Which one is not like the others?
I hope all readers were able to pick out that St. John Paul is different from the others, but why?
The reason is that for all times, great saints rise up who are the opposite of the sins of the day. We just celebrated the feast of St. John Paul on October 22. Of his many contributions, his papal reflection on sex and love in his Theology of the Body has particular importance in light of today’s social climate.
St. John Paul the Great and his Theology of the Body
The teachings of this great saint contain the answers to what is plaguing our society today. How we fix society, and ourselves, starts by figuring out who each one of us is made to be.
In the Beginning
To further understand who we are, we need to go back to the very beginning. Back in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve were not objects for each other. They knew each other without lust, even though they were naked.
Then enters the serpent with his lies. The lie against every woman is that I am not worthy of loving as I am. Adam would have fought for me if I was better. The lie against every man is that you are not a man; you don’t have what it takes.
To you my brothers in Christ, I know you have what it takes. And to my sisters in Christ, you need to know that you are worth loving right now. You are loved here. You are welcome here. If you are in doubt, just look at the crucifix. That is how much you are worth right now. You are worth dying for—right now.
This is a very basic outline of the Theology of the Body. I would encourage readers to delve into the richness that the Theology of the Body has to offer.
What do we know about who we are?
Here are the basics Truths of who we are:
- We are a body and a soul.
- Our bodies mean something.
- What we do with our bodies matters.
- The body was created to transfer the mystery hidden in God into the visible reality of the world.
- We speak to each other with our bodies.
- We can either speak the truth or speak lies with our bodies.
Each and every sexual act always means:
- Freely—I choose to give my whole self to you
- Totally—I give my whole self to you
- Faithfully—this act means you and none other, and
- Fruitfully—I will raise whatever child comes from this union with you. Otherwise, the sexual act is a lie.
God lived, suffered, died, and rose in His body. What He did on the cross with His body redeems the world. We are made in the image and likeness of God. God is love, so our deepest identity is Love.
Lust is the Opposite of Love
In The Wall Street Journal, Cardinal Robert Sarah wrote that “to love someone as Christ loves us means to love that person in the truth.”
When the conjugal act is deprived of its truth it ceases to be an act of love. So what is love?
Love means willing the good of the other. Love promises infinity, eternity with purification and growth. If love is not tethered to forever it is always possible to develop into lust.
Lust is in fact the opposite of love. Sex is inherently selfish. The other person’s body becomes an object to be exploited for pleasure. Lust ignores the human dignity of the other person. Lust rejects the sacredness of the sexual act.
The Legacy of Hefner and Weinstein
“We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say, of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he ‘wants a woman.’ Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want. He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus. How much he cares about the woman as such may be gauged by his attitude to her five minutes after fruition (one does not keep the carton after one has smoke the cigarettes)”. –C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
The Washington Post proclaimed Hugh Hefner a “visionary editor who created Playboy out of sheer will and his own fevered dreams.”
In reality, Hugh Hefner’s legacy, from the man who estimated that he slept with more than 1,000 women, is that happiness comes from sex.
No doubt he was a pioneer of the sexual revolution and an activist. But at what cost? The destruction left in his wake is directly responsible for the likes of Harvey Weinstein and those like him. I personally am not at all surprised of the accusations made against Harvey Weinstein, but I am surprised that people are shocked by it.
Focusing on individual fulfillment and cheap pleasure has drastically changed society since the days of Leave It to Beaver. But not for the better.
Weinstein’s behavior is only the natural consequence of believing the lie that cheap sex has no cost. In response to the aftermath of the allegations, the #Metoo movement aims to raise awareness of rape, sexual assault, or harassment. Unsurprisingly, tens of thousands of women have publicly shared their victimhood.
As Archbishop Charles Chaput has written, “Sexual behavior and relationships are never purely private matters. They always have social implications and consequences. The dysfunctions in our nation’s current attitudes toward sex thus amount to a kind of mental virus, a flight from reason and common sense.”
The Sexual Revolution
The freedom that women were supposed to have found in the sexual revolution largely boiled down to the easy contraception and abortion; things to make life easier for men, in fact. – Julie Barnhill
“As it is, man has sufficiently degraded women for his lust, and artificial methods, no matter how well-meaning the advocates may be, will still further degrade her.” -Mahatma Ghandi
In the past 100 years, women have achieved milestones in their bid to attain equal rights with men. To be sure, women can now vote, own property, and work in fields that had been previously prohibited to women.
However, women are not equal to men. They are different from men in many ways, but most especially in their sexuality. Women share in God’s divinity by their ability to bring forth new life and to nourish new life with their bodies. This is where the sexual revolution went wrong.
Women have been duped into thinking that sex can and should be separated from procreation. By foisting contraception and abortion onto women, women have been tricked into thinking that they can be equal to men in that they can have sex whenever and with whomever they want, without consequences. This is far from the truth.
Artificial contraception is destructive to relationships and harmful to women’s bodies. Contraception destroys the integrity of the sexual act which is meant to communicate love.
As President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Contraception is the one sin for which the penalty is national death, race death; a sin for which there is no atonement.”
Abortion, as we know, is the killing of an innocent life. Modern society forgets that the body is a gift from God and for others. It is not my body, my choice. Of course women should have the ability to choose whether to procreate, but that choice is made before new life is created.
Many folks are in currently in a state of chaos. Nothing seems to makes sense. People are divided on all fronts. Every day brings more and more division.
This is a bleak picture. So what can be done?
Thankfully, the Catholic Church has been the last man standing on the front lines of the battle for the dignity of man and woman. The Catholic Church has stood firm by upholding the truths that expose the lies that society would have us believe about sex, abortion, and artificial contraception.
The Battle is Fought By Guarding Your Heart
I had thought that chastity arose from one’s own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know…that no one can be chaste unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you. -St. Augustine (CCC 2520).
Jesus wants to give us a new heart, one that is not battling between love and lust. The more lust dominates the heart, the less the heart experiences the nuptial meaning of the body. As St. John Paul teaches, “The person who doesn’t decide to love forever will find it very difficult to really love for even one day.”
To do this you will need to stay close to the sacraments. Here are some more practical ways you can live as your authentic self.
- Prayer. Try praying something like the following: Lord, untwist in my heart all that has been twisted by sin. Help me to see my brothers and sisters in Christ as your sons and daughters. Other people were never made for me to use, but only to be loved. Help me to love as You do.
- Confession. Find the sweet spot for your individual situation and how often is most appropriate for your unique soul.
- Eucharist. Attend Mass regularly. Try adding in a daily Mass to your schedule if possible.
- Effort. Most people will need to rethink how they act, talk, and dress.
- Discipline. You will need to retrain yourself on how you see others. Men, look women in the eye at all times. Women, your bodies are beautiful, but showing off your body is buying into the lie that someone will not love you unless you sell yourself short.
- Practice. Recognize where you may be lacking and what education you may need. Read up on the Theology of the Body.
- Hold onto the power of the cross. If you find yourself doubting your worth as a man or a woman, look to Jesus on the cross who kills that lie with his death and resurrection.
Recognize that your heart is in a battle. Only by guarding it with the help of the Lord’s grace will you win the battle. The essence of chastity is to affirm the value of the person in every situation.By cooperating with God’s grace we can overcome our earthly desires and have freedom to love in a heavenly way.