It destroys the people who make it, and the people who use it. One person who had escaped from the porn industry said that the reason they could never go back was the smell… it smelled so bad on the porn set. That’s gross… but porn is gross, and it’s good to be reminded of that.

How do we fight back against this alluring darkness? Certainly someone who struggles with porn must cultivate greater self control, the ability to reject what is evil… but at the same time, and maybe even more importantly, we must replace false intimacy with real intimacy, both with God and with other people. Friendship with God, daily prayer, is the place where we can authentically resolve stress, frustration, anger, boredom, and temptation. If we are to grow in living love authentically, we have to get to know God who is love more deeply

Any habitual sin functions some way in our lives… it serves some purpose… so if we can see that pattern, we can begin to address it. Let’s say a man discovers that he’s carrying some pent-up reserve of anger towards his boss… not infrequently, that unresolved and unaddressed anger may be what leaves him vulnerable to sexual sin… the root is often not sexual at all. Pray into any patterns you may see in your life… this is a good idea with any habitual sin whether it be porn, or gossip, or swearing, or drinking too much.

Finally, in humility we all need to admit that our best way to avoid sin is to avoid occasions of sin to whatever extent possible… Let me give you a silly example... my favorite candy bar is Almond Joy.  Let's imagine that I had someone following me around 24/7, all day, every day, with a big bucket of Almond Joy, and all I had to do was stick my hand out, and they would put a candy bar in my hand... how well do you think I would do?  The result would be very predictable... in real life, a couple times I've bought a bag of Almond Joy, saying to myself, "I'll just eat one every 4 or 5 days, this will last me for weeks!"  Of course, it was gone a lot sooner.  At some point I realized, "You know what, I'm just not going to buy any Almond Joy!"  This is superficial, sure, but the principle is sound.  This is hard on computers and phones, but possible. Don’t use them in times and places where you’ve often fallen into sin. Put them in a public place where there is accountability. When you are emotionally vulnerable, turn to prayer, to the rosary, to a conversation with a friend.

Finally, the good news of mercy… as Pope Francis has said, the Lord never tires of forgiving us, but we get tired of asking for forgiveness. [It's from his VERY FIRST Angelus message!] God’s mercy endures forever… however many times we may fall into sin, the Lord calls us to get back up and start walking, or limping, or crawling towards Him. He is always ready to give us mercy! It is a lie of the Enemy that we can’t grow and improve and become free. Reject this lie, hear the Lord’s call to the battle, and begin fighting sin in your life now, or begin again.

 A few months ago I was driving up to visit the monks, and I heard an interview on Catholic radio talking about some new books about fighting free from porn, Delivered (sample chapter!) and Restored (sample chapter!)  The Lord moved my heart, and I pulled over, called, and order 80 copies of each book.  They each contain beautiful testimonies of men and women who have fallen into porn addiction, and by God's grace, have fought their way out.  Delivered focuses on individual journeys, and Restored focuses especially on married couples who have fought this battle.  They will help you understand the fight, and give you hope for victory!

Now we turn to the altar, the source of the most powerful medicine and most nourishing food, the place where we encounter deep authentic intimacy with our Lord, the infinite gift of His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity... the Eucharist.

Sometimes "chastity" and "continence" and "celibacy" are used confusedly, here's a great clarification by Dr. Ed Peters.

 Many people find this accountability software very helpful:  Covenant Eyes.

Some really helpful websites:

Integrity Restored

The Porn Effect  Especially this 5 step approach to remove porn from your life: The Battle Plan

If this is a personal struggle for you... reach out: talk to your priest or pastor, a trusted friend (especially someone who shares your faith and values), a parent... don't try to face the battle alone!

+  A. M. D. G. +

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Always be ready to explain this hope that you have! (updated)

In recent days, in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision, many people have contacted me seeking to better understand the Church's position.  How do we articulate our understanding of marriage (one man, one woman, for life, open to life... or free, total, faithful, fruitful) in light of the claim that it's nothing more than two consenting adults who want to have sex (and maybe, somehow, acquire a child) ?

First let me draw your attention to the classic Biblical description of apologetics (the defense of the faith):

13 Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, 16 but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. (1 Peter 3: 13-18)
Notice that Peter understands the likelihood that one might be mistreated or slandered or even persecuted for believing and speaking what is true!  However, he also recognizes that you might be mistreated or rejected because you're being a jerk!!!  There has been a lot of verbal violence in recent days.  Ironically, much of it has come from the alleged forces of tolerance.  Don't play that game... stay calm, stay kind.  Your words will have a better chance of reaching peoples hearts if they come from a witness of peace, calm, and kindness.  From Blessed Paul VI's encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi:

41. Without repeating everything that we have already mentioned, it is appropriate first of all to emphasize the following point: for the Church, the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one's neighbor with limitless zeal. As we said recently to a group of lay people, "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."[67] St. Peter expressed this well when he held up the example of a reverent and chaste life that wins over even without a word those who refuse to obey the word.[68] It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus- the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity.

42. Secondly, it is not superfluous to emphasize the importance and necessity of preaching. "And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?... So faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ."[69] This law once laid down by the Apostle Paul maintains its full force today....
 So, with that in mind, here are some very useful articles and videos.  They have helped me articulate the Catholic position, I hope they may also help you!