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The Battlefield Between Love and Lust

Deacon Keith A. Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

“The heart has become the battlefield between love and lust. The more lust dominates the heart, the less the heart experiences the nuptial meaning of the body…. The body remains an object of lust and, therefore as a “field of appropriation” of the other human being” Pope John Paul II

Several months ago, my wife and several of our children relaxed in the living room and watched a movie that at least had some comedic content and redeeming value. That alone made the experience a rarity these days, given the standard fare on television! However in calling it a rarity I am also referring to the hectic pace of our lives that seems to leave so little room these days for relaxation. We “moderns” seem to be so “busy” and yet have so little to show for the toil.

My wife and I have five children. Only two are still “being raised”, as they say, under our roof. We also have a beautiful grandson who, along with our adult daughter, his proud mom, also lives with us. These days, it is this particular adult daughter who seems to have the most blunt and accurate insights of all of our children. Her comments prompted the writing of this article.

That night, a commercial for a mens’ hair care product came on several times during the course of the movie. She pointed out the presence of a woman hair stylist in a short skirt who made absolutely no contribution to the promotion of the product. “Why is she there?” she asked. “You see, men just see women as objects”. Well, I could not disagree with the comment. I simply did what I always do; I tried to “expand” the insight. “Well, unfortunately, it is a deeper problem”, I said. “Women increasingly see men the same way. Love has been robbed, replaced by a counterfeit called lust”. “Dad”, she responded, “Let’s just watch the movie” came the reply.

We live in an age of lust. Now, do not get me wrong. I am not against sex or sexuality. Quite to the contrary, as a Catholic Christian, I believe that it is a wonderful gift from the God who fashioned us as whole persons and made us for authentic love. In the words of the one whose quote begins this article “Man as a person is ‘the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake’ and, at the same time, he is the one who ‘can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself’” Of course, “man” as referred to in this salient insight refers to the one whom God created “male and female.” (Genesis 1:27)

Men and women were constitutionally made to give themselves to one another in authentic love. That gift includes their physicality, their sexuality, and their entire selves. That gift of self reveals the “nuptial” meaning of the entire human person, including the beauty and wonder of the human body and the deep and profound mystery of human sexuality. It is in the sexual act, within marriage, that we give ourselves fully away to our spouse. It is intended to be a wonderful, enjoyable and deeply fulfilling experience. After all, God created our sexuality! It is His idea.

We do not “have” a body, as if it is some kind of carrying case, at odds with our “soul”. Such a view is not Christian. However, it has unfortunately crept into some of our mistaken notions of religion. That view, one that disdains matter as evil, was actually the bad fruit of one of the earliest heresies to infect Christianity. It was called Manicheeism. The Manicheans actually taught that all matter, including the human body, was evil. Sadly, this error still infects Christianity and impedes our ability to walk into a lust-obsessed culture and proclaim the truth about the beauty and purpose of human love and sexuality as created by God and redeemed in Christ.

Christians called to marriage and family need to understand the plan of God in creating us as physical and sexual beings, live it within chaste, happy marriages, and offer it to an age that has been sold a counterfeit. The Christian view of the human person is that we are a body. We are “body persons”, in a sense we are “ensouled bodies” or “embodied souls”. Matter is not evil. In fact, in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, God came into our midst, becoming one of us bodily. Our ancient faith proclaims the resurrection of the body and the coming of a new heaven and new earth where we will, in the fullness of the Resurrection, live in resurrected bodies!

The God who the Psalmist David tells us “knit us together in our mothers wombs” (Psalm 139) created us to give ourselves away in love to another. Our bodies are configured sexually for that gift. Such a gift, now elevated in the “Paschal mystery” (the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) is a symbol of - and becomes a participation in - the ultimate gift that defines the very meaning of our existence, God’s gift to us in Christ and our return of a life of surrendered love ...

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