By Marco Casanova
“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).
Usually trademarked by LGBT parading throughout the globe, June makes for an interesting month. The shameless gender bending movements have a way of releasing a seductive cloud over cities. We must fight for those who still “limp between two opinions” (1 Kings 18:21). May we be “unashamed of the gospel” (Rom 1:16) that calls us out of sexy idolatry into the reality of Jesus.
As a dude who’s struggled with homo-erotic compromises, this month can be a battle. I’m proud of the ground taken in my fight for chastity, and humbled that the power of Jesus made such a campaign possible. Yet recently I was cautioned that the idols had not forgotten my name. Even though “they have mouths, but cannot speak” (Ps 115:5), idols have a way of igniting a seductive fire. Its secondary smoke impacts me.
What do we do when we feel a subtle seduction? Rouse yourself to stand. Look to the witnesses who have gone before us: St. Charles Lwanga, a young adult who stood for Jesus in the lure of royal “gay” seduction; Sts. Peter and Paul, chosen apostles, who stood for the “foolish” Crucified One as the pagan world belittled their convictions. These men are no dusty museum pieces of trite devotion. They’re Body members who fight for us when we start feeling the resistance.
How did they do it? Their Friend set His heart towards them:
“I do not ask for perfection from those whom I have chosen to be My friends; I ask only that they give Me their imperfection and the burden of their sins, and allow Me to do for them what, of themselves, they are incapable of doing… ‘Without Me, you can do nothing’…Why is this word of Mine so often forgotten? It is a word of immense power for the healing and liberation of souls because, understood rightly, it obliges them to run to Me in every necessity of body, mind, or spirit, and to allow Me to be their Savior, their Physician, and their God.” (In Sinu Jesu)
This Church of ours was made to march; Jesus promises that hellish resistance will not stand a chance. Fortified by Him and His friends, we stand firm.
‘In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood’ (Heb. 12:4).
Guys tend to be soft these days, orbited by helicopter parents and overly self-aware, as if sensitivity to one’s ‘needs’ means feeding time. Now.
Forgive me, but I cannot empathize for long with dudes committed to Jesus but pixelated, poisoned by porn, who regret that they are not ‘free’ to cave into sexual sin with either gender. They may even fall into self-pity over the loss of beloved idols, as if idols wanted their good. Note to self: idols want your blood, not your best.
Wake up. To become our best, we need resistance, a fight, a battle worth waging that will enliven something noble in us and burn off moral flabbiness. We need a clear vision of chastity—of holy love that rouses us to stop pleasuring ourselves long enough to pick up the sword of the Spirit and wield it. We are built to fight, not fantasize; Jesus redeemed us for war, not whining. We are made to reach beyond childish things and offer ourselves as honorably as possible to others. For their good, not our perceived fulfillment! That noble aim requires full surrender to Jesus and all our strength, endowed by His Spirit.
We have help from our fellows. Last week was the Feast Day of St. Charles Lwanga and friends, a group of about 22 13-30-year-old males who served in the court of a perverse and lustful Ugandan king in the late 19th century. As their spiritual leader, Charles discipled his band of brothers in the holiness of Jesus, which included training in chastity; that training was aimed at resisting the king’s sexual advances. For refusing royal lust, Charles and friends were martyred. They resisted to the point of shedding their blood; that sacrifice quickened the conversion of a nation that now boasts an 81% Christian population.
How far will you go to resist lust? I challenge you. Pick up the sword. Renounce self-pity. Ask Jesus for power you don’t feel. Live like you’re strong: surrender porn and foolish fantasies about the lover you deserve. You have One—Jesus who comes closer than the consummate friend and trains you for war. He has entrusted you with this fight. Start waging it. Become the man you are. Who knows? Your resistance might convert a crowd, even a country.
As the DSM staff gathered throughout Easter to pray for the coming (more Lord!) of the Holy Spirit, we entered Jesus’ merciful heart. Pandemic noise invited us to flee into the folds of His compassion. His wound is love, bleeding yet unimpaired, fiercely beating as to send oxygen-rich Blood throughout His Body so that all might live.
As His Blood enriched ours, we discovered impaired passageways—some blocked—in ourselves and in our ministry. How can we best become merciful members whose very presence permeates what is dying and revives it? Simple: we repent! We allow Him to diagnose hardening arteries; we then welcome His cleansing afresh.
Easy for Him—it’s the purpose of His heart and nature of His Blood—to course through surrendered vessels. Fresh, oxygenated mercy cleanses and revitalizes the heartsick. Now we can hear His command to all the faithful: ‘Summon life from the dead!’
That is good news. Our very lives are merciful, saving agents of His Blood that can well up and heal the most disordered. Of course we can! We are His! And He is Jesus! He lives as the very center of our lives and sends His merciful flood to us and through us with each beat of His heart.
Pentecostal power means that we live to revive the dying. We resound with an invitation for all to welcome His mercy where they are sick. Surrounded by the saints, we help each other refuse silent killers in His merciful, Almighty Name. More than that, we rejoice together in the wholeness we find only in championing others’ dignity over any lustful reduction.
I love my comrades who have come out of life-defying identities—deep divides of soul from which disordered passions emerge—passions that the world applauds and seeks to ignite. We know better! And we live better because One greater lives in us who implores others through us to turn from falsehood and live.
As I write, I see faces of friends throughout the world who infuse churches with their witness of Blood: the life that emanates from Jesus’ Almighty mercy. Life in the Blood now drives and defines previously wounded lives. Their communities are better–cleaner, truer, more merciful—because of them. Deadened tissue from unconfessed sin—from all religious game-playing—is exposed and surrounded by the mercy that wells up from them. Pure, saving joy! Nothing better! We are agents of His Blood whose witness awakens the Bride.
Pentecost has just begun. June is upon us, LGBT+ month. We will be subject to a host of false witnesses. Pray constantly for Jesus’ mercy to rest upon those who don’t know better. Mercy speaks a better word. Jesus’ Blood speaks a better word (Heb. 12: 24). May we who live in the Blood well up and summon life from the dead.
‘Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled or afraid’ (Jn 14:27).
Not as easy as it sounds. Sure, I’m praying-nothing but time to pray, lingering longer before Him. Hungry yes, still no Eucharist, but the Real Presence of Jesus in His Spirit meets me. At times, my whole being resounds with something like peace.
Until. I surprise myself. Just when I thought I could ‘walk in the Spirit and not fulfill my lusts’ (Gal. 5:16) … Bam. My doctor’s appointment was supposed to be quick and easy. But the line outside for temp-taking and masking was long; when the receptionist reprimanded me in a shrill voice-with a grotesque passport smile-‘Get back sir, you are way too close!’-I saw myself lunge at her and successfully rip the façade off her ‘pleasant’ face.
‘The peace He left’ left. As I paced the waiting area (no room at that inn–most seats were blocked for distancing purposes), I felt good shame and mused on what lurks beneath most of our prayerful efforts. His peace still surpasses understanding but so does the unrest that seeps into our core and rattles us.
I asked for mercy. I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet. It reminds me that Jesus’ mercy suffices and extends way beyond me to meet those most in need of it. ‘O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, empty Yourself out upon us and envelope the whole world…’
I aim His mercy at the world’s front-liners, persons isolated and without familiar consolation in their distress. Like you, I’ve a dozen friends and relatives who suffer alone. And I pray for courageous medics who are the last ones to hold a fearful hand, losing its grip.
That’s the real deal-the crux of this pandemic-good people losing breath and the hospital heroes who accompany them as we look on helplessly through various screens.
We cannot pass through the walls of this pandemic. But Divine Mercy and Peace can. I chuckle at my mixtures then pray for that River to flow to the most courageous, and vulnerable, in this fight.
‘The dignity of every woman is the responsibility of every man.’
St. John Paul 11, Theology of the Body
The test of my love lies in marriage; it is revealed in the eyes and heart of a person, a woman, my bride.
I will not be judged on my ministry gifts; these I exercise freely and receive some reward from others who value a snapshot, a post card, an edited glimpse of me.
Annette witnesses the whole broken image, or rather a series of images—the unrated miniseries without end. God keep her.
Marriage casts a searchlight that reveals the delightful, dirty dance—how we bless and bedevil each other with our love, or lack thereof—the hopes and fears of all these years, 39 and counting for this marriage. Sure, there are gaps, every marriage has them, but also treasures hidden from others that confirm two persons’ best selves and establish home on earth.
I love what for me is the apex of Theology of the Body: John Paul exhorts marrieds to not reduce sexuality to orgasm but rather to recognize and savor the extraordinary sexual essence of her womanhood, his manhood—the person behind the passion. A whole-enough marriage summons that essence and gifts each party with the other.
The other day, after two virus-inspired travel-free months, enjoying very much the rhythm of Annette and my uninterrupted life together, I noticed something: Annette’s peace. She looked lovely, at ease, a little playful. She was grounded because her husband was. I fell in love again.
Truth is, we married, committed to a long stint in grad school and baby-making, then I took off on a runway and never looked back. (I’ve accrued nearly 3 million miles with one airline.) Racing around the world may be good for the Kingdom but hell on a marriage. Annette learned how to partner with me from a distance. Costly. Our syncopated rhythm has not served her well. Her reward is heavenly, mine purgatorial. Who said life was fair? Mercy trumps justice!
Normal anxieties aside, she is more beautiful when her man is around. You could say the pandemic invited Annette to breathe. I savor the gift.