Chastity. Yes, I Said That.

pearlOne of the most beautiful and powerful passages in all of Holy Scripture was proclaimed to us this Easter week.  We heard how some of Jesus’ women friends went to His tomb on Sunday morning and discovered that the stone covering the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away.  As they went inside and couldn’t find His Body, two angels appeared to them and asked them the most remarkable question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5).  Indeed.  Why would anyone poke around in a mausoleum and expect to find anything or anyone BUT bones and burial cloths?  Of course we know that, in their own way, the angels were telling the women that Jesus had risen from the dead.  But what else can we learn from their intriguing question?

Scripture often equates sin with death.  “The wages of sin is death…”(Romans 6:23). “The sting of death is sin” (I Corinthians 15:56).  The fifth chapter of Galatians lists a bunch of sins that can keep us from eternal life in Christ.  We see another such list in the sixth chapter of I Corinthians.  And let’s not forget the Ten Commandments.  We know that Jesus conquered death through His Passion, Death and Resurrection.  His victory assures our eternal life if we love and obey Him.  Thus, St. Paul can ask, “O death where is your victory?  O death where is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55).  For those who reject the love and mercy of the Lord, eternity is the punishment of hell separated from God and a result of their own choosing.  I became a Christian and specifically a Catholic in order to be saved from the punishments I deserve.  Being outside the will of God is indeed, to be dead already.  Sin brings with it death as real as the bones and funeral wraps of any cemetery.  To enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through His Church is to choose the life that He purchased for us on the Cross.  But it’s not a free ride.  He told us: “If you love Me obey My commandments”(John 14:15).  This means all of them, even the ones you don’t like.  Even the ones that make you uncomfortable or uneasy.  Even the ones our culture tells us are old-fashioned or outmoded.  The truth of God never changes.  Kingdoms and countries may come and go but God’s truth is constant.  No matter what culture cries out for, the Church must preach the truth of God or she ceases to be His Church.  This is the reason the Catholic Church rejects abortion, artificial contraception, fetal stem-cell research and euthanasia.  Even when sin, like abortion, is legalized and promoted by civil authorities, it’s still sin.  The Church teaches the truth revealed to her by Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Anyone who claims to be a Christian but who teaches against the truth of the Gospel will be held accountable, not by the Church, but by the Lord (II Corinthians 4:2; Ephesians 4:17; Matthew 15:13-14).  This includes any church or religious leader who does not uphold chastity.

Wow.  There’s a word you don’t hear much anymore.  Being chaste is the call of every Christian, whether single or married, straight or gay.  Chastity is faithfulness of mind, heart, a body.  If we’re married, we live out our chastity through our faithfulness to our spouse.  If we’re not married, we live our chastity through remaining celibate.  Single people live in the love and will of God through their celibacy.  Marriage is a Sacrament, not a civil union.  For Catholics, marriage is always between one man and one woman. Single people, straight or gay, live celibate lives.  To live otherwise is to deny God’s truth and to be disobedient to His will.  Some people may find this harsh, but it’s no more harsh than the teaching against murder or theft.  We don’t repeal the law against murdering someone because people are inclined to kill. And we don’t make theft legal when people are attracted to stealing. These truths remain true no matter how folks feel about them. Being born with same-sex attraction is a burden that may be the door through which someone discovers the meaning of their life and their purpose in God’s plan for creating them as He did. We all have these burdens and they’re all different and they’re all incredibly painful. But how we deal with our particular sinfulness is our choice. We can remain in it and let our lives become dead things. Or we can choose life in Christ.

When people say that the Catholic Church is against same-sex “marriage,” they’re right. But when they say the Church is against people who are gay, they’re wrong. Like any good mother, the Church wants her children to do the right thing but she doesn’t stop loving them whatever happens in their lives. The mission of the Church is to win souls for Christ. In that role she has to preach the truth of Christ without fear or compromise.

We are all sinners: single or married or ordained, gay or straight. Sin deadens our hearts and souls. As a Church, we must support one another in love and correct one another in charity. Only through the Christ and His Church can we claim the promise of the Cross. Only by being conformed to Christ through the Sacraments can we find the peace the world can never give us. When we look to our culture for the answers to eternal questions we need to remember what the angels asked that first Easter morning: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

“The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. “
                                 C.S. Lewis

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