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 by all proponents of this watershed change in American law and culture. These legal miscarriages are hailed by many as a great victory for personal freedom, but the truth is that they have created a great platform for personal enslavement and a great victory for the degradation of human sexuality. Indeed, the one who is rejoicing most in this “victory” is quite clear if you appreciate Dante’s 7th seventh circle of Hell where he places those whose sins do violence to nature. Dante saw sodomy as violence against nature, family and posterity.
Lust, any kind of 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 contempt for God. John Paul II taught 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 enslavement of the soul to the flesh, and the more the sin is against nature, like sodomy, the more it enslaves.
This is one of those fundamental truths for which one can produce a great deal of concrete evidence in our day. Sexual addiction has become 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 such enslaved men as a form of addiction, slavery, something that controls and ruins their lives.
Likewise this loss of personal 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 – their marriage partners, their children, and their friends – and even risk ruining their careers, their public reputations and respect. The damage done to marriages and families due to this domination by sexual enslavement is growing in our “free love” society, and who among us thinks that this is something to be celebrated!
Freedom, true personal freedom, is not a license to do whatever we feel like doing, and that is especially true in an area of our life that requires great self-control to avoid self-destruction. This Christian understanding of human freedom is now quite at odds with the notion of freedom that increasingly dominates our western cultures. The idea 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 little or no positive content of what freedom is “for.” It is a shallow 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 today, and man’s state of natural goodness dominates western thought and education.
This distorted view of reality is nothing new, except for its calamitous 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 perfectly understood that Christ had come to set man free, above all 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 cannot be truly free unless Christ sets him free. That is the Gospel Paul preaches and the Church has always preached. Purely natural freedom, without the grace of Christ, is nothing but an illusion, a dangerous illusion. 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 us 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, and so he says “do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” And then 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 refers to fallen human nature dominated by sin, in both body and soul. And he knows that only Christ can set us free from this domination by sin by the remedies of truth and grace: which is what he means when he says, “live by the Spirit.” What the legal recognition of sexual deviation does is anything but to set man free. These unfortunate decisions by the civil courts and legislatures reduce sexual activity to simply gratification of the flesh, a means for sensual pleasure seeking. That sexual reductionism is truly devastating for true personal freedom and can only enslave man more and more to his sensuality. The problem these decision have unleashed in our society is not that many people will now choose to become homosexuals, which is most unlikely. This legal and cultural sexual reductionism will also be destructive of genuine married life because it perverts the very purposes of sex within the human soul. Those who embrace this view of human sexual activity, and untold numbers already have, become incapable more and more of establishing even the minimal self-control necessary for faithful and fruitful conjugal relations and relationships. Heterosexual Men will not choose to cease loving women, and vice-versa, but once they reduce sex to pure pleasure seeking, they become more and more incapable of genuine conjugal love, that is, genuine self-giving, sacrificial, faithful and fruitful love, and permanent love, that God has established in marriage. Is that a cause for anyone rejoicing? Hardly, but it is surely for us Christians a powerful 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. May God help us.