Reflections of Faith
Read and be inspired by a reflection based on today's Gospel made by members of the Verbum Dei Family in Manila.
God Created Us Very Good
Originally posted in Facebook by Fr. Michael Cheong, FMVD
"Do not let your hearts me troubled. You trust in God, trust also in me."
On this 5th Sunday of Easter, we are met again with the words of Jesus that wish us peace. "Peace be with you", we heard repeatedly on Divine Mercy Sunday and as we journey through this season of Easter, we are reminded again not to let our hearts be troubled or to lose our peace because God's mercy and power of redemption is always greater than our littleness. As we continue reflecting on our growth in Christian life, we are reminded that growth is not necessarily a perfect process, but a progressive one filled with trust and harmony in God.
This Sunday, we reflect upon the sin of lust. A principle attitude that helps us to work against lust is trust, especially in building real relationships with the other. Why? Because lust has nothing to do with our 'human nature' per se, but rather, the human capacity of relationship gone wrong.
God created us very well. He created us in his own image and likeness, which bears the capacity of true love and relationship, in the same way that Christ relates with us. The problem comes when we do not know how to channel that capacity in healthy and fulfilling relationships with God and with others, it comes out as lust. In other words, the real problem is not lust in itself, but learning how to build up healthy and lasting relationships.
The temptation is to lose trust in others, or even in our own capacity to manage relationships. We tend to flee from stable relationships when they become clumsy or messy, even conflictive at times, and they seem to need more investment of time and energy, and even more courage than we thought. In a "quick-fix" society like ours, working on relationships can seem a "waste of time" or even "scary". But the problem is that fulfilment in relationship comes precisely through the cross, and if we do not learn how to work for that fulfilment, we tend to seek it in other places where it may seem easier but ultimately lead to further emptiness.
Hence, it is not only about being a "lustful" person or not. In fact, lust can also manifest itself in seeking power or domination. It could be a reaction to a low self-esteem. It could be an expression of anxiety or inner desperation because of physical or psychological pressures. It is a complex reality that stems from the human mind, and not from the body as many might think. And that is why the Church invites us to dedicate our minds to the Word of God, to allow Scriptures to change the way we think about ourselves and others, and the way we relate to God, to others and to ourselves.
Charity, in fact, is the opposing virtue to the sin of lust. Training our minds and bodies to be at the service of others through charitable acts gives us a different sense of fulfilment that is more gradual but lasting. When we get used to charity as a way of life, we start to realize that lust is truly a waste of our energy and time. But be careful in being stingy in using your enerygy in charity. The best friend of lust is laziness.
But what of a person who is truly an addict to the sin? In fact, the Church is no longer in that judging position when it comes to lust, but tries to help a person discover the causes that provoke it and resolve those issues. Lust remains one of the more illusive sins that good Christians face, and we need to realize that Christ does not condemn anyone for that, but seeks to channel that good capacity of love and make it fruitful. Failure does not make Christ shy from a sinner, but makes him even more insistent in mercy. Saints like Augustine, Francis Xavier, Francis of Assisi, and many others help us realize that there is so much power in a human person when they learn to apply their minds to the Word, their bodies to charity and their hearts to God.
In the end, the best thing to do about lust is to avoid it. Lust is like a hungry lion. You wouldn't want to come near it defenceless. And even if you were prepared, it is still dangerous. Paul advices us not so much to fight it, but rather to flee from it! "Keep away!" (1 Corinthians 6:18) Don't challenge it! It is impossible for a human being to to overpower a lion with his own strength. When we allow lust to come too close, it becomes too strong a force that it is impossible to overcome. This does not mean that we should give in to it, but to flee from all that leads us to it. Lust never just happens. There are small interior choices we make that lead to it.
A missionary in Africa learnt a trick whenever they encountered lions. If you happen to already be mawed by one and are still alive, try to reach into its mouth to pull its tongue and twist it hard. That would paralyze it long enough to escape. But you can imagine, if you have reached the stage of being mawed by a lion, you'll need a superhuman strengh and courage to twist its tongue! Yet, there are those who have survived precisely by that extraordinary strength. That strength comes from God. He is already there, reaching out to those who seek Him.
Jesus says in today's Gospel, "Whoever believes in me will do the works I do and even greater things." Lust reminds us that there is still unfulfilled capacities in us, that we are not yet living to the fullest those dreams that God had for us when he created us. This week, let us be filled with hope and enthusiasm of the Resurrection, to receive this as an invitation to seek fully the dream of God for our lives as Christian men and women.
"Lord, why did you make me... me?"
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