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The Sin of Lust: Why is it so tough?

The Sin of Lust: Why is it so tough?

When we think about Joseph, we often think about a rugged looking man in brown. He has a beard and often, he is teaching Jesus his trade or holding the baby Jesus in his arms, or leading Mary through the desert to Egypt or Nazareth. The Joseph we hardly think about is the one in the bedroom with Mary, the VIRGIN mother of God. We know Mary was a young woman and that Joseph had asked for Mary’s hand in marriage before the news that she was pregnant, so we know that he desired to be with her in a marital, sexually intimate relationship, and yet the Church teaches that Mary remained a virgin throughout her married life. Thus we can conclude that Joseph, too, remained a virgin throughout his life.

How hard this must have been! We know he was not conceived without sin and yet we also know that he won the battle for sexual purity throughout his life and remained the chaste spouse of Mary. By what graces was he able to do this and by what virtues?

Lust, as we all know, is one of the seven deadly sins, but according to Dante’s Inferno, it is the least serious of the deadly sins. And yet, as Mark Shea points out, it is the one that gets the most attention in our world today (and probably throughout history). While I understand this to be the case, it doesn’t make sense that if Lust is truly one of the least of the deadly sins (obviously, deadly means deadly serious – as in immortal-soul-is-in-danger serious), why is it the focus of our society today? Perhaps it is the initial hook by which evil grabs us and pulls us further down into despair, but I don’t think that’s the case.

In reflecting on St. Joseph and who I believe St. Joseph to be, I find that one of his defining characteristics is his humility! And what a fantastic virtue to attain! Humility, of course, is the virtue by which we conquer the vice of PRIDE, the most severe of all the deadly sins. In fact, pride is found at the base of Mt. Purgatory (again, in Dante’s Inferno) as the foundation of all other deadly sins, including lust!

And so, perhaps here we find the answer we are looking for. Lust is so tough because we are trying to tackle it from the top down rather than attacking it at the ground level as St. Joseph did. Isn’t it the case that when we lust have after another person, it is our pride which sustains the thoughts? “I could definitely see myself with her” or other much worse things. We will naturally see beauty and be attracted to it,  but when we lust after someone, isn’t it nothing more than our pride telling us that we “deserve the enjoyment of that person” or that we have the ability to attain the enjoyment of that person? Pride turns our focus internally and denies the fact that everything we have, including our very own bodies, is a gift from God. Beauty is a gift from God meant to raise our thoughts toward God. Even those moments when we notice death, destruction and evil can be seen as gifts that help us to recognize and truly appreciate the life, creation and good that is God. In pride we see these things as things to be used for us and in lust, we see people in that light.

Humility, though, is the virtue in which we empty ourselves and allow God to fill us as he sees fit. We remember as we hear on Ash Wednesday, that “we are dust and to dust we shall return.” We are NOTHING, we have NOTHING, and we can achieve NOTHING without God, our creator! And St. Joseph, above all (those conceived without sin), knew this and put it into perfect practice. He could have easily “claimed his rights as a husband” and he had every right to do so, but instead he remained humbled by the gift of responsibility both he and his wife were called take on (remember, it was his ancestral line through which Jesus, the savior, was prophesied to be born! Matthew 1:1-17).

When we are able, as Joseph was for his entire life, to recognize all that we have as gifts from God; to recognize that we are nothing without God; to stand in awe at the many wonderful things and responsibilities God has given us; and to see even beauty as another gift from God to raise our minds toward Him, then, by the grace of God, we can start to conquer pride through the virtue of humily and in so doing we will be able to break free, eventually, from the sin of Lust.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Discipline, Virtue

 

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Our Lenten Journey: Struggle and Satisfaction

Our Lenten Journey: Struggle and Satisfaction

I love the season of Lent! Not that I’m very good at keeping its three tenents of fasting, prayer and almsgiving and not that those three things are meant to be “fun,” but the season of Lent just forces us to sit back and reflect (one of my favorite things to do when I get the chance) and the chances to partake in fasting, prayer and almsgiving become that much more available. So, perhaps, it seems, for at least 40 days, I get to participate more fully in the action of the Church, both local and universal. I feel more connected and the Church seems so much more vibrant.

Blogs become especially rich sources for spiritual development, the USCCB establishes and maintains an entire section of its website dedicated solely to the season, our Holy Father’s weekly addresses are geared specifically to the season, local parishes have mission breakfasts and mission speakers to offer the adults in the parish the rare chance to be more fully educated in the faith, and, of course, the sacrament of penance is offered in much more generous chunks of time and the weekly Friday “Stations” are prayed in nearly every parish. The whole church around the world gets keyed in and unifies its vision, all preparing for one event, THE event: Easter.

And yet, given all this, I believe I am attracted by Lent for still other reasons and the main one is that Lent is filled with struggle, in fact, spiritual battles (as shown in the original Latin of the Collect during the Ash Wednesday Mass)! Perhaps, in a way, I feel like this season is especially geared toward my naturally masculine approach to the faith. I like it when things are difficult, when I have to struggle and fight and hold on with all my might just to make it through because in the end, I will know what I put into it and the satisfaction will be so much more worth it. And what I’ve also found is that, when we constantly struggle to hold onto Christ, His grasp on us becomes that much stronger. When we recognize this season as a particular opportunity to struggle and fight for Christ, we open ourselves to the realization that Christ is constantly struggling and fighting for us. He yearns for us and it is in the season of Lent when I feel a true yearning for Him, a yearning which will be fully satisfied once again on Easter Sunday!

UPDATE: Fr. Martin Fox, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, has some notes from his great homily  on this topic this past Sunday!

I addressed a point to men, specifically: you have sisters, girlfriends, wives, mothers, daughters. Would any of you turn to them and let them go into battle in your place? Of course you wouldn’t. Yet notice that is exactly what Adam did in the first reading. He stood there while his wife was under assault and said, and did, nothing. How different it might have been had he simply spoken up! Men, you are here; you recognize your spiritual responsibilities and I commend you. But we know that when we gather for Mass or other prayer, a lot of our men are absent; they are letting others go into combat in their place.

So, my prayer for us is that our Lenten journeys be blessed with struggles and temptations so that we might be faced with the daily opportunity to choose Christ and to go into battle with Him! 

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2011 in Discipline, Prayer

 

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