Over the years, as I have taught on the matter of sexual morality, to both young people and also couples getting ready for marriage, I have noticed a pattern in the Biblical texts: sexual immorality is quite often linked or closely associated with references to greed and theft. This link has become clearer and more understandable to me over the years. For, greed is excessive desire to possess wealth or goods, it is the insatiable desire for more. This is closely linked to lust which is an inordinate desire for the pleasures of the body.
Thus the lustful, the sexually immoral and unrepentant person says, in effect: I want sexual pleasure for myself. I do not not want to pay any “price” for it by seeing it in relationship to other goods and people. I do not want to see it in relationship to the institution of marriage, or the love of a spouse, or family, or children. I do not want commitments or responsibilities. I merely indulge in sex because I want it. All that matters is that I want it.
Many go further to accept few limits on what they want, despising norms that in any way seek to limit their access to sex, or to place it in a wider and more responsible context.
For many today, sex is simply something they want. And merely the fact that they want it makes it right. Never mind that lust and sexual immorality have had devastating effects on marriage and family, that as promiscuity has soared so have divorce rates, abortion, single parent families, children without intact families, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, broken hearts, and the like. Never mind all this. For many, the merely the fact that they want sex makes it right and excludes any one “telling them what to do.”
And this is greed, the insatiable desire for more, or the inordinate desire for things, such that they are considered apart from wider norms that limit desires with the boundaries of what is reasonable and in service of the common good. Greed cares little for the common good, for the needs and rights of others. Greed just wants what it wants. Lust is very close to greed in that it is also and inordinate desire for bodily pleasures apart from any consideration of the needs of others or of what it just, right and reasonable.
Let’s take a look at some of the texts wherein the Scriptures seemingly connect greed and sexual immorality. Commentary by me on each of them follows in red.
1. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people….For of this you can be sure: No sexually immoral, impure or greedy person….has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph 5:3,5)
The connection here between greed and fornication (porneia), translated here as sexual immorality, is not spelled out. Reading the text by itself might permit the possibility that it is only coincidentally connected to sexual immorality. But as seen below there are a good number of texts that connect sexual immorality to similar notions of greed and covetousness. Hence we ought to note the connection. That the connection was not developed or explained my signal us that the early Christians saw the connection as more implicit and obvious that we moderns.
2. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Col 3:5)
Here the list is broadened to include lust, and all evil desires. These are connected in the text to greed, and greed in turn is equated to idolatry.
Idolatry values something or someone in a way that hinders or surpasses the love, trust and obedience we owe to God. It wants the thing, rather than God who made the thing. Through greed we excessively desire things, such as sex, money, power, creature comforts, and they take on greater importance for us than God, or what God sets forth for us to obey. Through greed these things become idols since they surpass God in importance for us. We prefer them to God, we obey our desires more than God. God can take a number and wait, I want what I want, and that is all that matters.
And for many today, and apparently when these text were written, sex is more important than God. Hence the connection to greed.
3. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. (Ex 20:17)
The 6th Commandment had already forbidden the act of adultery. But note here, how this commandment goes deeper, indicating that we are not to covet. In speaking of what it means to covet the Catechism says: The sensitive appetite leads us to desire pleasant things we do not have…These desires are good in themselves; but often they exceed the limits of reason and drive us to covet unjustly what is not ours and belongs to another or is owed to him. The tenth commandment forbids greed and the desire to amass earthly goods without limit…..When the Law says, “You shall not covet,” these words mean that we should banish our desires for whatever does not belong to us. Our thirst for another’s goods is immense, infinite, never quenched. Thus it is written: “He who loves money never has money enough.” (CCC # 2535-2536).
Hence, to covet the wife of another includes both a sexual desire for her and a greed that wants to have her.
4. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, (Mk 7:21)
Here again note that in a verse that includes fornication and adultery, is included the word theft, referring to the unjust possession of something. The fornicator and adulterer steals what does not belong to them. Sexual intimacy belongs to the marriage bed alone. Hence the unmarried person and adulterer take what is not theirs. Clearly antecedent to most, if not all theft, is greed.
5. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man overreach and defraud his brother in this matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thes 4:3-8).
This text not only links sexual immorality to greed but also to theft, and in a wider sense injustice. For, to fail to live chastely both overreaches and defrauds.
The Greek word here translated as overreach is υπερβαινειν (huperbainein). This word means, “to go over,” to overpass certain limits, to transgress; to go too far, i. e., to go beyond what is right or due. Hence again, we can see how greed is tied into sexual immorality, for it is desire overreaching, going too far, beyond what is reasonable, due or right. The lustful person is greedy because they want what they want no matter if it is excessive or wrong. All that matters is that they want it. And this is greed.
The word translated here as “defraud” πλεονεκτει (pleonektei) is related to covetousness and greed since it emphasizes gain as the motive of fraud. Thus, the sexually immoral person defrauds others, the sexual partner, families and society as a whole. They do this by thinking more of what they want, than what is right or what it might negatively do to others. They act fraudulently for they act as though they were married when they are not, and they do this to steal the privileges of marriage.
6. Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)
Again, simply note that sexually immoral persons are numbered among or along side thieves and swindlers. They are akin to thieves for they take what does not belong to them, and they swindle because obtain through deceit. The deceit is that they implicitly claim the status of a married person by grasping its privileges and rights, but they have not taken up the duties of marriage.
Hence the mention of thieves and swindlers along with the sexually immoral may not be coincidental, but may imply “birds of a feather.”
7. Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Let your manners be without covetousness, contented with such things as you have; for God has said: I will not leave you, neither will I forsake you. (Heb 13:4-5)
In other words, don’t be greedy and steal the privileges of marriage bed by adultery, premarital sex, or any indulgence of sexual pleasure outside marriage. If you are not married, it is not yours. If you are married, it is only yours with your spouse. Be content with what you have and stop being greedy or covetous.
Hence we see demonstrated a rather consistent scriptural connection between sexual immorality, greed and theft.
Sexual intimacy is a prerogative and privilege of marriage. It exists to build up marriage, to encourage recourse to marriage, and to help knit the spouses together in a fruitful love. To snatch sex away from its only proper place is to unjustly possess that which is not mine, it is theft. And scripture connects this stealing to greed and covetousness. Greed is the excessive desire to posses, beyond what is just or reasonable. If yielded to we take what is not ours, simply because we want it.
Many today claim they can do as they please in terms of sexuality and, many also boast of their sexual freedom and exploits. The entertainment media celebrates sexual freedom. But it would appear that scripture sees such sexual exploits not as liberation, but as theft and greed.
It is true some act in weakness, some fall, but are repentant. Surely God is rich in mercy for such souls as these.
But as for those who celebrate sexual immorality, they ought to consider that what they call good, God calls sin, God calls greed, God calls theft.
For those willing to see, God is waiting and God is willing. This video is a reminder of God’s saving mercy.
70 Replies to “On the Connection between Greed, Theft and Sexual Immorality”
Sadly, some claim the Church is hypocritical and her teachings illogical because of the Vatican’s so-called “wealth” or “secret treasures in the archives or some other hidden room”. They do not understand international law, nor why the Vatican has such architecture, beauty, art and artifacts, nor the Church’s doctrine on truth and beauty and art, nor the Commandments of the Lord, nor the transparency and honesty of the City-State.
Nor do they understand that sexual immorality and greed are condemned by Reason, for it is science that says man is male and female and sex is reproduction and it is philosophy that says man has a right to property, and the Moral Law says no man can do immorality or steal what does not belong to him – the Law which many teenagers feel when they say “It doesn’t feel right” when up against, for example, homosexuality or pedophilia.
Yes, thanks for this addition,
What bible did you get the scripture passages from MSGR.? I am troubled by the one mentioning male prostitution. The copy I have of the Douay bible uses the word “effeminate” instead of male prostitutes. Effeminate means “an offensive term used to describe a man whose behavior, appearance, or speech is considered to be similar to that traditionally associated with women or girls”. Where does prostitution come from? Would prostitution, male or female, come under fornicators or adulterers? Do we not have in society cross dressing males who are straight, some even married, but spend some of their time dressing as women? Is that not also “idolatry” since they “idolize” women’s dress? Being that our Father knows all and exists in all time could it be more accurate to say scripture means exactly what the term means? Our Father does not waste time with his words. To mention “adulterers” which could mean both prostitution and none prostitutional activities, both male and female, then mention it AGAIN in the form of just male prostitution seems redundant and overstating the point. Plus, I have to figure he is aware of cross dressers and I fail to see where he would disclude anyone since the bible was written for all people and for all times. Just wondering if you have any comments? Just my opinion.
God Bless you MSGR.
I think I may have used the NIV. Here is a site which compares about a dozen translations: http://bible.cc/1_corinthians/6-9.htm
I am not sure how the Greek is best translated here and did not consider the matter since this post is not essentially about that issue, but rather sexual misconduct in general. But as you shall see, all the translators refer the Greek to homosexual activity, some to gay male prostitution others to homosexuality in general. I do not have time to study the matter now but it seems “effeminate” might be too broad a euphemism in this case. I do not deny your concerns about things in this regard but cannot vouch for the interpretation you prefer of this particular Greek text.
By the way, Strongs says this, which would tend to confirm your interpretation: http://strongsnumbers.com/greek/3120.htm
Effeminacy is less and less discussed these days, I am glad someone pointed this out to the Msgr. Thank you.
Actually, The Dhouay Rheims has more than any other bible as far as accuracy from my research.
Dear Msgr. Pope
Thank you for your enlightening work. Your linking greed,
theft and sexual immorality can be found in conceptual detail
in St Thomas’ Summa Theologica and in a more readable form
in Josef Pieper’s The Four Cardinal Virtues:
The author follows St Thomas’ explanations on these virtues and links
the loss of chastity to the loss of prudence. And once Prudence is gone
then all other virtues are necessarily gone, since no virtue can be such if it
is not prudent. Excess or defect then abound in our choices and decisions,
bringing our house of virtue down.
I take the license to briefly quote from this brilliant book, which
elaborates on the connections you diligently explained:
“Knowledge of Reality and the Realization of the Good
There are two manners in which man can fail to meet the
demands included in the virtue of prudence.
First of all, by an actual failure and lagging behind, by
the nonfulfillment of the active prerequisites of prudence.
Thoughtlessness and indecisiveness, of which we have already
spoken, thus come under the heading of imprudence; so also
do negligence and blindness to the concrete realities which
surround our actions; likewise remissness in decision. There is
one thing which is common to all these forms of prudence:
something is “lacking.” There is a defectus, an absence of a
needed quality. There is a “lack” of proper consideration, of
well-founded judgment, of vigorous final decisiveness. We are
astonished, and yet to some extent we understand, when
Thomas Aquinas discovers that these imprudences of “omission”
have their origin in unchastity, in that surrender to the
goods of the sensual world which splits the power of decision
It is, on the other hand, astonishing, surprising as a flash of
lightning, but also as illuminating, to observe the manner in
which Thomas traces the second group of imprudences to a
common origin. But let us first discuss this other mode of
imprudence. It differs from that “lack” which is the common
element of thoughtlessness, indecisiveness, and negligence in
the way that a dishonest affirmation differs from negation, that
an apparent similarity differs from simple oppositeness. It is
the difference between faulty prudence and, so to speak,
“plain” imprudence. In the qwestio in which he treats of the
false prudences Thomas speaks first of the “prudence of the
flesh.” Instead of serving the true end of all of human life, this
prudence is directed solely toward the goods of the body and
is, according to the Epistle to the Romans (8, 6f.), “death” and
“the enemy of God.” But then he devotes several articles to
Cunning (astutia) is the most characteristic form of false
prudence. What is meant by this is the insidious and unobjective
temperament of the intriguer who has regard only for
“tactics,” who can neither face things squarely nor act straightforwardly.
In the letters of the Apostle Paul this idea of astutia
occurs several times in a contrast which helps to clarify it, for
it is opposed to “making the truth publicly known” (manifestatio
veritatis, II Cor. 4, 2) and to the purity of unclouded
“innocence” (simplicitas, II Cor. 11, 3). The same concept of
simplicitas recurs in the legend of this book: “If thy eye is
single, the whole of thy body will be lit up” (Matt. 6, 22).
There can be false and crooked ways leading even to right
goals. The meaning of the virtue of prudence, however, is
primarily this: that not only the end of human action but also
the means for its realization shall be in keeping with the truth
of real things.”
Thanks for this addition
What a WONDERFUL article! Thank-you Msgr. Pope for writing this. Even though many may find it difficult to read, it is nevertheless true. My daughter is engaged, and she and her Fiance’ have already purchased a home. She stated several months back that they were wanting to go ahead and move in together. I forbade it, and gave her my reasons. My daughter was brought up in a Catholic home, went to Catholic Grade School and High School and knows the difference between right and wrong. She understands that just because times change, doesn’t mean that right and wrong does.
I do not see from these examples how sex within the context of a committed relationship before marriage is condemned although the Msgr. later editorializes it to be so.
While it may or may not be true that sex before marriage of itself constitutes sexual immorality, these verses do not state so and therefore it does not seem to follow that these verses can be used to comment on that matter.
The marriage bed, it would seem clear, refers to the marriage bed and not the pre-marital bed. Adultery has a specific meaning and it is not premarital sex. It would have been very easy for Paul to say, “relations before marriage’ etc but he never says this.
I think it’s noteworthy that sex before marriage in a committed relationship seems to be condemned absolutely nowhere in the Bible (as far as I can tell) though it is abundantly clear about other sexual issues. In fact, while there are cases of sex before marriage in the bible, there is never any pronouncement of its morality whatsoever that i can name – unless it is from other factors, eg: Moses forbids relationships with women from an enemy camp.
It seems to me that the silence is ‘deafening’ on the matter of sex within a relationship before marriage and that there may be significance in this silence.
I welcome someone showing from scripture that I am wrong in this.
Your use of the term “committed relationship” is fanciful from the standpoint of scripture. Hence, any references to fornication refer to sex before marriage. There is no notion of a committed relationship at any time prior to the the sexual revolution. Hence, it would seem to me that the burden is yours insofar as scripture goes. In particular you must demonstrate that there is such a notion as a middle ground (what you call “committed relationship”) between marriage and the single state.
Further you evidently do not understand that there is a distinction between the Greek word porneia (fornication) and mocheia (adultery) Hence your point about Paul never mentioning sex before marriage is moot, since he obviously does this frequently, condemning both adulterers, fornicators, as well as homosexual offenders.
Your notion that things are deafening is simply not sustained by the facts clearly set forth in Scripture and involves fanciful notions of a “committed relationship” which the Bible calls marriage.
Tainting everyone involved in sex outside of marriage as simply wanting what they want when they want is simplistic and makes it easy for those who use their sexuality properly to be judgmental prigs.
Sure their are some who feel that if they want sex they should have it, but in my experience at a party school, an awful lot of people just want affection and don’t know how else to get it. You should give people the benefit of the doubt before judging and accusing them as being cold hearted, selfish people who purposely decide to follow lust for lust sake. It is rarely ever that simple.
Well, I’m exploring what scripture says here. Further, one post does not a whole blog make. Perhaps you should read more here before making your own sort of rash judgments.
You also accuse me unjustly of making no distinctions. Please see toward the end of the article. I agree with you that things are not “that simple” This article explores scriptures that link (not equate) sexual promiscuity with greed. Please the beginning of the article as to this point and read more carefully.
I guess sexual immorality doesn’t apply to priests who molest children. Otherwise, they would do as is written: “But I now write to you not to associate with anyone named a brother, if he is immoral, greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunkard, or a robber, not even to eat with such a person. For why should I be judging outsiders? Is it not your business to judge those within? God will judge those outside. Purge the evil person from your midst. ICor5:11-13
No more sending the offending priest to treatment or “pastoral care”- he should immediately be defrocked, excommunicated, thrown out of the diocese (because he has already left the Kingdom of God), and the police immediately called, period. Even among the unbelievers this is a no brainer. Come on!
How is it that the church can react when a priest challenges their authority, gets married, is homosexual, or when a woman is ordained? The priest or woman is immediately dealt with harshly. Why does a pedophile get a pass? Nothing short of immediate excommunication, stipped of the title of priest, and calling the police is a pass. Want proof, currently a Belgian Bishop admitted in an interview on tv mind you that he molested not one but two nephews. He was asked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to “leave Belgium and undergo a period of spiritual and psychological counseling.” Um, sounds to me like this is the congregation of Satan.
Your argument of course is ad hominem, which involves a failure to address the substance of the message and attacks, rather, the messenger. Paul does surely speak as you say, but of course the matter would apply to an unrepentant sinner, for otherwise other texts speaking of reconciling the sinner would not hold (e.g Matt 18:15ff; Gal 6:1-2; James 5:19; 2 Thess 3:14; 1 Thess 5:14; inter al). The policy you suggest is the current policy of the Church in America. The Belgium Bishop is removed, cannot minister. It is up to the state to arrest him if there is evidence enough. Otherwise, the best the Church can do is advise a dismissed cleric to get counseling. The Church does not run prisons and has no legal authority to detain people. Is your govt in Belgium giving his a pass?
Again, Excommunication as spoken of by Paul in your quote, is reserved to unrepentant sinners and to those who openly reject a dogma and refuse correction. Priests who have molested Children are defrocked, though, not excommunicated unless they refuse to repent. If they refuse to repent, they are excommunicated. Pedophiles do not “get a pass” as you suggest. They are no longer able to minister as priests. Pedophilia is loathsome and evil and must be dealt with quickly when it is discovered. The cleric (or lay leader) is removed from all ministry and reported to the local police.
Dear Msgr. Pope. I have a question I hope you can answer for me. I sometime argue the point about the priests who molest children. I aways believe that these priest where immoral in the first place. These where men who joined the priesthood that were gay or homosexuals in the first place. Some joined at a time when such sexual practices where still frowned upon and considered unacceptable. Either believing the priesthood would cure them of living such a lifestyle or they joined in number so the could hide their lifestyles behind closed doors and from the public eye. That for many years this practice was going on and covered up by the homosexuals who had authority. I do hope the Church Leaders are finding and cleaning out these despicable men.
I see you chose not to give me an answer. I would the assume I am correct by your silence.
I always tell people who attack the Church and i defend the Roman Catholic Region by telling them it was not the practice of the region that made these men behave this way, or the the celibacy. If these men had a true calling none of this would matter. It was men who joined had thesetendencies if the first place.
I am slow to answer because this post was written over a month ago and I’ve gone on to many other posts since. I suspect that this post was picked up by another site because, long after it had died down it lit up again.
Anyway, I do largely agree with your point but would generally not use words like immoral and despicable. It could be just that they were weak and misled. I do not say they were sin-free, only that they may be something less than your word choice suggests, and leave more sweeping assessments to God.
I think the sex abuse scandal WAS largely an issue of homosexuality, 80% of the cases were homosexual offenses. Now some like to say the scandal has nothing to do with homosexuality and call the whole thing pedophilia. But true pedophilia involves abusing sexually immature children. But in this scandal most of the victims were sexually and physically mature teenage boys. Thus, though underage, they were not physically children. Hence, it would seem we are not dealing with pedophilia in 80% of the cases, but, rather, homosexual attraction. In the 20% of heterosexual offenses the vast majority of those were also against sexually (physically) mature but under-aged teenage girls. Here too them pedophilia is not really the issue (for that term refers to pre-pubescent) children.Rather in these cases it is heterosexual offenses against underaged, but post-pubescent girls.
The misuse of the “Judgementalism charge” is used as sledge hammer to keep people quiet these days. Just what did Christ mean by not judging. Did he mean for us to ignore evil being commited in front of us? I think not. We are permitted to judge actions and not people. Love sinner, hate the sin. Otherwise we could never send a murder to prison. We have to say that I can not judge that action, therefore maybe you were just for murdering.
Praise be the Lord! Thank you Monsignor for the enlightenment! Thanks also to Horacio for the additional thoughts.
I thank the Lord for the help. I had such an ah moment today! Amazing to connect the dots between faith and culture. I see better see the link between the loss of the joy of loving God and Obeying His commandments and what we all suffer as a nation – the financial meltdown, the unstable families, etc. These evils that we as a society have to face now, are but a result of what we each as individuals have chosen. So from the sin of pride/self-centeredness ( the It is all about me attitude of the present generation) gives rise to as you said: lust, greed and the attitude of covetousness in general. It seems to me the norm, as it is so prevalent these days even among us churchgoers. We need a strong relationship with the Lord so that His light will convict us of our self absorption and help us snap out of our tendency toward sin. Otherwise if we get in the pattern of self justification – we will end up blind. And so sin won’t be sin anymore. If we don’t fight our natural tendencies we will die. We’ll be in mortal sin! And the worse part is since our pride is strong, we won’t even want to acknowledge our sin, there is no sincere sorrow so even if God wills to give us His mercy. We tie His hands because He needs our willingness to be forgiven.
I also see that because of first act of the will is disordered – it is focused on loving and pleasing self rather than Loving and pleasing the Lord. This then is why we have a whole generation that has lost the sense of sin… If we each re-orient our will to God’s Will in everything then I/we will be re-ordered. Faith lived authentically will lead to good in society. So let us continue in hope and continue to do our best to be faithful to our Lord knowing that His Light is overcoming the darkness!
Yes, thank you for these insights!
Regarding the sexual immorality and many sins associated with sexual sins, I’ve thought about the question why was it so tolerated in the past by men. It doesn’t exclude any profession and is tolerated in the world as well. But why? I’m sure there are many reasons. I am no expert, but I am a woman.
My own thought is, that it seems to be in the way men have thought about women. Not really respecting womanhood. Sort of not really taking woman seriously enough. Husbands who say wives talk too much, doctor’s who believed woman’s problems were all in their head, but that men are sexual creatures and what they do about it may not be talked about much, but accepted as normal and hushed up and covered up. And the one I really don’t like, men who call other men “ladies” when they’re trying to shame a man.
I am no feminist.
I am not a male-basher either.
The double standard reached a peek when women went out to work in vast numbers and started to demand equality. Although right about many inconsistencies, women were wrong in how they went about it. Radical feminists only proved to worsen the roles of good women, instead gaining equal status in life. They helped to make woman’s lot in life worse. Divorce, loneliness, living without marriage, children out of wedlock, contraception and abortion harm the woman, killing her child, smoking, drinking, std’s and long hours at work that continued at home, emotional wounds, only made women get sicker and die earlier and made some women witches.
To me the answer is always mutual respect through faith in God. The Old and New Testaments, holds women in a more proper esteem than in other faiths, I believe. Because Jesus did. He didn’t condemn Mary Magdalen. He always spoke about a woman in a kindly way. The way Jesus treated women is the right way. While women need to follow the Blessed Virgin Mary as an example to men. If men are to be good, women need to be good.
Well said, thank you.
I agree with the Monsignor. Well said. God bless you.
Thank you Father and thank you bluesuede. I agree with you on all points. Treating people as objects to use and abuse surely calls to heaven for vengeance.
Enjoy hell Charles Pope. Another 501c3 churchianity sell out. You are of this world and serve the god of this world. People, wake up! Stop giving these wolves your money, you don’t need them. Sit down with a bible, disregard all that you’ve been told, and seek Jesus through the scriptures, allow them to come alive to you. Jesus doesn’t need a spokesman. Find Jesus for yourselves! Don’t take another’s word for it, you’ve got to do the work yourself otherwise your faith will fail you. You will hear His voice and the voice of another you will disregard.
Hey, Charles, why don’t you get a job, start supporting yourself, and stop living off the mind controlled slaves. Is there anybody in there or am I talking to a sock puppet?
You seem to be a little upset.
Regarding the question of “spokesman” Jesus said to the apostles: “He who hears you, hears me.” Further, he told them to “Go into all the world and Baptize them, and teach them to observe everything I have commanded.” So I am not sure Jesus got your memo when it came to have no spokesmen. Seems to me he clearly commissions them.
As for consigning people to hell, it is better to leave that to Jesus, for the Father has consigned all such judgements to Jesus that the world may revere him.
I do hope to avoid Hell and will trust in Jesus to get me to heaven. And I figure he will do it through the Sacraments, Prayer, the Fellowship and the Scriptures (cf Acts 2:42).
As for your wishing me hell, I answer that I hope to see you “up yonder” one day in heaven. IOW I wish you heaven.
This is a strong word for these days. Just when I think there is little salt, I happen upon a teaching such as this and my strength returns by our Father’s grace.
And I wish to add that I would love to have Lizette as my neighbor. What a sweet, sweet sister in the Lord.
Thanks for your encouragement
It is also intreesting to note that God’s ability to bless the childless serves as a recurring theme in the Old Testament. In the sublime Ps 113, the psalmist portrays the grandeur and transcendence of the LORD in the opening verses (Ps 113:1-6). Stunningly, the psalmist asserts this great God?s care and compassion for the marginalized. Verse 9 announces, ?[the LORD] gives the barren woman a family; she becomes a joyous mother of children.? And when Isaiah is looking for a symbol of God?s work of salvation for those languishing in exile, he proclaims, ?Sing out O childless woman; break into song and shout you who have not labored. For the children of the desolate woman will be many more than those of the married woman, says the LORD? (Isa 54:1).What is the point of this theme? The people of God are not limited by the weakness and struggles of humanity. God?s people are capable of much more than the sum of their collective abilities, talents, wealth, and resources. In fact, God often bypasses the typical human avenues of power to pursue his causes through outsiders. The advance of God?s mission is dependent solely on God?s strength and power. God declares this definitively for the initial generations of God?s people by multiplying descendants for Abraham through the wombs of women who otherwise were unable to bear children. It also teaches the community about the character of God. God does not merely side with the powerful and the self-reliant. He is with those whom other human communities tend to marginalize. God advances his kingdom and mission through the margins.
I do believe that Mary has an interesting point. Many young people, especially young women, are desperate for love and look to sex to fill the void. Parents have become more and more self-absorbed with their careers, broken marriages and new love interests ignoring their children’s need for attention and love. Many parents use material goods as a tool to “bond” and forge a ‘friendship’ with their children. So many of these poor kids are lonely, starved for affection and stunted in maturity. Once they hit high school and college they look to the opposite sex and material goods to fill the void. They feel loved for the short time they are involved in a sex act and feel satisfied for a few hours after buying something they ‘really’ wanted only to feel empty, lonely and unloved a short time later. They keep repeating these acts to get some relief from the hole in their hearts. This process continues throughout their lives; often repeating the same mistakes their parents made.
The motivation for unhindered sexuality and the need to own things is not always lust or greed; it is often emotional pain. We know that only Christ can fill the hole in their hearts, but, sadly, these young adults are ignorant of Christ’s love for them. I pray that Jesus would take pity on these souls rather than vengeance.
I think there is a lot of truth in what you say. But Mary’s critique of this article is unfounded, even though, as you point out, she includes other aspects of the problem which we have explored on this blog in other posts as well. You also state these things well.
I do apologize for not being more specific in my agreement with Mary’s post. It was her point of people using sex to fill an emotional void I was in agreement with. Her general assessment of your article was misguided and laced with undue anger.
The connections you made among the sins of immoral sexuality, greed and theft are eye-opening. People that are immersed in these behaviors, no matter what the underlying cause, are sinning against God. The more we are aware of sins and how they are connected and manifest themselves the more effective we will be at battling them.
Thanks, I agree with you there is an important point in the problem of filling a void.
Msgr: Thank you for your reply. I really do appreciate it. Sincerely. But would you mind clarifying the following:
“Your use of the term “committed relationship” is fanciful from the standpoint of scripture. Hence, any references to fornication refer to sex before marriage. There is no notion of a committed relationship at any time prior to the the sexual revolution.”
“Hence, it would seem to me that the burden is yours insofar as scripture goes. In particular you must demonstrate that there is such a notion as a middle ground (what you call “committed relationship”) between marriage and the single state. ”
[Can you demonstrate ANY relationship in scripture which would would commonly be understood as a boy and girl loving each other and having relations BEFORE being married as stated as wrong or sinful in the Bible in itself, Father? Just the standard stuff we all see everywhere in the world. If not, why should we assume it is wrong since the Bible is so specific otherwise on other matters? Shouldn’t we rather assume it is PERMISSIBLE unless otherwise stated? In the law, doesn’t silence imply consent, Msgr? Wasn’t this the the defense of St. Thomas A Beckett -that silence implies consent?]
“Further you evidently do not understand that there is a distinction between the Greek word porneia (fornication) and mocheia (adultery) Hence your point about Paul never mentioning sex before marriage is moot, since he obviously does this frequently, condemning both adulterers, fornicators, as well as homosexual offenders. ”
[I would most willingly accept this point if you can demonstrate FROM SCRIPTURE that “porneia” means “any sex outside of marriage”. Can you demonstrate scripturally that this is what the Apostles and our Lord meant, Msgr? Because by the examples you show I interpret it as ‘sexual immorality’ which has yet to be defined as ‘sex before marriage between a boy and girl who are dating’ or who love each other. I DO see SPECIFIC pronouncements against: Bestialty, homosexuality, adultery in the Bible… but I see nothing equating porneia with a boy and girl in love having relations before marriage. Can you demonstrate otherwise ANYWHERE from scipture, Father? “Fornication” is an English word which was never used by the Lord or the Apostles.]
Your notion that things are deafening is simply not sustained by the facts clearly set forth in Scripture and involves fanciful notions of a “committed relationship” which the Bible calls marriage.
[If, as you say, a committed relationship is considered by the Bible to be marriage, than by definition it would be lawful to have relations as long as the relationship is committed – because it is marriage. Does this not logically follow? But where in scripture does it say that a committed relationship is marriage, Msgr?]
Really, I’m not exactly saying I disagree with you, however I do find it pregnantly meaningful that the Bible doesn’t seem to have a word to say on the matter of the morality of standard premarital relations in the context of a relationship. NOTHING as far as I can see. Not one word. Isn’t this odd? It is abundantly verbose about the morality of other sexual matters.
The first meaning of porneia in any standard Greek lexicon is fornication. Why are you confused about this? Thus, to say that the Bible says “NOTHING” about premarital sex is pure fantasy on your part. The Bible is not silent in any sense about this, fornication is clearly and consistently condemned.
Your argument is also circular in that you invent a concept (“committed relationship”) and then ask ME to find and prove it in scripture. It is as though I were to say pink elephants exist, now go to scripture Josh and find me one verse that says they don’t exist. This is silly. The burden is on you to find your fanciful notion and show that it is blessed.
Why did God create man and woman? What is the purpose of genitalia? What is sex? What is marriage? — These are questions I think you need to ask yourself. By your reasoning, sex between a “loving and committed couple” before marriage is acceptable because you do not see a Biblical condemnation of sexual relations prior to marriage. Though you fail to recognize it, the condemnation exists in the very definition of the word “fornication”, which Msgr. Pope dutifully explained. Fornication is sex outside of marriage… whether it is “loving”, pre-marital, extra-marital or post-marital. Sexual relations outside of the marriage bed are sinful. How can this be? Well examine what the purpose of sex is. What is the purpose of sex? If you think it’s purely for pleasure, than you are mistaken. If you think it is an act of love to make your partner feel good, than you are mistaken. Sex is the means through which God makes us partners in pro-creation. The purpose of sex is unitive and pro-creative. Within’ a loving marriage it physically unites two people who have already been united spiritually by God through the Sacrament of Marriage. Your definition of “commitment” is a modern-day liberal one. This is what Msgr. said about the term being a product of the Sexual Revolution. The modern-day notion of a “committed relationship” has more to do with a 60’s commune than anything that appears in the Biblical texts. Marriage is a Sacred Commitment that is sealed and blessed by God. Special graces are given within the context of Marriage that are not received otherwise. Marriage is a Calling, just as is the Priesthood.
You use the word “loving” to describe this “committed relationship”. What does love mean to you? Marriage demands the total and complete giving of one’s self to another … just as the Priesthood demands the giving of one’s self totally to the service of God. Many young people say, “I could never be a priest… it’s too much sacrifice, it’s too much to give up!” — What most fail to recognize is that Marriage demands the same sacrifice, if not more. To love is to give totally, to commit. When someone uses contraception in a “loving committed relationship” prior to marriage … are they giving all of themselves? Are they committing fully? If the condom breaks, or she forgets to take her pill… what is the first concern? Is it for life and the welfare and happiness of her and the rights of the baby?
Marriage is the Foundation of Society. If you don’t have strong marriages, you don’t have strong families. If you don’t have strong families, you don’t have strong communities. If you don’t have strong communities, you don’t have strong states, nations, etc. It all starts with the family unit. How many abortions? How many divorces? How many broken families and addictions come from unhappy families?
You can try to justify pre-marital sex however you wish. You can try to look at all the positive benefits of it for the both of you. You can even deceive yourself into thinking that you really love her. The reality is… as much as you think you love her, you don’t. Love is about giving, not taking. Love is about sacrifice. If you need a point of reference… look at a Crucifix. Jesus taught us what love is. He didn’t have to have a wife and kids… that wasn’t His mission. Look at how He entered the world. Look at how God choose Mary above all women to be His mother. Look at St. Joseph. Look at the way He honored His parents, and the way they honored Him. Look at the suffering Mary endured for the sake of her Son. Love is sacrifice. Love is denial of self. If you can deny yourself totally of everything that makes you happy because her happiness and holiness is more important than what you get from her… then you are in love.
Would you put someone you love in a position where they may be forced to deal with an unexpected pregnancy? Would you let them raise a child on their own? Would you want your child to not have two parents? Would you encourage or demand that she get an abortion? How is that love? — Say she doesn’t get pregnant. Say you continue having a sexual relationship and you eventually break up. You’ve still taken something that wasn’t yours… and we go back to the theme of Theft.
At the end of the day… sex is a sacred and beautiful thing. It was created by God to be treated that way. The Sexuality that is endorsed by the Media… the Sexuality that is endorsed by Pornography is a gross degradation of this. That type of sexuality is selfish and destroys lives. The world says to take and use people, and when you’re done with them.. throw them away. Date someone, take pleasure from their body… and when it doesn’t work out, move on and find someone else to have “fun” with. Eventually, after taking x amount of people, you might finally find “the One” and settle down. Then you have kids and you tell them not to be promiscuous. Hypocrisy? If that’s the type of example you want to set for your children… Go for it.
Marriage is the foundation of Society. If we recognize all the things that are wrong with it, we ought to do something about it. If we want to restore women’s faith in the opposite sex…. we need to start living lives that go against the grain of popular culture. There’s something to be said about chivalry. There’s something to be said about honoring a woman, and courting her properly. There’s something to be said about respecting and honoring a woman, and waiting. Some things in life are worth waiting for. Cheap meaningless sex is just that, cheap. Whether you’re looking for affection or just a quick high, it’s never going to fulfill you and make you happy. Happiness from sex in marriage will not make you happy. It’s only by loving and serving God in whatever vocation that you’re called to that will bring happiness and joy into your life. If you are called to the married life, you are called to a sacrificial love… a love that gives more than it gets. If you accept this calling, you’ll be laying the foundation for thousands of descendants that will someday follow you. How do you want to be remembered? What impact do you want to make? Sex is a precious gift, but it is one that comes with great responsibility. A responsibility to always be open to life, and to accept the gift of children from God. A responsibility to edify and honor the person God has given you. A responsibility to guide and protect your family. Are you ready for all of that?
Sex is a gift from God. To view it so casually, and to take something from someone that you haven’t fully given yourself to is a lie. You lie with your body. So if you love someone… show them that you truly love them. Wait till Marriage… and when you are both ready, embrace that Sacrament and all the Fruits that come from it. Then you will be praising God and participating in His Will by being in a truly loving, committed-relationship.
Great article Monsignor!
Thanks for a great addition to the article!
Ignorance on steroids.
Jesus said, “I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE… NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER, EXCEPT THROUGH ME”
At the Last Supper “he took bread and gave thanks and praise… He said to his Disciples, “TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU AND EAT IT — THIS IS MY BODY, WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU”. Then He took the cup, again He gave thanks and praise… He turned to His Disciples and said, “TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU AND DRINK FROM IT — THIS IS THE CUP OF MY BLOOD, THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND EVERLASTING COVENANT.. IT WILL BE SHED FOR YOU AND FOR ALL SO THAT SINS MAY BE FORGIVEN… DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME”.
He said to the Apostle Simon “YOU ARE PETER (which means Rock)… AND ON THAT ROCK I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH. THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST HER. WHATEVER YOU BIND ON EARTH WILL BE BOUND IN HEAVEN… AND WHATEVER YOU LOOSE ON EARTH WILL BE LOOSED IN HEAVEN.”
Christ’s last words to Peter were, “FEED MY SHEEP” or “FEED MY FLOCK”.
You cry ignorance. So tell me what Jesus means by these words? Why did Jesus single out Peter out of all of the Apostles, rename him… and grant the authority to bind and to loose… to “excommunicate” and to “absolve”?
Why did Jesus say that the Bread and Wine were his Body and Blood? Why did He tell the Apostles to do this in His memory? Why did He say it was the New Covenant? What did He say His mission was?
He also said to “GO FORTH AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS, BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, THE SON AND THE HOLY SPIRIT … TEACH THEM TO BE OBEY THE COMMANDS I HAVE GIVEN YOU”.
Who do you suppose He was talking to?
Peter and his Successors were given Authority by Jesus Christ to do all of these things. This is what we call the Papacy… (Pope = Papa = Father). They were instructed to evangelize, to teach others about Him and to administer the Sacraments. The authority to Baptize, to loose sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession. Chief among these Sacraments is the Holy Eucharist, to “feed the flock”. The Holy Mass of the Catholic Church is not just a memorial service… it’s a a living sacrifice where Jesus Christ is truly manifest in the Bread and the Wine. You can read that and say it’s ridiculous… you can say that it’s Idolatry and we’re all a bunch of Cannibals… but in so doing, you deny what Christ Himself said. How can God be Bread and Wine? How can Jesus Christ be both God and Man? How can the Son be One in Being with the Father? These are the Divine Mysteries of the Holy Trinity… but it is clear that Jesus meant for the Bread and Wine not to just be symbolic… He meant for this New Sacrifice to replace the Old Sacrifice of the Temple. When He was crucified, the ground trembled and the veil of the Temple was torn in two. The inner sanctum of the Temple was the Holy of Holies. The veil separated the Holy of Holies from the People. When the veil was torn, the barrier that separated God and Men was destroyed. No longer would they sacrifice the blood of lambs. Jesus was the Sacrificial Lamb… the Eternal Sacrifice. Rather than the People sacrificing animals to God, God sacrificed His Son to redeem the people. It is this mystery that is at the heart of the Catholic Faith.
You say … “you don’t need them, you need the Scriptures”. If it was not for the monks and clerics of the Catholic Church, you wouldn’t have the Scriptures. They preserved and translated the ancient Greek texts into Latin. They preached the Gospel throughout the entire known world, and many gave their lives doing so. Would you have the same zeal for Christ?
You condemn and cry out ignorance. Yet you fail to recognize the One Church that Jesus Christ established. He didn’t say, “on this rock I will build my churches”. There is One True Holy Universal and Apostolic Church. There are many brothers and sisters who profess faith in Jesus Christ, but none of them can claim to be the one established by Jesus Christ. Many have the Good News, but miss out on receiving the True Mystical Presence of Christ present on all the Catholic altars throughout the world.
You condemn the sins of Clerics as if expecting that men in the Church are immune to the evil influences of society. All men need Christ… All men need Salvation. None of us are worthy. Jesus Christ did not come to condemn, He came to love and to forgive. He did not cry for an “eye for an eye” as they did in the Old Testament. Instead, He taught us “to love one another as I have loved you” … and “to turn the other cheek”. He did not come to turn a blind eye to evil, but rather to correct it. Evil should always be admonished and corrected … but you condemn an entire Faith based upon the sins of men within it. What then about those who commit sins in other faiths? Where is the outcry for justice from them?
The Church did not create sin… but like any institution of men, it suffers from it. Jesus Christ established His Church to offer the solution. He showed us how to live, and how to reject that which is evil. Each of us relies on God’s grace and the Holy Spirit to understand what He taught, and to try to put it into practice in our lives. We all have much to learn, and we all are in need of perfecting.
So rather than condemning people… Perhaps you should pray for them. If you want God to be merciful to you, perhaps you too should show mercy.
May the Light of Christ illuminate all those in Darkness.
Thanks for your support here.
You have been given an incredible faith rooted in our Catholic traditions and teachings and I am greatful for that.
I am still on the fence with the “legalism” that seems to be present around the “Bread and Wine”. Before the last supper, Jesus said to the crowds “if you don’t eat the flesh and drink the blood of the son of man you will not have life in yourselves”. Is “eat and drink” and “flesh and blood” literal or does Jesus simply mean to believe that His Flesh is the true sacrifice and His Blood was poured out so that we will have life (forgiven). There is reference in scripture to drinking the cup of wrath…this simply means receiving the judgement of God’s anger (there is no literal cup or drink).
Other faiths come together on Sunday to participate in celebrating the last supper also sharing bread and wine (or juice) in rememberance of Christ’s sufferings and I have seen signs and felt the presence of the Holy Spirit yet none of them believe it is necessary in itself to eat or drink. Jesus himself said “do this in memory of me”, not “do this or you will not have life”. What if an alcoholic can’t drink wine or someone has allergies to the Host. Does this mean they only have half of the promise?
Adoration of the sacraments in their gratitude to our Lord is what should be expressed by the Church, not demanded. I know of Catholics who refuse to serve non Catholics communion because they do not believe the Host and Wine are actually flesh and blood. Is this not dividing Christians? Abraham was seen as righteous by God because he believed his WORD (before circumcission) and asked him to circumcise his people as a sign of obedience and faith that the “Veil” would be removed one day. The gentiles were not asked to be circumsied after recieving the WORD except by Jewish zealots who Paul said let them go and castrate themselves completely. I believe the early Apostles and believers came together to share the “Holy Meal” in simple Adoration and Love for Jesus as “one body”.
The other thing that always knawed at me is are we limiting the power of the Holy Spirit if we can’t have the life of Jesus in us unless we eat and drink earthly goods? In the Acts and Apostolic letters I don’t see anyone saying “only after communion is served can we go and baptise, heal, evangelize, forgive, etc…”.
Please don’t take this the wrong way. I am not knocking Catholic communion I know of people who have experienced miracles around the Host. God uses all good things to bring his flock closer to himself and to each other.
Thank you for sharing your faith and I ask that you pray for me. I am very confused about the Church for many reasons.
May the Lord give us light and truth.
Well, of course Rob you really need to see that your beef is with Jesus who said the things to which you object. You may prefer not to take what he said literally but Scripture and Tradition both belie your non-literalist view. Jesus said this is my Body in every account of the Institution narrative. Paul says if we receive unworthily or in an undiscerning way we sin against the body of the Lord which presumes its there to be sinned against. All the early Fathers of the Church accept the Eucharist as Christ’s true body and blood. So you are departing from these and, it would seem engaging in a novelty which was almost unknown in the Church until the 16th century.
I have no beef with our Lord Jesus or guilt in my heart for receiving communion while having questions in my heart as to the role, mystical or otherwise, of the Eucharist in the salvation plan. Jesus died for me (a lowly sinner) even though I (nor anyone on earth living) do not fully understand the mystery of the Lord himself, so why would I have a beef or think I was sinning against Jesus Body because I question this literal translation of the Host. If you believe with your heart that Jesus was fully man “in the flesh” while on earth and confess with your mouth that He is Lord and Savior you are saved. Simple. Paul warns that if we are not sure if something is a sin, but do it anyway, then we are sinning. The Holy Spirit is the one who “convicts” us of sin not “condems” and so far for 30 plus years I have felt no conviction when I recieve communion. If Jesus chooses to relveal to me, as a gift, that the Eucharist IS HIS body, then I will recieve it with Praise and Thanksgiving! Not all believers are given the same gifts, and some gifts come at different times. I am not going to carry a burden of guilt in my heart over that. I have faith in the Lord to correct me, if I am wrong, and will also accept that with praise.
Paul also states that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This is a personally difficult task for all believers and we know that Jesus said the path is narrow. The Church needs to stop “defending” the revelations of the early Church and start “encouraging” the path of the new believers. How can Christ make new in any of us if we all just accepted other people’s salvation. The experience of Jesus needs to be a personal one. “No one comes to the Father except by me” and “I am not revealed to anyone unless by the will of the Father”. As Jesus said “many will turn to me and say “”Lord we drove out demons, healed and preached in your name””, but I will say to them, “”I NEVER KNEW YOU depart from me you wicked people”. Let people work out their own salvation with Love and Encouragement. If graces around the Eucharist help, then praise God!
Thank you by the way for you work on this blog. I know we strayed of course. I just love talking about Jesus, and this has inspired me to continue to “Ask, Seek, and Knock”. I am really saddened by the divisions in the “Body of Christ”. Maybe we are scattered so the world has time to repent. I am certain when the “Bride” is ready, time is up.
My faith is a mustard seed. I was born and raised in the Catholic faith. Like many others today, I wavered in my youth, and it is only recently that the Holy Spirit has called me back to the Church that Christ established. I had a good theological foundation, but I had many questions… and I still have many questions. “Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you” — We seek the Truth and Wisdom all the days of our lives… and whatever measure I have at this point is by the grace of God.
I think we have two very radical perceptions of what the Holy Sacrament is. Talking about “legalism” makes the Eucharist sound like it’s yet another of the many laws and restrictions that God has given to man. “The burden of salvation” … in a manner of speaking. Any Christian, whether he is Catholic or not understands that the person of Jesus Christ exists because of God’s immeasurable love for us. The Father loves The Son, and The Son loves The Father. The word “Eucharist” literally means “Thanksgiving”. I understand your interpretation of “do this in memory of me”. I get that. What I don’t understand is why you gloss over the part about “This is my body… this is my blood, the blood of the New and Everlasting Covenant… it will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven… DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME”. When you just refer to the end, you’re taking the full-meaning of the meal out of context.
What’s the Biblical basis for the Eucharist? Read Exodus… read the account of The Passover. The Last Supper was the Passover Meal — it was the moment where the Old Testament and the New became synthesized. He foreshadows what is to come as the Fulfillment of the Old Covenant, a Fulfillment of the Old Prophecies. He is the Messiah that is come to deliver men from sin. He explicitly says that he’s establishing a New Covenant. What is He referring to? Is Christ just speaking of The Cross? No. He’s saying quite literally that the Bread is His Body, and the Wine is His Blood. Yes, both the bread and wine are symbolic of the Sacrifice of Calvary to come … but He’s teaching His Apostles that this Meal is not just a Passover remembrance. Like many things in the Life of Christ, He gives new meaning to old traditions. The Institution of the Holy Eucharist is another manifestation of this. Jesus is revealing to them what the True Meaning of this Meal is…
So you say… how can Jesus be mystically present in the form of Bread and Wine? I’ve struggled to understand this myself… yet the revelation of it is simple. Jesus is both fully God, and fully Man… is He not? He is fully man, but He along with The Father and the Holy Spirit are fully God in the wholeness of the Trinity. This is a Divine Mystery… how can this be? Yet we know it is True, for Jesus instructs His disciples to “go forth and baptize all nations in the Name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit”. Jesus Himself identifies the three persons of the Divinity. So how can God be Bread and Wine? How can God be a Burning Bush? We know that God speaks to Moses on Mount Sinai… and we know that the physical manifestation of God was a burning bush. How does a bush speak? How can a bush be engulfed in flame, yet not burn? — Here you have a clear example of a Miraculous event that seems to defy the Laws of Nature. God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Do we need to receive the Holy Eucharist to experience God? No… Can the Holy Spirit touch hearts in a Non-Denominational Church? Clearly He does. Can the Holy Spirit touch your heart when you reflect on His Word? Of course! Yet what most Christians fail to understand is that The Holy Eucharist is not merely bread and wine. Through the prayers of the consecrated priest on the altar at Mass, the bread and wine transforms into the Living Body and Blood of Christ. It is both fully Bread and Fully God… just as Jesus is fully God and fully Man.
So what’s the purpose of it? Why does God want us to consume his flesh and blood? Does he want us to be cannibals? No. It has nothing to do with cannibalism. It is a mystical and in many ways a poetic gift from a God of love. Some have described the Holy Spirit as the love that exists between The Father and The Son. I’m not sure if that’s dogmatically sound, but it’s a pretty poetic way of thinking about it. Jesus’s life, the things He did and said are the paramount example that all Christians look to. We know of the special bond that The Father had with The Son… and we know that God wants us to experience that same bond. This is why Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father…”
The Church is often called the Bride of Christ, and Christ referred to as The Bridegroom. When the priest distributes Communion he says, “the Body of Christ”. In the true mystical understanding of the word, the “Body of Christ” does not refer simply to the Host, but to all those who receive it. The Church is not the building, it is the people that gather within it. So why is Communion important for Christians? Think about the Wedding at Cana. Think about the Sacrament of Marriage… think about how revered and holy that is to God. It is a celebration of love between two people. Those two people commit to one another, and the priest and the witnesses gather to confirm this declaration of love. So what then of The Catholic Mass? What of the Eucharist and Holy Communion?
Holy Communion is nothing less than a Marriage Feast. Except instead of a couple celebrating this once, or perhaps on a milestone anniversary … God loves man so much that He renews His vows to us at each Mass. When we receive the Host, it is akin to us receiving a ring from God. God is reminding us of the Sacrifice of Cavalry by identifying the bread and wine as His body and blood. God reminds us of how much He loves us… and how that sacrificial love was not a finite event that happened 2000 years ago on a hillside in Judea. God is telling us that each Mass shares in that Sacrificial Love that Redeemed us. Each Mass therefore is mystically linked to the Redeeming Power of the Cross. Through Holy Communion we share in a unique expression of God’s grace. It is a mystical union of the Bride and Bridegroom. In marriage we are told that in anticipation of the physical union, there is a spiritual union .. two becomes one flesh. So while man himself never becomes God, he is joined mystically with God through Communion.
Why does God tells us to eat and drink? Food and drink are essential to survival. If we don’t drink and and we don’t eat, we suffer from malnutrition… we grow weak, and we eventually die. So in a sense, poetically… God is telling each of us that Communion with Him, experiencing intimately the Divine Love of God in the Holy Eucharist is essential to our Spiritual Survival. If we don’t eat the flesh of the Son of Man and Drink His Blood… there is no life in us. It’s not a condemnation, it’s stating a law of Nature. If you don’t eat and drink, you will die. So if you eat and drink to preserve your physical body from death… than why would you forsake the spiritual nourishment of your soul to preserve you from spiritual death?
Think about that for a second. Read it again. It’s simple… It’s simple, poetic and beautiful. That’s the whole point of The Mass. That’s the whole point of Catholicism. We can argue about Scripture and on the merits of this Traditional teaching or that. At the end of the day, the Catholic Church … with all it’s faults and failings… is the only Christian Church where Jesus Christ is Mystically present in the Eucharist. This is not a condemnation of our Protestant brothers, but simply a fact. All can receive the light of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of God reveals much to those outside the Church. Yet it is only the Body of Christ that is mystically joined to God through the Eucharist that is the True Bride of Christ. We are a Church of Sinners, like all of our brethren in Christ. We all are in need of Salvation. But the Primacy of Peter, The Authority bestowed upon him, and all his successors is an unbroken spiritual chain which continues to this very day. This is the Apostolic Tradition of the Church. Through the light of the Holy Spirit, through the Authority invested by Christ Himself .. and through the Mystical Nourishment of the Holy Eucharist… the Catholic Church continues to evangelize, teach and minister the Sacraments as Christ instructed in Matthew 28:17.
If we understand that the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (Mystically Present on all of the Catholic Altars of the World) is linked to the Sacrifice of the Cross… we come away with a very understanding of what is taking place. We all believe that Jesus’s sacrificial death was done to purchase for us the rewards of Eternal Life. We know that this salvific act was the most important moment in History. Yet what many of us fail to understand and recognize is that Salvation was not accomplished in that one act alone. If it was, then the mission to evangelize the world, to baptize and preach the Word of God would be somewhat pointless. The Good News is not merely that Jesus died for us. The Good News is that Jesus died for us AND that He showed us how to achieve Salvation. He taught us how to respond to God’s grace. He taught us what we need to do to enter into His Kingdom. He instructed the Apostles with precise instructions and told them what to say and what to do. He said, “TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU AN EAT IT – THIS IS MY BODY WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU”… again He gave thanks and praise, took the cup… and gave it to His disciples and said, “TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK FROM IT – THIS IS THE CUP OF MY BLOOD, THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND EVERLASTING COVENANT… IT WILL BE SHED FOR YOU… AND FOR ALL… SO THAT SINS MAY BE FORGIVEN… DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME”.
It’s not just a memorial service. It’s nothing less than the key to our Salvation. The Cross and The Altar are one.
The Eucharist… literally the “Thanksgiving” Meal is THE expression and realization of God’s Awesome Redeeming Power. It is THE Greatest Gift. We should all receive it eagerly and worthily. We should treat it as we would treat Jesus hanging on The Cross at Golgotha… for His Presence is just as real and magnificent.
I pray that the light of the Holy Spirit reveals this to you.
God bless you.
Msgr. Charles Pope:
Thanks be to God. It is very encouraging to read of the understanding that you have been given regarding the connection between greed and sexual immorality. Your explanation of scriptures on this topic have been fair and accurate. In obedience to God, let us take His holy word to heart through our Lord Christ Jesus who overcame all temptation. In His peace and perseverance.
Msgr., Thank You for a great article. As a mother of 6 and now single due to adultery and unfaithfulness from my husband which began, for him, at an early age, with pornography. My life has been a living example of all that scripture has to say. Those young people (or maybe they aren’t so young) who reply to you in ignorance, obviously do not want to face the truth. I (and I am sure you too), will pray for them. Also, however, I want to take things a little further. We must realize in this day the amount of demonic forces at work in the world and in our homes. This battle is WAY too big for you or I. I read scripture everyday, attend Mass and receive the sacraments, as do my children, but, the glue in all this is the ultimate weapons for this battle…… the Rosary and Adoration !!! I have to say that we will get no where with this battle against these demons of lust, greed, pornography,selfishness,sexual immorality, etc. unless we are standing with our Lady of the Rosary and our Lord in the Eucharist. And I just want to tell anyone who reads this, to pray the Rosary!! Also, read St. Louis De Montfort’s “Secret of the Rosary” . Did you know the picture that is used for the cover of that book was found by a nun in 1918 and she found it hidden under a pornographic picture !! When she ripped off the pic. to burn it, she found the picture of Mary !
Thank you again and may God Bless you for your work!
Padre Pio called his Rosary, “my weapon”. Trust in the wisdom of Saints. St. Pio and St. Louis de Montfort both understood the Power of the Rosary, and of Our Lady. After all, we know of Christ’s victory through Mary … “The Woman Clothed With the Sun… with the Serpent under her feet”.
God bless you and your children. Truly a queen. 😉
“It is not that we love God, but rather that he loved us”. This is only truly realized after we are “born again” and except Jesus as the Way ,the Truth and the Life. I know what life I lived before marriage and even during my marrige before I accepted Jesus. There is no way I could have agreed with the Holy Spirt on true purity of heart, mind and body before my conversion and I will always be so far from purity while I am still living on this fallen earth.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that are bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. He also reminds us that our WIVES are the “owners” of fullfilling our intimate desires and vise versa. He also goes so far as saying we are not to lust our wives and in the same passage encourages us to have lots of marital sex (both parties willing) so as not to fall into temptation. God wants us all to obtain purity, but knows we are fallen creatures. Thank Him for his salvation for us “JESUS”.
A committed relationship doesn’t take into account the blessed outcome of sex (children). There was no birth control a century ago. Do two “committed” people have the obedience and strength to follow through with God’s choice to bless them with the gift of life outside marriage? Paul also tells us that when we sexually join to another person we are spiritually joined together and what God joins, man must not divide, are they strong enough or willing to stay together?
We ALL sin and need forgiveness. God blesses us all and can make our worst mistakes incredibe blessings. This should be the most important outcome of this blog. Scripture is for teaching and correcting, but Paul also says you don’t need anyone to teach you. The Holy Spirit will teach you. You must accept Jesus first.
Amen. Well said. God bless you.
Thank you for your excellent entry and your charitable example in your responses. You have given me food for thought and better tools by which to evangelize.
God bless you.
Thanks, I am glad it was some help.
While wholeheartedly endorsing everything you have said about sex outside marriage being fornication (whether male, female, or “other”) the Bible makes a distinction between “betrothal” and “Marriage”, I wonder if some of the more scripturally ignorant are groping about trying to see if there is an equivalence between “committed relationship” and “betrothal.” Your comments?
Well, betrothral in the Jewish tradition didn’t allow for sexual relations either and the young woman still lived with her parents. But, honestly I suspect the “scripturally ignorant” would probably have that ignorance extend to include any knowledge of the word betrothal at all. They probably have never heard the word. Though, anything is possible I suppose.
Brian Z. the bottom line is “lust” in any & all of it’s forms. Pseudo-sex is the term that needs to be used when talking about this ages infatuation with lust. Read “Lust Virus” & “Impossible Joy” by Ron J.
Again a wonderful writing and important teaching. Thank you for answering God’s call and for the Truth that you preach. I pray all are open to the law of God and His Word. God bless.
Thanks for your encouragment.
Isn’t the sacrament of marriage between the husband and wife and God. Then after asking God’s blessing the sex act would be the consumation of the marriage. As Catholic our request for God’s blessing would come through his church. But wouldn’t other christians by a commited relation that they ask God to bless and then had sex would be marriage in God’s eyes?
Not sure what you are asking here.
I agree with your treatment of fornication and adultery. While I do not consider myself to be a Cafeteria Catholic, I do question the Church’s teaching that masturbation is a mortal sin. First of all, it does not have the social consequences of the other mortal sins, not even close. Nor is it treated with the gravity as other serious sins in Deuteronomy, and I think many can agree that the Torah’s treatment of sins was “over the top.” The Catechism states that masturbation is a gravely disordered act, but by whom? Are there any psychiatric textbooks or journal articles that agree? No other established religions that I know of openly state that masturbation is a mortal sin and the transgressor will be doomed to hell without confession. I do believe that masturbation is a venial sin, but the Church’s teaching most likely leads every Catechism reader to despair. I put this in the same category as the Church’s prior teaching that everyone who commits suicide to doomed to hell. Luckily, the Church wizened up on that one.
OK, but read the Catechism more closely here. It does go on to say that there are many factors that mitigate guilt. I have written more on this topic here:
The gravity of masturbation as theoretically mortal comes from the Lord’s own words in Matt 5:27-30 especially: But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Hence the lord links even impure thoughts to mortal sin. However, read the Catechism more carefully than you have which cautions:
To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability. (CCC #2352)
So, despite your concerns to the contrary, the Church is not merely condemning masturbation unequivocally.
Finally I would exercise in citing psychiatry or separated brethren in assessing Church teaching. It is they would should be judged by Church standards, not the Church that should be judged by theirs. That said, I would hope you can see that the Church position is not as unreasonable as you may have thought.
Thanks for the reply. If Jesus links impure thoughts to mortal sin, then the road to heaven is indeed an extremely narrow one. I’ve always questioned the verse that you refer to. For instance, how bad is committing adultery with a woman in your heart? Is it as bad as disobeying your parents in your heart? Is it as bad as missing church service on Sunday in your heart? Also, why did he use the 6th Commandment, and not the 9th Commandment as an example? So, I understand where you’re coming from. We use the gospels as official Church teaching, and to waiver from them would place us in with the more liberal churches. I used to think that Jesus needed to shock the world with his teaching, after all, he was considered a revolutionary. Thanks for giving me food for thought.
I think the heart of the matter is the obsessive-compulsive nature of the sin, and it’s link to pornography and other perversions of Divinely Blessed and Ordered Sexually. Masturbation may seem harmless, and have little social consequences, but this may be an illusion. If one’s sexuality is focused solely on pleasure and self-gratification, than it stands to reason that one will apply this way of thinking to sex in general. One becomes a taker of pleasure, rather than mutually giving and receiving the gift of the other. When one focuses solely on physical stimulation, and the need and desire for pleasure, one grows in selfishness. Over time the focus of the compulsion leads one to become more and more selfish.
As Christ calls us to be selfless, any act that arouses in us a desire to be selfish is disordered.
One could argue that animals do it, and that it is natural. However, God makes it clear that we are not mere animals, but rather Divinely made Beings with Mortal Bodies. We are called to Discipline and Mastery of Self. If one cannot master his own unruly passions (with the grace of God), than how can we hope to accomplish anything?
We rely on God’s grace and prayer to help us overcome the weakness of our flesh. We aspire to live our lives in imitation of Christ, and to make the attempt at selflessness. We all are tempted, and we all fall. Sexual immorality is one of the greatest temptations of our time. Yet we know that in Christ and through Christ … all things are possible. If we trust in Him, and if we pick up our Cross and follow Him… we will have the victory.
Christ did not come to condemn, but to save. Christ knows we are weak… and He gives us the grace we need to overcome … if only we ask for it.
God bless you.
Comments are closed.