Having begun the series with a view toward establishing our identity, I just think it worthwhile to return there, with our minds fixed upon new insights over the course of the series. And as a result, you will find, there need not be analogies or anecdotes to clarify this one amongst others, simply because Christ is the focal point for chastity. The only relationship worth talking about in such depth has no parallel, because in some way, Jesus Christ, the person, has no parallel. So in case you have not yet read any of the previous posts, I highly encourage you to connect to the links at the bottom before you engage any further.
All Christians are to Christ
As a vowed religious, the basis of my calling is the person, life, ministry, deeds, and proclamation of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. I believe that it is Jesus who has called me to set aside all things for himself, specifically as a Consecrated Religious. Yet, this configuring of myself to become like Christ is not the result of my call to Consecrated Life, that is very specific. It is a little more general than that. As I mentioned before, by our Baptism, we are brought into Trinitarian Life, and become “Christs” by virtue of our Initiation through Baptism and Confirmation. We further, draw near to Christ in Communion, as well as drawing near to his Church, where he is ever present.
There is something exciting, in my own heart, that is just so unmatched by any relationship that I have ever had, or even imagined in my relationship with Christ. It is unexplainable here, and perhaps it is so special to me in the depths of my heart as if this is something unique to the Consecrated Life. I cannot see, or describe what happens in other people’s hearts who feel called to marriage, and who live that vocation with remarkable witness. Not to say that I have never been in love with another human being, but that all my affections have been drawn up in a remarkable way to Christ.
Commitment to Christ
I do believe that everyone needs at least a temporary time where they can really know what it means to be so focused on Christ in this way. I mean, really specifically. In the early Church, they called this the catechumenate. Some people I know personally were able to experience this with a year of service or ministry. Some people who have left religious life, did not leave without first having a thorough committed relationship with Christ that left them deeper insight into themselves and their particular vocation. It is, after all, the calling of all Christians to “Follow Me.”
So, as I talked about the value of commitment, there is always a lot of talk about making a commitment to chastity, as if it is a special and unique thing apart from a commitment to Christ. Chastity, being understood here, in a right relationship to God and others that excludes certain sexual behaviors… Yet that is not two mutually exclusive things. People who make commitments to Christ cannot do so, without Chastity, otherwise they admit their own hypocrisy. Aside from the fact that it is not as productive to make a commitment of faithfulness to an idea as to a specific person, particularly Jesus Christ.
What I am encouraging here for single people, to actually consider making a short term temporary commitment to Christ for at least six months. This could be in the context of a greater prayer life with a spiritual director, or in the context of greater apostolic service in some direct thing. For those who are in a committed relationship, and have not done this (whether intentionally or unintentionally), should likewise commit as a couple to Christ.
Do Not Fear
We waver in all commitments because of our fragility, brokenness and aptitude for failure. Once again, as I said, we have a future, and we deny our future if we chose to never commit out of fear. When we act out of fear, we deny ourselves, and deny our future. We, in effect, decide to atrophy and decay until we whittle away into a lifeless parasite.
It is important to recognize that a commitment to an idea, (or a commitment to Chastity, or any other abstract value) will admit to greater hypocrisy. A commitment to a person, namely to Jesus Christ, gives room for honest reconciliation and forgiveness.
I must admit with myself, I was really good at abusing the privilege of God’s mercy. It is fruitful to meditate on the severity and gravity of this mercy, that it entails I turn away from hypocrisy no matter how small it be, while simultaneously disdaining self-righteousness, because Christ is our only righteousness.
And with Others
Having committed ourselves to Christ, we are more available to Christ in others, in the Word, and in the Sacraments. We give our time and energy to these things. We will want to waste less time on useless things that do not become a blessing to ourselves or others.
In some cases, it might mean a longer commitment as we have to root out the deceptive poison that has caused us to be captive to lust. This commitment may also require a short term of psychotherapy or other support group that can actually be helpful. It may not even require that, but it may require some additional moderate abstinence from fixated ourselves on things that will enamor our lustful tendencies.
These will vary for different people, and it is important that you do not navigate this path alone in your own ego, or especially in your own shame. This commitment to Christ becomes less of engagement with shame, but the New Creation that you are becoming. It is also learning to fix our gaze away from ourselves, onto Christ, who is the standard of the human person, but also on concern for others. So much lust itself is really about an egotistical fixation on our individual pleasure at the expense of the dignity of other persons.
It might feel a bit messy, at first, but it is important that you stick with it should you want rich, flavorful, juicy, and delicious fruit to come from it. It is, being so connected to the compassion, mercy, and unconditional love of Christ, invigorates us into seeing the wonder that is in ourselves. Having participated concretely in his resurrection the greater satisfaction we have will be the grace to further encourage us in our resolution and commitment to Christ.