Tag Archives: Theology of The Body

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Grounded 9

‘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.

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liberating chastity

Liberating Chastity

Chastity has taken a lot of hits lately. Many would deem this ‘successful integration of sexuality within the person’ (#2337) a failure, the prospects dim for unifying one’s best spiritual aspirations with bodily desires. As Church sexual abuse scandals drone on like a dirge, we are stumbled in our stewardship of ‘these powers of life and love.’ If our fathers who claim to represent Jesus have faltered to the point of wrecking children’s lives, and their fathers (bishops) cover for them in order to defend ‘holy’ banks and appearances, what hope for us?

Hypocrisy fires our anger, which readily goes south to ignite dark longings for justifying our own lusts—you screw up ‘holy’ man, I’ll screw up worse!

Eloquent fools rush in. I just read with sobriety and incredulity LGBT activist Frederic Martel’s ‘outing’ of the last four popes and their Roman administrations: ‘In the Closet of the Vatican.’ Pretty intense stuff; more later. What alerted me to Martel’s interpretive key was this one line skewering Pope Emeritus Benedict, whose commitment to sexual orthodoxy is consistent and much hated: ‘He was haunted by the fact that someone else might be having pleasure…’

Huh. That’s Benedict’s legacy, his own chaste life (and there’s no evidence to the contrary) so curdled by conflictual desires that he spends his life spoiling others’ ‘gay’ revelry? That’s Martel’s cause and cure: ‘out’ these collared hypocrites and party on! Unwittingly, Martel ‘outs’ himself and shows he knows nothing about genuine chastity. Only in discovering more about this misunderstood virtue can we rescue it from such a caricature.

Chastity is about uniting the good of our bodily desires for pleasure and creativity with a desire to dignify other lives. This is not a virtue of children but of adults who must lay aside childish things in order to own good and lusty longing for human connection then decide, with ongoing training, to assert the upper hand on what drives them; desires channeled to achieve life, not destroy fun.

No stranger to lust-propulsion, I through Jesus’ mercy discovered a longing greater than sexy idols—that is, a peaceful composure that invited me to explore a range of relationships fully-clothed in which I learned to open my mouth and heart, not my pants. It was fun–pleasurable, if not sensational. I grew up without sensual limits so biblical boundaries saved me. A clear unbiased reading of Scripture led me to conclude that ‘Jesus committed to only one model of sexual union, opposite-gender monogamy…He regarded all sexual activity outside of marriage to one person of the opposite gender as capable of jeopardizing one’s entrance into the Kingdom.’ (‘The Bible and Homosexual Practice’, Dr. Robert Gagnon). To follow Him meant to commit to the same. Scary stuff.

Yet I needed the fear of God in regards to what I did with my body, precisely because of its impact on others. Masturbation hid me from others, porn demonized my vision of God’s children, and immoral acts violated the trust of holy friendships.

Two keys from the work of St. John Paul ll helped transform fear into expectancy. The first is his philosophical ‘personalism’ which invites all persons into an interior journey toward actualizing the truth in their lives, one that requires self-awareness and commitment to a process of development. Chastity, endowed by this ‘personalism’, is ‘how the subjective desires of the heart come into harmony with the objective norm’ (Christopher West).

That norm involved acting upon the second key. I learned through Theology of the Body that I was a ‘gift’ to others and that my design, however damaged by homosexual lust, was still inclined toward the other gift: woman. Then I discovered a pretty good relationship with a real one; I marveled at the difference between lust-propulsion and the emerging chastity in me that could open to Annette’s gender gift and grow to appreciate its exquisite rhythms. As I did, sexual ardor increased in a way that I can only describe as integrated. St. John Paul ll’s insists that chastity applies as readily to marrieds as to singles. We do not marry in order to avoid or channel lust; Jesus calls us in the spirit of St. Paul to love her like Jesus loves His Church. That requires nothing less than integration—the gift of slow-growing chastity.

Hypocrites and rumors of hypocrites aside, I can take responsibility for my own happiness. That requires loving free from the fetters of childish desires. Chastity liberates that happiness. Long may she live and grow in us.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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with jesus anything

With Jesus, Anything

Reflecting on my 60th year, I was beautifully interrupted by a snow storm that knocked the power right out of us; we were babysitting grandson Jacob while his parents cheered the Kansas City Chiefs onto victory in their division at the local stadium. (Congratulations to The Chiefs for nearly making the Super Bowl.) Annette and I shivered, laughed, and bathed Jacob in the kitchen sink by candlelight.

We love our new digs but it seems we moved into the Bermuda triangle of power sources. Breezes snap electric lines and blow up transformers. O well…My decisive word this year: If ‘without Jesus we can do nothing’ (JN 15:5b), then with Him, we can do anything.

That first and mostly applies to married life. I love Annette more than ever but am less sure of my capacity to actually love her as St. Paul implores husbands, you know, like Jesus offered Himself to the Church. OK, not there yet. It helps to know that marriage itself roots and grounds me in my manhood through her authentic, distinctly feminine self.

Listen to what St. John Paul ll says about marriage in Theology of the Body: ‘Marriage penetrates into the dignity ascribed to humanity as image-bearers by virtue of creation, and at the same time the dignity ascribed to sinful humanity by virtue of redemption.’ Good news for original sinners like me. In marriage’s unflattering mirror, I am humbled by Jesus who always invites me into mercy. From that artesian well I draw constantly and am empowered to give myself more and better to her. In the end, I will be judged by love, the love I gave to that woman. With Him, I can do anything.

That applies pointedly to my love for the Church. This messy witness of Jesus’ unfailing love takes more love than I have. I’ve only to sink a little deeper into the mercy pool to rediscover my gratitude and ardor for her. Strength rises as I wait on Him, His heart for her, that I might love her more, and better. By that I mean the many people I serve every day who are her—broken, beautiful, members, yet often half-blind. It helps to recall what I did not see until I did. Pair that with the realization that I still don’t see that well and you can understand why I cannot love her without Him. But with Him, I can do anything for her, His Bride.

Recognizing the value of trouble in loving the Church helps a lot. I use to shy away from trouble. But now I kind of like it. No sadist, me, but a realist who recognizes blessing and building up the Church provokes the rage of Satan himself who wants to keep her divided and weak, barren in her capacity to bring forth a vast harvest of spiritual children. I have a big enemy who hates what I do. So I am learning to bear his vengefulness patiently, assessing trouble as a sure sign of heading in the right direction–all the while laughing at my self-seriousness and the (comparatively) weak efforts of the enemy to thwart mine. With Jesus, I can do anything for generations yet-to-come.

I love getting older because life gets simpler. It becomes more about Him. In that way I grow young, as eager as a well-loved child to see Him face-to-face.

‘Love is a sweet tyranny, and one who loves has no other language but one… which always has a never-fading youthfulness on the lips of one who loves.’
Archbishop Luis Maria Martinez

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Saved by Beauty

‘This aspiration—born of love—is a search for integral beauty, for purity free from stain. It is a search for perfection that contains a synthesis of human beauty—body and soul.’ (Theology of the Body, St. John Paul ll)

As she sat in the morning light, hair shining silver, I realized that she had never been lovelier. All the years together, just shy of 40—and she more dignified and womanly than ever. I thought of the Rogers and Hammerstein lyric: ‘Do I love you because you are beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?’ and concluded nothing except life means little without her. Beautiful Annette, or better put, beautiful marriage, saved me.

Isn’t that idolatry? Doesn’t only Jesus save? Of course, only one Savior, but Jesus has given marriage power to permeate its players with His very Presence in a way that saves man and woman through their communion—body, soul, spirit. St. Paul likens sexual fusion between husband and wife to the ‘great mystery’ of Christ’s union with the Church. For years now, I have participated in this most holy, earthy communion with another; in so doing, Annette and I share in Jesus infusing His Church with divine presence. As Annette and I permeate each other with our self-giving, we are being saved—made holy through love as we ‘submit to each other out of reverence for Jesus’ (Eph. 5:21).

This flies in the face of charges—laughably foolish—that any person who has same-sex attraction cannot be redeemed in his or her sexuality. I came across an ad for the film ‘Boy Erased’ that ominously read: ‘The truth cannot be converted…’ Du, du, du, dumb. Talk about an inverted, uninspired worldview!

As our common enemy would have it, homosexuality, the big ‘H’, now subordinates Jesus to little ‘j’. For every sheep that drank the cool-aid and now believes all we can do for the LGBT+ set is to agree with their divided, sterile identifications—hear this: Jesus redeems us for beauty! And that means He has power to enable sinners from any fractured starting point to join the dance of life. Marital love with Jesus at center redeems persons who participate in it.

‘Boy Erased’ and the trendy assault on anyone who efforts to grow beyond sexual illusion reveal a loss of vision for human creativity and dignity. Not beautiful Jesus; He has never lost sight nor power to summon what He sees. That takes disciplined response, of course. Any good thing does. Becoming who I am is hard yet deeply fulfilling. I am not even tempted to trade my marriage and its unitive, creative power for a weird friendship with a dude. I was created and redeemed for beauty. Beauty saved me.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Muddy Mercy

Things just got a whole lot messier for the Church. Archbishop Carlo Mario Vigano—the papal ambassador to the US from 2011-2016–alleges that he made Pope Francis aware of Cardinal McCarrick’s homosexual abuses in 2013; further, Vigano claims that the Pope failed to discipline McCarrick until five years later (he was forced to resign in June) in part due to their strong political alliance: McCarrick advocated for Francis’ election to the papacy and the pope relied upon him significantly to oversee the American Church. If these allegations are true, Pope Francis should step down immediately. This could be the defining moment for a Church that repents in action.

There’s much I love about Pope Francis, especially his action toward the poor and displaced. But his unclear pastoral directives toward persons facing same-sex attraction have always unsettled me. I perceive him as a man who has been evangelized by winsome practicing homosexuals and won over. His legacy to ‘not judge’ persons with same-sex attraction paired with his counsel ‘to accompany’ them on their journey appears to be to a road going nowhere. Mercy without truth ceases to be mercy at all; it merely confirms people in their fractured, fruitless lives. And it leads to tolerating absolutely vile and inexcusable behavior in leaders. Francis judged McCarrick way too late.

Vigano’s report broke the morning I preached to a beautiful congregation in the San Fernando Valley. Given how the Church of Los Angeles lives in the face of the LBGT+ dragon, I emphasized the Cross: Jesus’ self-giving which commands repentance of any sexual expression that raises itself above His Lordship. Mercy flowed as many came forward to weep before the Crucified, including Kim, a 13-year-old girl wrestling with same-sex attraction who wondered whether or not she was a ‘lesbian.’ We prayed for her as with all others, confident of Jesus’ capacity to reconcile her to His best for her.

That church is a clear and cohesive witness of how mercy and truth meet. In contrast, my Roman Catholic Church is a house divided, if Vigano’s letter has any merit. He points out how homosexuality figures large into the current scandal, as most cases of clerical abuse involve male teens, not tots. Vigano also describes how Pope Francis with McCarrick’s help appointed American bishops with a ‘gay-leaning’ sensibility.

All this in a Church that has at its center a robust, life-giving vision of human sexuality: St. John Paul ll’s ‘Theology of the Body’ and the extraordinary role that Pope played in the Catechism in which he defines chastity as integration—reconciliation to our bodies, our genders, and our freedom when surrendered to Christ to offer ourselves purely and well to one another.

Where chastity is mocked by divided churchmen who lead the sheep in darkness, we must reclaim this dynamic vision of human sexuality and seek to live it with all His strength. We can assume responsibility and act upon what our gracious God has taught us, in spite of dodgy shepherds.

As for the shepherds, may Jesus Himself raise His sword over all priests, bishops, cardinals and popes who desecrate God’s children through abuse, its cover-up, and the promotion of pagan LGBT+ liberties that enslave little ones. I am praying for many to submit to Christ and to resign in the wake of this recent shakedown, including Cardinal Wuerl who allegedly knew of McCarrick’s wickedness for years and did nothing.

Unfaithful shepherds have brought us low. They must go. For too long shepherds have waved the rainbow flag over the sheep rather than teaching them to raise the Cross—Christ Crucified and lifted high–as the only means through which we can be reconciled to God’s good will for our sexuality.

Kim deserves better. I shudder to think of her in the hands of a McCarrick or even the confusing counsel of Pope Francis. She needs pure mercy, free from the muddy waters flowing from the Vatican. So do all the Catholic faithful whose trust has been undermined by secrets and LGBT+ lies.

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