Love sets us free from evilFather David Scotchie
Sunday, Jan. 21
Jon 3:1-5, 10; Ps 25:4-9; 1 Cor 7:29-31; Mk 1:14-20
Jason Evert recounted the ordeal of a hiker whose story showed the difference between life and death.
“In 2003, while climbing in a slot canyon in southeastern Utah, outdoorsman Aron Ralston dislodged an 800-pound boulder that crushed his right hand against the wall of the canyon. For the next five days, he tried every conceivable method to free his pinned limb, but to no avail.”
Ralston accepted his fate. He carved on the sandstone canyon wall his name, date of birth, and presumed date of death. Exhausted and dehydrated, he lost consciousness. In a hallucination, he saw a boy, about 3 years old, walking toward him. Somehow he knew that this child was his yet-to-be-conceived son.
“When the premonition vanished, he fashioned a tourniquet. Using the torque of the boulder against his own weight, he snapped his radius and ulna and amputated his arm with a dull pocketknife. After wrapping his arm to control the bleeding, he hobbled out of the cavern into the light, and a rescue helicopter eventually found him.”
Six years later, Aron married. Seven years after his escape from death, he and his wife welcomed their first child into the world — a boy.
Jason Evert wrote this account in the foreword to the book “Delivered — True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned From Porn to Purity,” edited by Matt Fradd. The true story made the point that what saved Ralston from dying in the canyon was having someone to live for. In a word, love.
“It has been said that a knight cannot be brave unless he has love. In the same way, the liberation that Ralston achieved was made possible only through a radical sacrifice ignited by love. He had resigned himself to death. Love alone had the power to set him free.”
Although Ralston’s ordeal was about a hiker’s mishap, it can serve as a metaphor for those addicted to pornography.
Pornography is as deadly as a boulder. It crushes many people enslaved to its addictive power. One man threw his computer from his balcony in order to rid his apartment of porn. Another worked himself to exhaustion. Their solo efforts failed.
What sets us free from pornography (as well as from all evil) is real love. In overcoming denial, shame, fear, despair or pride, love accepts us as we are. Who are we? We are sinners. Yet made in the image and likeness of God, we are beloved sons and daughters of God. Nothing we do, nothing that is done to us can change this redeeming truth.
St. Paul, in the few short verses given in the second reading for this Sunday, reminds us that “time is running out.” He urges us to live differently than the world. In our milieu, this means living freed from pornography and freed for true love. “For the world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor 7:29-31).
There is hope. Next week, we see him in action.
To take to prayer: Visit the
USCCB-run webpage www.usccb.org/cleanheart.
Father Scotchie is the pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo and his latest book is “Can I Say a Prayer With You: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying With Someone.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The body is for immortality, not immoralityFather David Scotchie
Sunday, Jan. 14
1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19; Ps 40:2, 4, 7-10; 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20; Jn 1:35-42
“The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord,” wrote St. Paul. Two thousand years ago, the internet and digital pornography were unimaginable. But more than ever, his words are good news.
“You are not your own. For you have been purchased at a price,” St. Paul added. In other words, you have been bought and paid for by Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor 6:17-20).
The body is good. It is holy. It is meant for eternal life. The body is not for immorality; it is for immortality. “The Lord is for the body; God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.” The resurrection of the body gives ultimate dignity to the human body. The Lord became flesh and made the body holy. He suffered and died in the flesh to set us free from evil and to set us free, body and soul, for life. This is good news.
The bad news is that pornography emasculates men. Where men are meant to provide for their families and give, they become takers, looking for the next fix at all costs. Forty million U.S. adults regularly visit porn websites.
It degrades women. It cuts beauty into body parts. It makes a person meant to be loved into a product to be used and discarded.
It destroys marriages. Fantasy separates one or both spouses from reality. Intimacy and trust are replaced by numb obsession. Pornography use increases the rate of marital infidelity by more than 300 percent.
It puts our kids in harms’ way. An FBI agent in Orlando pretended in internet chat rooms to be a 12-year-old girl. He said that within five minutes, strangers would try to lure his 12-year-old avatar to meet with them.
It is ugly and evil. It is the Ebola of the soul. It isolates, enslaves, and kills life.
Our bishops wrote a healing and hopeful pastoral letter, “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography.”
“The human person is a unity of soul and body, and the body shares in the dignity of the image of God. … Our bodies also tell us that we are ‘for’ another, that we have the capacity for fruitful communion with another, in particular with a person of the opposite sex if called to marriage.”
Using pornography, like any sin, harms one’s communion with others and with God. Users find it hard to believe that God loves them. They may despair of his mercy and healing. Their marriages grow shallow.
Pornography pits the individual against monstrous forces. “Pornography is a big business,” the bishops noted. “Many companies invest heavily in lobbyists to push ‘free speech’ ordinances to counter legal charges of indecency and obscenity. Pornographers often use free online content as bait to entrap and addict new users who will then pay to access ‘exclusive’ material. Marketers target young men especially with sexual ads on popular sports and social media websites. Other businesses, such as hotel chains, cable companies, and drugstores, profit greatly from the widespread use of pornography and contribute to its accessibility.”
There are men and women who have done it all. They had wasted shameful hours in front of a screen. They had visited strip clubs, massage parlors and prostitutes. They had lied to themselves and their families and lost everything. They had been fired, bankrupted, jailed, divorced, and slept in their car.
Today, many live one day at a time free of their shame. Every day they wake up and say with joy and gratitude, “Thank you, Lord, for life today.”
The Church works for a culture of life. It proclaims the true dignity and meaning of human sexuality. There is real hope for freedom. God’s grace and concrete help are always available. There is hope. There is healing. More next week.
To take to prayer: Read the beautiful and inspiring pastoral letter from our bishops, “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” found on their website, usccb.org.
It really is better to give than to receiveFather Scotchie
Sunday, Jan. 7
Is 60:1-6; Ps 72:2, 7-8, 10-13; Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12
One Christmas I gave my godson Luke an envelope. The envelope had the first clue. “Not in the toilet, not in the tank, downstairs is your gift under the (fill in the blank).”
Luke ran and found a wrapped box under the bathroom sink (the rhyme was close enough). Back at the Christmas tree, he opened the box to find a Nintendo gift card and the next clue.
To a bedroom, to the garage and to the computer printer. Each place he found a package with a Nintendo gift card and another clue. As much as the Nintendo gift cards, Luke enjoyed the hunt. And I enjoyed it even more. There really is more joy in giving than in receiving.
But what do you get the person who has everything? I’m talking about Jesus. What could you possibly give to the Creator of the cosmos? One comedian said, “Gift cards. Nothing says, ‘You figure it out,’ like a gift card.”
What might you give to God? The Three Wise Men brought three gifts to the infant Jesus. The second gift the Magi brought was frankincense. (We’ll get to the first gift last.)
Getting ready for a New Year’s Eve party, a woman puts on high heels, sequined dress and perfume. The man shaves, puts on a coat and tie, and slaps on some cologne. You like to smell good for special occasions.
In the same way, frankincense smells special. During Mass, we cense the manger scene, the Book of the Gospels, the bread and wine, and you. We use incense to show things are holy and belong to God. The gift of frankincense recognized that Jesus was fully divine.
The third gift the Magi brought was myrrh. Myrrh was a spice used to embalm the dead. Like bringing formaldehyde to a baby shower, it meant that the birth of Jesus was not about precious moments and baby books.
The tree that saves the world is not the Christmas tree. The tree that saves us is the tree of life upon which hung the Savior of the world. The immortal God became mortal that we might share eternal life. The gift of myrrh recognized that Jesus was fully human.
Last but not least, the first gift. The first gift the Magi brought was gold. In the operetta “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” the Three Wise Men, on their way to bring gifts to the Christ child, were staying the night with a poor mother and her crippled boy. The mother, desperate for her crippled son, gets caught stealing their gold.
Instead of punishing the mother, the Wise Men tell her to keep the gold. “The king we seek has no need for gold.” The Wise Men, pointing at the desperate mother, say, “The keys to his kingdom belong to the poor.”
The mother replies, “For such a king I’ve waited all my life.”
He came not to rule with gold but with grace. Giving is not for just Christmas day. It is a way of life. Why limit Christmas to one day? It really is better to give than to receive. The Magi knelt down and did him homage. They gave the infant Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Come, let us adore him.
To take to prayer: Kneel down tonight at your bedside. Feel the ground under your knees. Give the Lord what you have. Give him all that you have. Give him your plans for the weekend, your health and sickness, your hopes and dreams, your income and debt, your family and friends. Give him even your sins.