13th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2013
“For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh”
The recent court decisions legalizing same sex marriage, which now includes a Supreme Court decision, have been greeted with much rejoicing in the media and among proponents of this watershed change in American law and culture. It is declared by these “pro” whatever folks to be a great victory for personal freedom, but the truth is that it is a great platform for personal enslavement and victory for the denigration of human sexuality. Now who is rejoicing in that “victory” is clear if you appreciate the tradition of western art depicting Hell, especially Dante’s seventh circle where he places those whose sins do violence to nature, to the family and to human posterity.
Lust is anything but a gateway to freedom, and homosexual activity is lust that destroys personal freedom, just as heterosexual lust destroys personal freedom. St. Thomas, like Dante, understood that sins against nature are a form of violence, violence toward nature and consequently toward God, and John Paul II added that all lust is violence toward the sexual object of that lust, another human person. Moreover, Thomas taught that while lust is not the worst of all sins taken in itself, it is nonetheless the most difficult to overcome once this vice is habitually established, for sins against the flesh result in enslaving the soul to the flesh, and the more the sin is against nature, the more it enslaves.
This is one of those truths that we can produce a great deal of concrete evidence for in our day. Sexual addiction is even a new diagnosis for some psychological texts, and the most widespread form of this addiction seems to be the addiction of men to pornography on the internet. It is self-described by many men as a form of slavery, something that controls their lives and ruins their lives. Likewise this loss of freedom can be seen in the way men are so dominated by their sexual desires as to risk ruining relationships they deeply value and love – like their marriage partners, their children, their friends – and risk ruining their careers and their public reputation and respect. The damage done to marriages and families due to this domination by sexual urges is growing in our “free love” society, and who among us thinks that is something to be celebrated?
Freedom is not simply a license to do what we feel like doing, and that is especially true in an area of life that requires great self-control to avoid self-destruction. The Christian understanding of human freedom is quite at odds with the notion of freedom that now dominates our western cultures. The notion of freedom that dominates among those who loudly cheer the legalization of all sexual urges that are voluntary choices is always a “freedom from,” from moral laws, freedom from God’s rule, freedom from, from, from … with no positive content of what freedom is for. It is an understanding of freedom that is divorced from any concept of sin that has weakened man’s nature and will. Original Sin and its consequences are out, and man’s state of natural goodness dominates western thought and education today.
This distorted view of reality is nothing new, except for its domination of a culture that once was Christian. St Paul understood the way this false notion of freedom and false understanding of human nature dominated the pagan culture of his day. He understood that Christ had come to set man free from the domination of sin, the domination of the flesh as he said. "For freedom Christ set us free," Paul writes. Our dignity is locked up in being truly free, but man is not free unless Christ sets him free. That is the Gospel Paul preaches and the Church has always preached. Purely natural freedom is but an illusion, a dangerous illusion, without Christ. Man's "natural" condition after Adam's sin is what Paul refers to as the "yoke of slavery" – "so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery" but men choose to call slavery "freedom" because they choose to call evil "good," and they live according to that lie.
Paul teaches that because of Original Sin, every man's soul is "naturally" dominated by his fleshly desires, his desires for pleasure, for selfish gratification of his senses – "do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh." And he goes on to explain this:
I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other…
The flesh for Paul represents fallen human nature dominated by sin, in both body and soul. Only Christ can set us free from this domination by sin, and he does so with the remedies of truth and grace – "live by the Spirit."
What the legalization of sexual deviancy does is anything but setting man free. These unfortunate decisions by the Courts and legislatures reduce sex to simply gratification of the flesh, a means for sensual pleasure seeking. That reduction is devastating for true personal freedom and can only more and more enslave man to his senses. This reductionism of sex is destructive of genuine married life because it perverts the purpose of sex within the human soul.
It's not that many people will choose to become homosexuals, which is most unlikely, but that men and women will become incapable more and more of establishing the self-control necessary for faithful and fruitful conjugal relations and relationships. Men will not choose to cease loving women, and vice-versa, but once they reduce sex to pleasure seeking, they will become - and are becoming already – more and more incapable of genuine conjugal love, that is, self-giving, sacrificial, faithful and fruitful love, permanent love, that God has established in marriage. Is that a cause for anyone rejoicing? It is surely for us Christians a motive for evangelizing this culture with greater zeal than ever. What is at stake today is not only the salvation of souls, but also the salvation of civilization itself.