Last year, about this time, we initiated a series of homilies to examine the Seven Deadly Sins. We have already done five of these: Anger, Envy, Avarice, Gluttony and Sloth. (You may listen to or read these homilies by clicking on the homily link on the parish website.) We still have two more to examine: Lust and Pride. Today we will examine the Deadly Sin of Lust.
Sin is almost always a personal, selfish decision that separates us from God. All sin is serious, but some sins are more deadly than others, the Mortal and Capital sins that kill our souls, separating us from eternal life with God.
Let’s remember that there is no eternal life apart from God. Only God is eternal. Nothing else is eternal apart from God. There can be no eternal life separated from God. Deadly sin, Mortal sin separates us from God. We lose our eternal life.
When we speak of Lust we refer generally to impurity. Impurity is a shameful vice because it changes a good and beautiful force within us into sin. Sex is a powerful force. God created sex and gave it to men and women as a gift. It is good and blessed when used used well, but very dangerous when it is left undisciplined. God expects us to learn how to control our sexual apetites and desires.
The vice of sex is opposed to the virtue of “Chastity”, defined by St. Thomas Aquinas as the virtue that regulates or controls sensual pleasures and desires of those who are married, but absolutely prohibited to those who are single. Consequently, Lust, or impurity is seeking illegal pleasure, especially with the sense of touch. The sins of impurity defile the soul and the body, which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and a tabernacle of God destined for resurrection and eternal life.
Impurity wraps itself around all of our senses, and through them enters our soul. Self indulgence in impure thoughts and actions arouses us and, through us can arouse others. Lust weakens our will power, clouds our minds and blinds us to our spiritual values. Sex is powerful, and impurity leads us to lose self-control. Lustful activities include fornication, adultery, pornography and masturbation.
When two persons begin to be attracted to one another, it is often a beautiful, romantic moment, blessed by God. Love can grow here. The attraction that they experience is a gift from God. Without this natural attraction the human race would cease to exist. But, this attraction should be subject to self discipline.
When an unmarried man experiences this attraction toward an unmarried woman both should know how to distinguish between a mature love vs a disordered apetite. Mature love builds up the good in their relationship as it matures into friendship. The disordered apetite seeks only self pleasure and only imitates friendship and love.
When sexual relations begin between an unmarried couple, their friendship cannot mature. Their concern for one another is replaced by a hunger for one another. Once the sex begins between them, the music changes and the “seduction dance” begins. When they are together their thoughts are focussed upon seduction. They fail to postpone self-gratification for the greater good of a loving, respectful friendship that can last. Only with this shared self-control, learned together, can they achieve fidelity and the virtue of chastity, so critical to the strength of any future marriage. How can you trust someone who is controlled only by their need for pleasure? Their relationship will be built primarily on their sex life together, not on virtue.
Impurity and Lust are the same between heterosexuals as between homosexuals. The sin is the same with disordered passions. They are both self-centered, selfish. These cannot result in any good, either for themselves or for their community. This is how we should look at sexual relationships, through the lense of chastity.
Impurity leads to other evils and chaos. Instead of leading to mature love, the heart is hardened as pleasure becomes the objective. Impurity leads to instability in relationships and infidelity.
In our own community, for example, we experience a great deal of the “Free Union” or “Union Libre” which is supposed to be a substitute for valid marriage. We used to call it “shacking up”. People just start living together without formal, public marriage commitment. These “Free Unions” are simply “hook-ups” for sex without commitment or accountability. These “Free Unions” are not free and they are not unions. The Union Libre is a lie, and these lead to a significant number of tragedies in our community, with increasing probability that more women and children will live in a form of slavery, fear and poverty. Sex without commitment and responsibility is also the cause of a great many abortions and abandonment of children, all for personal pleasure. I hear it said all too often that when one of the partners wants out, he or she simply says, “I want to be happy! I have a right to be happy”, and they turn their back on their responsibility to their sex partner. It is difficult for these persons to mature morally because they are in the habit of seeking their personal “happiness”. Free union, or “Union Libre” is a dead-end, without a happy ending.
The emotion of sex and romance is beautiful. But the attraction between lovers can be a dangerous, burning fire. Mankind has learned this lesson throughout human history, and each culture has learned ways to deal with sex without condemning it. For many parents, “Going steady” (or“Novios”) is not permitted to young people for whom marriage is not a reasonable option due to age or circumstances. These relationships should be monitored and restricted until young adults are mature and have a good economic situation allowing them to assume responsibilities for their sexual activities, including any babies. Each community should expect parents to handle these situations appropriately.
The emotions and romance of sex are not sinful in themselves. However, every community and every adult should learn to control them in a responsible manner with the virtue of chastity. This is God’s expectation of us, to live chaste lives.
We should learn to recognize and avoid the things that weaken our chastity.
For example, pornography weakens our self control and our will power. Popular music, movies and videos undermine chastity. Even the way we dress undermines chastity within the community and can be dangerous. It is no accident that Muslim women cover themselves and only show themselves to their husbands. That culture understands chastity and modesty.
Too often young women in our community have been immodest with clothes that are too short and do not cover them adequately. The woman who shows too much skin, too much of her legs and chest and cleavage has no right to complain or to feel violated if men look at her uncovered chest. Who is more irresponsible? The man who was created by God to be attracted to women? Or the woman who dresses to reveal too much skin? Parents, please teach your children modesty and chastity. Too many young girls do not have the slightest idea of the powerful forces that are growing within them as they mature into women. The girls are imitating what they see in advertising and entertainment. They desperately need another standard. Parents please teach your boys and girls to understand these forces of nature, for their own protection and self-respect, and their respect for others.
If we allow our emotions to control us then we are immature and out of control. Do not commit the sin of lust. Be pure. Be modest. Be chaste. Learn from our Lord Jesus to live chaste lives.