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Summary: Sex is a bridge between husband and wife, and between generations. That means they must not be abused in the pursuit of the secondary meaning of giving pleasure.

Friday of 10th Week in Course

Virtue: Chastity

There’s an anecdote that is at least a half-century old, because I first heard it in high school (at this point you should state a disclaimer that this homily is not written for pre-teens). An organization announced a lecture by some out-of-town expert, and the title of the lecture was “Sex.” The auditorium was filled and SRO, and the organization’s president gave a short welcoming talk. He then introduced the speaker.

The speaker came to the podium, adjusted his tie and notes, and began speaking: “Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure.” And then he sat down.

That’s the anecdote, and it’s supposed to be funny, but after the “#Metoo” movement of the last few years, the humor seems to have evaporated. And that’s as it should be. Because Jesus was absolutely spot-on in His two-thousand year old analysis of adultery. It doesn’t start in the sexual organs, whether it originates in a man or a woman. It begins with the eyes, the mind and the heart. It begins with the vacancy of the virtue of chastity.

I know that there are folks who tell us that the Church is hung-up on sex, that we preach against sex too much, that we need to change our attitudes and teaching to fit the modern world. That, of course, is total malarkey. Bishop Barron is right: “To dial down our moral ideals is to compromise the Church’s whole purpose. Jesus didn’t dial down the demands of love, and neither does his Church.” If people were listening to Christ’s exhortation to chastity, and acting on it, then we wouldn’t need a “#Metoo” movement and the dioceses that have had to declare bankruptcy because of the abuse done by a few priests and bishops would never have happened. It’s that individuals have not listened to Christ, and have not acted on His moral law of love of God and neighbor that has gotten us into a mess. It’s behaving like the world wants us to behave that causes the widespread acting out of lust that is afflicting every nation in the Western world.

So let’s go back to the apocryphal story I began with. Sometime in early adolescence a child experiences puberty and comes out of what we call the “latency” period and becomes aware of his or her sexual faculties. In one way or another the child learns that sexual expression gives pleasure, and that’s when a parent’s careful education of the child, or ignorance of that education comes into play. The child develops a fundamental attitude early on, and is attracted to the idea that the gift of the sexual organs is a toy to play with. In other words, it’s something to have fun with and other people who are involved with that are also toys to have fun with and then discard when they are more trouble than the pleasure they give. People become sex objects instead of children of God with infinite dignity deserving ultimate respect.

So what parents and other adults should be doing with their pre-teen children is teaching them that their sexual faculties and organs are divine gifts, that they are sacred vessels that communicate new life, and that they are bridges, not toys. Their end, in philosophical language, is the transmission of life. They are bridges between husband and wife, and between generations. That means they must not be abused in the pursuit of the secondary meaning of giving pleasure.

So when a man looks on a woman with lust, or a woman looks similarly at a man, that person becomes merely an object of personal satisfaction, not a human being of infinite value. That willed thought and sensation is wrong in itself.

So what do you do when you see someone who is handsome or beautiful and your desire kicks in? First, think like Jesus. What can I think or do that will help that person toward his or her ultimate end–eternal happiness? Maybe that attraction tells you that he or she should be your object of love for the rest of your life? That’s rare. But if you enter into a relationship, and the principle thought is to do good for that person, you will pray for guidance and pray for the good of that person. You will want, as St. Paul says, “the life of Jesus to be manifest” in the flesh of you and the other. Then you won’t want to think or do anything improper. That is the path to the virtue of chastity, and to becoming more like the Jesus of the Gospel.

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