WDIV last week, March 15-19, carried several stories of adultery as well as news of flashers and gropers.
No matter how casually sex is treated in our culture, we are still incredulous at the lack of chaste behavior or self control. Sex crimes and adultery still shock us and destroy marriages. What does adultery really mean?
To adulterate by definition, means “to corrupt, make impure” and “debase by foreign admixture…” (Webster’s). There is a sort of fragmentation that occurs in adultery. A commitment is broken. Trust is broken. There is disunity or lack of wholeness in the relationship. A marriage disintegrates when there is adultery because a person has disintegrated with adultery.
The church interprets this commandment to include the whole of human sexuality, which Jesus comes to restore to the purity of its origins. Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul (2331 CC). Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his body and spiritual being.
To integrate is to make whole or renew and this is the work of God in us. We are renewed when we seek forgiveness and are forgiven. After David sinned, he prayed, “Lord, be merciful to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.” – Psalm 41:4. We need healing or re- integration in our souls from the sins of adultery. As David prayed, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to the multitude of your tender mercy and loving- kindness blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and guilt and cleanse me and make me wholly pure from my sin!” – Psalm 51:1- 2.
St. Augustine says, “Indeed it is through chastity that we are gathered together and led back to the unity from which we were fragmented into multiplicity.” Chastity affirms the dignity of man who has a free and conscious choice to act and not to be led by impulses or to be controlled merely by external constraints. (CC 2339)
Chastity is always a choice and it is a battle. If we lose this battle, by the time we act in the flesh, we have long since broken spiritual communion with God. Just as hatred begets murder, so lust begets adultery. “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matt. 5:28. “What we may not do, we may not desire.” (The 12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation) Lust is a form of idolatry and makes us enemies of God. “Ye lust, and have not… Ye adulterers and adulteresses know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” – James 4:2, 4. “For everything in the world- – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – – comes not from the Father but from the world.” – 1 John 2:16.
It is often said that we desire the things we cannot have and while that is true, Jesus is saying that desire begins with our eyes. In the book of Genesis, Eve had no desire to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil until Satan tempted her and she looked at the tree. “The woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye…”
Beauty is a powerful lure. In the world of commerce, beauty is exploited in the effort to sell a product. In advertising, we may no longer see the item that is being sold but the parts of the person wearing or using the item. If you watch television or movies, you will notice that the camera manipulates your view highlighting, focusing on and accenting certain body parts of attractive models forcing us to gaze upon them whether we want to look or not. We can end up viewing human beings as a sum of desirable parts. The exploitation of beauty fractured from the whole person hurts women and men in many ways. We may see people as objects.
The quest for bodily beauty has made the culture unhappy with a burden to maintain desirability and attractiveness indefinitely. Aging is feared. Inner beauty is unappreciated. Teens who have grown up in a climate of “fractured beauty” are obsessed with bodily appearances.
But we are not mere bodies; we are body, soul and spirit and these things are not divided. Beauty can be lost with age or illness. What then? No person wants to be loved superficially or wed to someone who treats them like an object. What if we become incapacitated? What if our needs become profound? Can attraction ever be a true measure of love? We are whole people with hopes and dreams, weakness and strength. We desire to be espoused to someone who will care about our feelings, work with us, help us to grow and who will make sacrifices for us. Therefore, lust is an undesirable trait even in marriage. Love is about self- giving rather than self-seeking. We choose to love the whole person as we also love our self and God. Desire for one characteristic of a person should not be separated from charity, which is sacrificial and unselfish.
In marriage, we give our whole self to another person and we take another whole person. We promise fidelity in body, mind and spirit. If we are seeking to please our spouse, we cannot be selfish. We die to self- seeking as we promise to love, honor and cherish even if things get worse for us, if we become poorer, or suffer ill health, as long as we live.
Examination of Conscience
Do I accept my sexuality as a gift from God?
Do I ask God to lead me to my spouse and keep me chaste for my spouse?
Do I seek purity and wholeness in my body, mind and heart?
Do I allow God to convict me of sin and work with Him to root it out of my mind and heart?
Do I believe that God can provide for what I really need and do I ask Him for these things in faith?
Do I trust in God’s love and forgiveness and ask to be forgiven from my heart?
Excerpts from The Law and The Lord’s Prayer, by Karen Dudek
See Ten Commandments category for complete examination of conscience