(From Patheos.com by Fr. Dwight Longenecker. Accessed 05/19/2015)
A little quote from Pope St John Paul II has changed my perspective and my life.
I don’t know where or when he said it but he said, “Chastity is the work of a lifetime.”
I’ve pondered much on that saying and the more I do, and the more I hear confessions (where sexual sin is confessed frequently) the more I begin to understand the mystery of our human sexuality and the marvelously delicate yet marvelously resilient sacrament of marriage.
The problem is this: all of us long to love and be loved perfectly. However, the need to love and be loved is deeply wounded.
It is wounded by many things, and without being too Freudian about it, our sexuality is wounded first by our relationship with our parents. We expect the perfect love we are looking for from Ma and Pa.
Problem is, they are imperfect people and so are we. Even the best parents in the world cannot give us the perfect love that we desire because that can only come from God himself.
Furthermore, if they are imperfect in their giving of love, we are also imperfect in our ability to receive and be open to love. We are afraid of love. We block them out. We misinterpret their love. We get all twisted up in our own selfishness and narrow mindedness.
The imperfect relationship between us and our parents is the foundation for later wounds to love. Each one of us has a different experience of love in the family, but none of us can say it was always perfect all the time, and some of us must admit that it was pretty awful most of the time and more must weep and say that their experience of parental love was hellish all of the time.
Consequently, when we continue to search for love with another person, that search becomes twisted. We seek out the wrong kind of person. We don’t know how to look for a good spouse. We get waylaid by our sexual desire, pornography, promiscuity, rampant immorality and the whole long, sad list of sexual sins and when we get soiled and embroiled in these things it only makes our search for true love even more desperate and difficult.
This is where marriage comes in, and why marriage must be for life.
Because within marriage we might just, if we’re lucky and blessed and persevere, reach that point where we have found deep, abiding love and in finding that love we will also have found the path to chastity.
Chastity is not the lack of love, but the fullness of human love.
Chastity is faithfulness in love because we want to be faithful.
Chastity is purity in love because we are disgusted and repulsed by impurity.
Chastity approaches the other with wonder and awe and genuinely desires the best for the other not for oneself.
Chastity would even sacrifice oneself for the good of the other.
To develop this level of human fulfillment and maturity take a lifetime of conscious commitment and hard work. It requires repeated repentance after stumbling and falling. It requires attention and devotion and discipline.
Because it takes a lifetime, marriage must be a life long commitment. The problem with modern marriage is that we have come to regard it as a sacrament of self satisfaction rather than a sacrament of self sacrifice. We regard it as a way to have the perfect American dream rather than the way through which we finally learn what chastity is about and therefore what it means to grow in holiness and what it means to grow up into the full stature of the God-man Jesus Christ.
When we commit to marriage as the church intends we go on this journey. When we do our best to obey the church’s teaching on marriage we speed along this path. When we stumble and get up again and repent and try again–each time we draw closer to the goal.
If you are married and if you are still chasing chastity don’t give up.
You are climbing a mountain. Did you think it would be easy?
Further up and further in.