The Virtue of Chastity
January 22, 2015
The caricature of a priest, (or any preacher, or rabbi) is that “we’re” hung up on sex” always wagging a finger at “sinners,” ever-ready to condemn, never leaving it alone.
The opposite is true. We rarely, if ever, speak about it. (Just ask Pope Francis! Did you see that, on his flight to Asia last week, a journalist asked him if he would condemn contraception. He replied, “Why are you always asking about that?”)
I’m not proud about the fact that we rarely speak about the sixth and ninth commandment. Why don’t we? One reason might be that, decades ago, we probably did speak way too much about it. A second might be that it’s so controversial. And a third is that we’re still so embarrassed by the sex abuse scandal that we’re gun-shy.
Well, God’s holy Word last Sunday leaves us no choice. Remember St. Paul’s cogent words?
“The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord . . . Your bodies belong to Christ . . . avoid all immorality . . . Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit . . . So, glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6)
This genuine biblical teaching on sexual morality is positive, liberating, and healthy.
It’s really not about sin, but virtue, the virtue we call chastity, that virtue by which we integrate God’s wisdom about the joy, beauty, nobility, and responsibility of sexual love.
As the Bible reveals, as St. Paul elaborates; as philosophers, poets, and sage men and women of the past and present remind us; as our own experience tells us; as the ingrained promptings of the natural law nudge us; and as the Church passes on to us . . .
. . . Sexual love is so sacred, so noble, so awesome, that it actually reflects God’s personal, passionate love for us. So, human sexual love should have the same traits as divine love. That means, it is forever, it is faithful, it is life-giving. So, the creator intends that sexual love takes place only within the lifelong, creative, exclusive, loving bond of a man and woman in the unique relationship we call marriage.
Chastity is the virtue by which we try our best to pattern our sexual activity in accord with God’s design. Positively, chastity frees us to enjoy that awesome gift of God – – sex – – in the healthiest, happiest relationship we humans can enter: the tender, faithful, fruitful, forever bond of marriage.
Negatively, chastity inspires us to believe that any sexual activity outside of that blessed union between one man and one woman in matrimony is not what God intends. To use St. Paul’s word, it is immoral.
Positively, the value of chastity is evident in, for example, the millions of grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren who gathered as families a few weeks ago at Christmas.
Negatively, the toxic results of immorality can be seen in broken families, fatherless children, crimes, violence, addictive behavior, human trafficking, abuse and abortion.
So, why are we so shy about speaking of chastity?
Well, for one, it’s hugely ignored! The wisdom of God’s revelation about sexuality is counter-cultural. Anyone who tries to live it can expect temptation, falls, and even ridicule. Whoever tries, with God’s grace and mercy, and a lot of discipline and responsibility, to be pure is often considered, not a saint, but a freak!
Two, God’s plan for sexual love is often portrayed as repressive, placing shackles on “fun” and freedom. In an age that trumpets the right to sex with whomever, wherever, whenever, however we want, God’s wisdom seems “out of it.”
Three, chastity is lampooned as anti-sex, nay saying, puritanical and guilt laden, a big no! to a pleasure we have a right to.
So, one of our most pointed challenges, as a Church, and, for that matter, as a culture, is to regain the high ground on the nobility of God’s design, to present it credibly and fresh to ourselves, one another, and a society that has reduced sex to culture’s most popular contact sport.
Truth be told, it is chastity that is pro-sex, guarding the awe, the wonder, the meaning and power of sex.
The Lord has given us His “user-friendly guide” as to how best to enjoy this gift.
Virtue and chastity frees us; immorality enslaves us.
The intimacy between a man and woman together in lifelong, faithful love, leading to children, is about the best hint we have here on earth as to how God loves us, and in the joys that await us in eternal union with Him.
For us, sex is hardly base, raw, or bad, but divine, as long as we heed God’s intent.
It’s time to speak of chastity again!