(Read and Meditate upon I Corinthians 6:15-20)
Saint Paul, in his first Letter to the Corinthians, admonishes us vehemently not to use our bodies as instruments of sexual immorality, but rather to respect the dignity that we have that comes from union with Christ. “Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (I Corinthians 6:18-20)
To follow Christ the King means to enter into combat. This fierce war must be fought on three different fronts. Against the devil, the father of lies. Against the world that wants to seduce us into believing that true happiness can be found on earth. Finally, there is the fierce battle within our own inner self—the battle that is waged between the flesh and the spirit.
Being aware of these three ferocious enemies contributes strongly to our eventual victory. Knowledge of the social milieu, knowledge of the pernicious attacks of the devil, and knowledge of our own human weakness facilitates enormously our ability to fight for the triumph.
In our short treatise today, we will address the topic of the flesh—most specifically, on how we can attain the indispensable virtue of purity, or if you like, chastity. If we desire one day to contemplate the Face of God in heaven, we must live out this essential Beatitude: “Blessed are the pure of heart; they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8) Soldiers must have a game-plan or a strategy. As soldiers of Christ, we must establish our own strategy and utilize frequently the spiritual weapons in our armory.
1. PRAYER-POWER. Some virtues reside within the natural realm of the human person such as diligence, courtesy, punctuality, the art of communication. However, there are other virtues that are specifically supernatural virtues. By supernatural is meant that they transcend the capacity of our natural powers to attain. Among these supernatural virtues are humility, mercy, and forgiveness, and the virtue of chastity. Saint Augustine states that we are all beggars before the Divine Majesty. A beggar knows that he is in dire need of help; so are we before God to attain the virtue of chastity. May the words of Jesus motivate us to seek, to ask, to beg and to knock: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened.” (Mt. 7:7) As a beggar, let us knock at God’s Heart and beg for the virtue of purity.
2. DETERMINED DETERMINATION. The great woman Doctor of the Church, Saint Teresa of Avila, when commenting on prayer asserts that “we must have a determined determination to never give up prayer.” Just the same should be expressed with respect to attaining virtues, especially the virtue of purity. God’s all-powerful grace always comes first, but then our correspondence with grace must follow. We must muster up a strong will and determination motivated by the grace of God, to acquire this essential virtue in the dynamic of our spiritual life. If we live a life in which we are slaves to our lower, sensual passions then it is literally impossible to soar high to the heights of holiness. It is like an eagle that has weights tied to his wings! He is made to fly, but the weights bind him to the earth! We all know persons who are willing to undertake superhuman efforts to attain money, success, sports triumphs and academic achievements. Should we not have a more determined effort to strive for holiness through acquiring the virtue of purity?
3. PROPER USE OF MODERN SOCIAL MEDIA. Perhaps for most of us one of the greatest challenges before our eyes and person is the reality of the modern social media. The Book of Genesis repeats the goodness of creation. God created and He saw that it was good! Therefore, the evil that surrounds us never can be attributed to God, the Author of all that is good. But rather, in the improper use of creation. Saint Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises in Principle and Foundation challenges us to study the way we approach the reality of all creation. We must use creation as a ladder to arrive at Heaven. We must never abuse creation, thereby transforming it into a stumbling block on our pathway to holiness. In a word, we must have very strict vigilance over our children, teens, as well as ourselves, on the access and use we apply to the modern social media. How easy it is through access to the Internet through T.V., computer, and especially the phone, to fall into websites, articles, pictures and videos that can taint the virtue of purity in our eyes, mind, emotions, and heart. Before we know it, with the devil working behind the scenes, we form an addiction, just as powerful as drugs, which may take concerted effort, time and energy to conquer. Many will agree that this really is the acid test, where the rubber hits the road, in the struggle to attain purity—that is to say, not becoming a slave to the power of indecent, impure images. Bombarded right and left and from all directions, we must use constant and very strict vigilance. If not, the battle can easily be lost! The devil knows his time is short. Therefore, he works 24/7 to win souls to populate his infernal Kingdom.
4. SACRAMENTAL LIFE. Indeed, we are all very weak, in many ways, but especially in the realm of the flesh. Jesus expressed this very clearly: “Stay awake and pray so that you do not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt. 26:41) However, God is strong. The Psalmist confirms God’s power: “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 124:8) God’s life-giving power flows through His Mystical Body, the Church. The channels through which God’s power and grace flow are the Sacraments. To attain a life of purity and to sustain chastity, and persevere until the end, we must have frequent recourse to two Sacraments: the Sacrament of Confession, and the greatest of all the Sacraments, the most Holy Eucharist. Confession is like going to the Doctor; Communion, to a luxurious Restaurant! The Sacrament of Confession heals our wounds of impurity; we are washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Communion, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, fortifies our body, mind and soul to attain the difficult virtue of chastity. Received together, you have a spiritual atomic bomb of energy and strength!
5. IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY. Finally, we arrive at one of the most efficacious means to attain the virtue of purity. It is a love and devotion to Mary and consecration to her most pure and holy Immaculate Heart. It is recorded in the Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul by Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, this encounter that radically transformed her life. Jesus appeared to her and placed a golden sash around her waist, signifying the gift of perpetual chastity. However, it must be noted, the saint stated that she had been begging the Blessed Virgin Mary for this grace, this virtue for a long time. It has been confirmed in the lives of many saints that it was through the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary that they were able to conquer temptations, conquer sin, and attain the virtue of purity. Such can be the case in our lives, too, if we consecrate our body, mind, heart and soul to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady loves those who love purity and she loves to shower graces of purity on those who beg for it. Let us beg the most pure and Immaculate Heart of Mary for great purity so that one day, with her we will contemplate the beauty of the Face of God in Heaven for all eternity.