Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12).
It is heartbreaking to hear the countless stories of family wreckages due to sins of the flesh. It is tragic to see the wounds of young men and women who first experienced pornographic material and/or sexual abuse in their own homes. Horrific is the loss of innocence, the defilement of the human being, body and soul, created in the image of God who is the essence of purity.
Family so threatens the kingdom of darkness that the fiery darts of the evil one are unrelenting to destroy it in any number of creative, subtle and overt, ways. Sins of the flesh frequently lead to the crumbling of marriages and families. Often, in the mix is the devil’s mockery of God who created the human body to be a temple of the Holy Spirit, undefiled purity, and full of dignity, destined for eternal beatitude.
The gravity of sins of the flesh
As we read in the Catechism, “Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.” 1850.
In great part the increasing number of requests made to bishops and priests for the ministry of deliverance and exorcism is due to our culture’s preoccupation with erotica, sexual promiscuity, perverse and violent pornography, the normalization of abusive, demeaning control of another person by practices within or without the occult.
In St. Augustine’s spiritual classic, Confessions, we read,
“And what was it that delighted me but to love and be loved? But in this love, due measure was not observed between bonds of friendships. Rather, black vapors were exhaled from the muddy concupiscence of the flesh; these so overclouded and darkened my heart that I was not able to distinguish the serenity of love from the fog of lust.”
Unbridled lust clouds the truth and can carry us into a den of lies where legions chant, “Indulge!” Satan is a liar who aims to seduce us into his lonely, dark place of perpetual rebellion and disobedience to God’s law of love. He is a thief who aims to rob us of our inheritance with God. He will never get over the incarnation of the Son of God that is his eternal undoing. Therefore the human being, body and soul, is his battlefield. What is God’s provision for us? The Sacraments! The sacramental life, an intentional spiritual life, affords necessary grace for spiritual battles. But, do we really want victory over sin? Hans Urs von Balthasar penned, “Sin is precisely this: I do not want what God wants.”
The fog of lust
An overly sexualized culture produces overly sexualized persons whose moral compass goes asunder from sexual rectitude. When defilement of innocence becomes the norm, great is the wrath of God.
“Your wrath has grown strong against me but I did not realize it. I have been deafened with the noise of the chains of my morality, the punishment caused by the pride of my soul. I tossed hither and yon, consumed in my fornications, aimlessly driven by my burning lust. Wretch that I was, I broke away, following the violent course of my own passions. In leaving you I passed all the bounds set by your laws.” (Confessions).
The doorway to demonic obsession and possession is often through pornography, and disordered sexual passions that are acted out as a result. Through the five human senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing, evil spirits enter and exit. This is evidenced when the priest exorcist expels the demons and we perceive them leave through the victim’s eyes, nose, mouth, or hands.
Science has proven that brain maps are created by the use of pornography and it becomes more addictive than drugs like cocaine. What was once considered a male issue has become a female one also with the advent of such phenomena as “Fifty Shades of Grey”. I once gave a parish mission on purity of body and soul and the church was filled. I heard countless stories of wreckages, personal and familial. Jesus, the Divine Physician, honored the desire of the pastor and his parishioners to be liberated from sexual sin-sickness. People experienced the healing love of Jesus in the Eucharist during prayer services.
Catechism on concupiscence
- …Concupiscence can refer to any intense form of human desire. Christian theology has given it a particular meaning: the movement of the sensitive appetite contrary to the operation of the human reason. The apostle St. Paul identifies it with the rebellion of the “flesh” against the “spirit.” It unsettles man’s moral faculties and, without being in itself an offense, inclines man to commit sins. 2515.
- Because man is a composite being, spirit and body, there already exists a certain tension in him; a certain struggle of tendencies between “spirit” and “flesh” develops. It is a consequence of sin and at the same time a confirmation of it. It is part of the daily experience of the spiritual battle: For the Apostle it is not a matter of despising and condemning the body which with the spiritual soul constitutes man’s nature and personal subjectivity. Rather, he is concerned with the morally good or bad works, or better, the permanent dispositions – virtues and vices – which are the fruit of submission (in the first case) or of resistance (in the second case) to the saving action of the Holy Spirit. 2516
- The heart is the seat of moral personality: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication. . . . ” The struggle against carnal covetousness entails purifying the heart and practicing temperance: Remain simple and innocent, and you will be like little children who do not know the evil that destroys man’s life. 2517
Lord, make me want!
In a letter entitled, The Divine Physician, Pastoral Letter on Penance (25 January 2008, available here), Most Reverend Robert Carlson, quoted Hans Urs von Balthasar:
There is a will in me that wants, and there is another will in me (the same one!) that does not want. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death (cf. Romans 7)? Thus it is that I am rent apart in my innermost will, and the same thing in me that wants, is precisely what does not want. And this is why I cry out from the depths of my prison of unwilling: make me want!
Key to healing and deliverance ministry is to invite the victim to pray ardently for the desire to be completely liberated. Admittedly, one may not truly desire to make the necessary conversion of heart and take up a spiritual life. For example, a fully possessed person admitted that he was reluctant to evict some of the evil spirits who had become like companions to him. He shared that they made him feel powerful and in control of others at times. But then, they would also severely torment him physically and spiritually. Eventually, he truly desired to have them evicted by the prayers of the priest and he was set free.
Catechism on the battle for purity
Baptism confers on its recipient the grace of purification from all sins. But the baptized must continue to struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires. With God’s grace he will prevail (2520):
- By the virtue and gift of chastity, for chastity lets us love with upright and undivided heart;
- By purity of intention which consists in seeking the true end of man: with simplicity of vision, the baptized person seeks to find and to fulfill God’s will in everything;
- By purity of vision, external and internal; by discipline of feelings and imagination; by refusing all complicity in impure thoughts that incline us to turn aside from the path of God’s commandments: “Appearance arouses yearning in fools”.
- By prayer: I thought that continence arose from one’s own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know . . . that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you. (Augustine, Confessions)
The catechism also reminds us that the sixth beatitude proclaims, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Pure in heart”, according to the catechism, “refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness in three areas: charity, chastity or sexual rectitude; love of truth and orthodoxy of faith.” 2518.
Theology of the Body
In his book, “The Virgin Mary and Theology of the Body”, Monsignor Arthur Calkins, writes, “Contrary to the man of the technological and new-age philosophies at work today, which posit the human body is nothing more than a sensory mechanism for self-gratification, John Paul II emphatically reasserts the Christian teaching that the body is an essential part of the human person and not simply an exterior shell that will be shed once this temporal existence is ended. In our modern world, where escapism and anti-materialistic conceptions of nirvana reign, the need for understanding the body as a gift that both blesses time and eternity is of paramount importance. Christianity teaches that because of the incarnation and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the human body is raised to a new dignity, and will exist for all eternity as the living temple of God.”
This teaching reflects why the enemy of God and humanity, Satan and his legions, attack the human body to disfigure and destroy it. As St. Paul affirms, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). But to do its work grace must uncover sin so as to convert our hearts and bestow on us righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Three months ago, I held our first granddaughter in my arms and was brought to tears by the experience of such vulnerability, innocence and beauty. Oh, that God would preserve our children in purity of body and soul! Would that every believer be a courageous soldier for Christ adept at praying, “Satan, be gone from me!”
Loving Father, graciously grant that I can reconcile my attitudes, habits, weakness and human condition to your law of love. Please send the Holy Spirit to probe my heart, reveal my sin-sickness, and show me where I most need divine mercy and healing. Help me to put on the mind of Christ and to desire perpetual purity of body and soul. I implore you to strengthen my spiritual armor and moral resolve. Thank you for covering my family and me in the armor of the Precious Blood of your Son, Jesus Christ, Savior of the world. Amen.
Note: This article contains excerpts from the author’s book, The Holy Rosary for Purity of Body, Mind and Spirit, Queenship Publishing.