Many people struggle with chastity, even in marriage. As the Lord reminded His disciples — and so, also us — that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) Even when someone loves their spouse or significant other very much, they still struggle to try to keep their loved focused and singular. There are many temptations of the eyes, the flesh, and as well as the ego. Even with one’s best intention, it is very easy to be tempted and deterred by so many things that are around us. On top of that, relationship problems could intensify our human weaknesses, too. In short, it is not easy to be chaste and remain chaste in a mutal loving relationship!
Let us be real… In an overly-sexualized and objectified world, it is hard to not be tempted. Our post-modern society emphasizes much about personal freedom and like to label faith as a ridiculous obstacle to that liberty. Freedom in our current social climate often means that we can do whatever we want, at all costs and with all means. Nonetheless, this egocentric freedom has led many people down to the paths that often scarred them for life. People are told that they can wear revealing pieces of clothing and express themselves in any way that they want. Women wear clothes that are revealing and skimmy, which makes them feel attractive and please many eyes, but they also make them become objectified. We often think that we all somehow have mastered self-control, but we are quick to forget that we are also weak. Modesty helps shield us from the temptations of the flesh so we can truly try to look at the inner beauties of the person! Sadly, our world deems that as oppressive and pushes for self-centered satisfactions. We have, unfortunately, become people who are chasing after things that sensually and physically satisfy us but remain shallow in our mind and thoughts.
Since so many have bought into this idea of self-based freedom, as if we are only defined by our ability to do whatever we want, freedom itself has got cheapened and misused. When that is the case, we use and objectify each other out of freedom! We engage in momentary pleasure, seek hedonistic satisfaction, and look for physical or sensual stimuli as a way to be whatever we think will make us happy. Sadly, euphoria is so short-lived, and to seek the constant empty highs makes us become co-dependent and addicted to what is not real because they do not have any real substance. The irony becomes, then, if we only want to be free to do whatever we want to make us happy, we end up being enslaved and locked up to the changing things that we think will make us satisfied.
Therefore, the first step to truly be intimate and love one another is to rise above the dictated mantra of “I’m free to do whatever I want!” as to embrace true freedom with genuine transparency, humility, and vulnerability. There cannot be true love if we are not willing to be honest, true, transparent, and vulnerable to the other side. If we cannot truly reveal who we are beyond the physical attraction and satisfaction, we will always use one another to feel needed and avoid emptiness. If one’s relationship is only defined by physicality and its attractive features or measurements, one will always be scared of being true and real, hence always locked up and defined by one’s own insecurities and the shallow desires to be validated. Intimacy happens when we are able to look beyond the outside features and into the true identity and dignity of the person.
Second, love happens when we choose to personally become intentional in building a home with the person and people we love. I cannot stretch this enough! There is a difference between fornication or cohabitation and a loving relationship. The first one might look like a loving relationship, but it is never committed and fully self-giving. It is pseudo-like but can never fully encourage people to give themselves totally and completely in a selfless and sacrificial way to one another. There will always be a subconscious reservation or fear of the other side walking away!
However, when we are intentional in loving the other person, then the relationship becomes opened and grounded in intimacy. When love is the center of the relationship, boundaries will be respected, for every sacrifice or “no” becomes a greater “yes” to the other person. Thus, one begins to realize that intimacy goes beyond physical attraction and satisfaction because one feels loved, accepted, and respected. In a home, each individual is welcomed and can be one’s self totally and completely. When we intentionally create a home, it becomes welcome, caring, loving, respectful, and grounded in genuine self-giving sacrifices for the greater good of the adobe. When we feel we can belong at home with the other side, we are able to become genuine, real, and transparent without being scared of being judged, used, abandoned, or rejected.
As human beings, we will be tempted, and there are no ways around it! However, we can choose how to respond to temptations or passing things. We can choose to accept reality and not just the exterior matters that seem to affect our interior desires and intentions. Of course, we will struggle, but those things do not control, dictate, or define us! We can get distracted or fall at times, but they do not enslave us because we know who we love and where we belong! We can always personally and intentionally choose to rise above the apparent temptations to return home, where we know someone is waiting for us and this is where we belong. If we do not have this sense of belonging and respectful love, we will continue to objectify others (and/or become objectified) to get what we want. Nonetheless, there is much more to life than these worldly things, because true love is worth the sacrifices and all the no’s to lesser goods, temptations, and lies.
The featured image of this reflection is a depiction of the Presentation of the Lord to the Temple. There are several key figures in this beautiful piece of artwork, but I would like to focus on the St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Their chaste love for one another is a great example for us to follow! While the Blessed Mother did not have any concupiscence because she was free from Original Sin with God‘s prevenient grace, St. Joseph had concupiscence like the rest of us. That means he was tempted and had weaknesses of the flesh like us; however, he endured in his love for the Blessed Virgin, to love her as she was — a gift of God to be treasured, protected, and loved genuinely and wholeheartedly. It must take a lot of intentional effort, desire, and will to love her as he did! Therefore, he had left us an example that we can all relate and follow as we intentionally choose to love the one who we respect, care, and willing to make the sacrifices for their good and dignity.
No matter what the world is trying to tell us with all its lies and false promises of shallow freedom and objectified love, true love and intimacy are possible. It is not easy to choose to love someone genuinely and wholeheartedly, purely and as God intends it to be, but we can all personally choose for that to happen. This is where sacrifices, self-giving, donating, and God-centered love comes into affect. I am not saying it is easy, but we choose to love one another just as He has loved us… and that is hard… but there is grace there! So, I would invite you to reflect on the love that St. Joseph had for the Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary and imitate his silent, heartfelt, and self-donating gift of love.