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Up and down. Up and down. 

That’s my life as I struggle against sexual sin. I am on the road to purity, but I have not arrived at my desired destination.

I acted out again this week. And I struggled with the desire to act out for several days afterward. I have felt pursued. But not the delightful pursuit of a lover; rather it has been the haunting pursuit of sin and lust. I am trapped. I am a slave.

I keep wondering what I am doing wrong. Why are my efforts not being rewarded? Why am I not finding God? Where IS God?

This battle emphasizes the constant struggle between grace and freedom. I know that ultimately I cannot overcome this sin. Only Christ can deliver me from this burden. And yet I really have to act as if I didn’t know this. I have to give my best effort at all times to work to overcome the sin of sexual lust. And when I am putting forth the effort to do things right, I begin to feel that I deserve a reward or deserve victory … but I don’t. And I get frustrated when I fail. And I wonder … Where IS God?

And then I keep moving forward, look back, and say, Oh, there He is! And I begin to feel sense of peace and a sense of wonder.

Up and down.

Up and down.

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Man is capable of experiencing his own dignity. He does so precisely when he exercises his freedom to choose the good, true, and beautiful. When someone acts against lust rather than allowing lust to act against him, he activates his self-determination and, hence, “what is essentially personal in him.”

This is the battle for the dignity of our own personhood: will we act for the good; or will we forfeit our self-determination and let evil act upon us?

+ Christopher West, Theology of the Body Explained, 196

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Society has much to say about sexual liberation. But society generally views it as the freedom to indulge one’s lusts without restraint. … Man chooses to indulge lust because he feels bound by lust. The man of lust cannot not lust. Hence, in his view the moral law that condemns lust oppresses him. He must be “liberated” from it so he can live his bondage to lust unhindered. In essence, he wants to be free from freedom in order to embrace slavery without retribution.

– Christopher West, Theology of the Body Explained, 214-215.

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‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

+ Matthew 5:27-28

Are we to fear the severity of [Christ’s] words, or rather have confidence in their salvific content, in their power?

+ Pope John Paul II

Jesus challenges his listeners with radical and powerful ideas in his “Sermon on the Mount” (Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Matthew). But for men none of his words hit harder than the charge thateveryone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).

For most men these are words of condemnation — hopeless condemnation. We have all looked at women with lust. Is there any hope for us?

But John Paul II has a different view of the purpose of Jesus’ words. For John Paul, these words could not have been uttered by Jesus unless they implicitly carried the promise of grace represented by Jesus himself. Yes, we have lusted with our eyes, but this is not the end. Jesus Christ has come to us and emptied himself in order to redeem us. And while in our broken nature resisting lust may be impossible, Jesus has sent us the Holy Spirit and now calls us to a higher ideal that can be met with the assistance of Christ and the Spirit.

“Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart.”

Without Christ, these words stand as condemnation. But fear not, Christ has come, and now these words are a promise — a promise that we can aspire to a life without lust.

+ Christopher West

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If it happens
that difficult or impossible tasks are laid on a brother,
let him nevertheless receive the order of the one in authority
with all meekness and obedience.
But if he sees that the weight of the burden
altogether exceeds the limit of his strength,
let him submit the reasons for his inability
to the one who is over him
in a quiet way and at an opportune time,
without pride, resistance, or contradiction.
And if after these representations
the Abbot still persists in his decision and command,
let the brother know that this is for his good,
and let him obey out of love,
trusting in the help of God.

+ Rule of Benedict, Chapter 68

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

* * * *

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

+ Matthew 5:27-28,48

The expectation that Christ places on us in the Sermon on the Mount (i.e., that we would not lust) is entirely realistic in light of who he is, who we are, and what he came to do for us. If it seems hopelessly unrealistic, we need to ask ourselves what we really believe about who Christ said he is and what his death and resurrection mean in our lives.

+ Christopher West, Theology of the Body Explained, 191

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Live Pure or Die

Live Pure or Die

Lord, I thank you for the gift of my sexual desires. I surrender this lustful desire to you and I ask you please, by the power of your death and resurrection, to “untwist” in me what sin has twisted so that I might experience sexual desire as you intend—as the desire to love in your image.

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We must always keep in mind that all Satan can do to attract us is plagiarize the joys God created for us in this world to foreshadow the joys of heaven. All the authentic pleasures of the world are in some ways sacramental, whereas all the counterfeit pleasures of this world are in some way sacrilegious. This is where the battle is fought: between sacraments and their counterfeits, between icons and idols, between signs and anti-signs. One foreshadows an eternity of fulfillment and communion, the other an eternity of emptiness and alienation.

+ Christopher West, Theology of the Body Explained, 355.

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