Overcoming Lust

Human relationships are meant to be a holy exchange of love. God is love and the author of human relationships and intimacy. Love is a free gift that cannot be authentic if it is based on force or manipulation.

St. John Paul II, as a young pope, gave a series of 129 talks from September 1979 to November 1984 at his Wednesday general audiences on the Theology of the Body. These talks outline how the love of God transforms the world and is mirrored in the human person.

It is in our relationship with a loving God that we learn how to enter deeply into communion with others. Authentic love finds a person loving God and others with no other motive than seeking the good of the other and seeing in them the gift that they are. As St. John Paul II states, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience love and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it (Redemptor Hominis 4).” offering of Jesus who gives us His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.

Another great participation in the love of God is when a married man and woman offer themselves freely to each other in ordered love through the sexual conjugal act, which opens them up to the possibility of the creation of human life. St. John Paul II explains, “Through sexual union the body speaks a language and this language must be spoken in truth. Since the very nature of the conjugal act as designed by God includes both the interpersonal union of the couple as well as the potential for procreation (making babies), man and woman cannot contracept their union without violating their dignity as persons and the dignity of the conjugal act itself (TOB August, 24, 1984).”

In human relationships, there can be a great perversion of authentic love and that is lust. Lust as a deadly sin is a disordered desire for sexual pleasure outside of the marriage act. Lustful desires and actions are disordered because they do not conform to the divinely ordained purpose of sexual expression, namely, to foster the mutual love between a husband (man) and a wife (woman) which opens them up to the possibility of having children. True love for the married couple that is open to life leads to freedom, lust for couples or the individual leads to slavery to one’s base desires.

We live in a culture where lust is robbing our families and communities of authentic relationships and selfless acts of service. Our society is so obsessed with sex and sexual pleasure that many people, even good Catholics, can become slaves to lust. Love seeks the good of the other, i.e. I love you for who you are and I desire to serve you. Lust seeks only to satisfy one’s desire for pleasure, i.e. I will be with you for what I can get from you and for as long as it satisfies me.

Lust is a mortal sin and cuts us off from fruitful love of God. The major forms of lust include: masturbation, pornography, promiscuity, adulterous relationships, lesbianism, homosexuality, anal and oral sex, bestiality, contracepted sex, and pedophilia. These forms of lust are linked to the preoccupation with sex and selfish contraceptive attitudes which are taught in our schools and embraced in our state and federal governments. These attitudes are destroying our culture, but more tragically, are destroying the souls of our people.

If you have been deceived by the devil in the area of lust, you need to go to Confession immediately! If you have acted out on any of the major forms of lust listed here your soul is warped by mortal sin and you should not receive communion until you have confessed your sins and received absolution. A soul that is darkened by lust is sick and removed from Gods authentic love and needs healing.

How do Catholics stay pure in a culture filled with sexual pressure and temptation? Bishop Paul Loverde from Arlington, VA, reveals in his book “Bought with a Price” that every man has a duty to protect himself and his family from a pornographic culture.

  1. We have the right to live in a society that supports the full dignity of the human person. We should demand that public officials take action against pornography for the common good (42).
  2. The Sacraments, prayer, and authentic friendship are essential weapons against lust and all serious sin. We need one another to become stronger disciples of Christ (45).
  3. Everyone is capable of self-mastery and chastity. One should not be discouraged by failure but continue to press forward, mindful of Christ’s mercy (49).
  4. Put strict limits on your Internet, tablet, or smartphone use and consider ways to “unplug” for the good of your family life. Re-examine your own use of technology and what you are allowing into your home (53).
  5. As icons of Christ, priests have a special responsibility to lead their flocks in the struggle against lust (55).

In this week’s reading from St. Paul to the Ephesians, it is stated, “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything that is exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light (Ephesians 5:11-14).” We are encouraged as Christians to live in the light of Christ and to set aside our hidden life of sinfulness.

Sometimes we cannot see that we are living in the darkness of sin, so like the blind man in John’s Gospel we need to be healed of our inability to see the virtuous way of life that we are called to walk upon. We need Jesus to heal our spiritual blindness in the area of lust or any temptation that keeps the love of God from our vision.

Jesus, help us to see the sinful patterns in our lives so we might repent of them and receive your free gift of mercy and forgiveness! Amen.