By Fr. Roy Cimagala
“YOU have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5,27-28)
Most likely, everytime we read this passage from the gospel, we squirm at the thought that this virtue of chastity must be an impossible thing to live. Who can avoid lust in the heart and in intentions? We may not act it out, but inside us, what can deter us from falling into impurity?
Obviously, the answer can only be found in Christ. If we are truly with him, if we have his spirit which is that of pure love, a love that goes all the way to offering one’s life for the beloved, what may be impossible for us is made possible with him.
We have to understand that chastity integrates the bodily dimension or the sexuality of our humanity to our proper spiritual and supernatural end as image and likeness of God, children of his, sharers of his divine life. It frees us from carnal bondage and sets our sexuality on the path of true love that channels God’s love for us.
Thus, we need to go through some proper training for this virtue, since it cannot be denied that the challenge is formidable. This concern should never be taken for granted. This is actually a much bigger concern than what we have in the areas of politics, social life, business or the now in-thing of climate change, ecology and other environmental issues.
And the simple reason is that this concern is fundamental in our life. This virtue figures prominently in our capacity to love on which all the other aspects of our life depend. It is first of all a fruit of real love that comes from God and the seed that gives life to real love also.
If that capacity to love is compromised, either openly or subtly, then we can be brilliant, productive and impressive in the other aspects but we would still miss the point, we would still miss the real goal.
Moreover, we would likely create a bigger mess the more powerful we are in the other aspects that are not driven or inspired by real love. We can enter into the world of illusions, if not delusion, that can be so grave that we may not even realize it. And that’s because if we do not have the real love, we can only have the alternative of self-love which is a sweet poison.
Thus, the close, almost cause-and-effect relationship between chastity and piety should be known, appreciated and pursued as early as possible. It can be as early as at the childhood stage, since as we are told in a Wadsworth poem, “the child is the father of the man”—how a man is in his adult stage depends on how he was brought up as a child. In a sense, it is the child that begets the man that the child becomes.
We cannot deny that nowadays there is a huge, almost formidable crisis in this area of chastity all over the world. Cases of sexual addiction, infidelities, promiscuity, pre-marital and extra-marital sex, self-abuse and all sorts of sexual perversions are exploding like anything.
We need to remind ourselves that chastity, just like any other virtue, needs to be grounded on a life of authentic piety, of spirituality, of an intimate and abiding relationship with God from whom all good things come.