The Real ENEMY
Several months ago I went for a walk to a church a half mile from home. While I was there, a gentlemen alerted me that a tornado had been spotted just south of town and was heading our way. I immediately left the church because two of my daughters were at home alone. When I saw the ominous cloud formations I began sprinting home as fast as I could. The wind picked up dramatically, and the rain came down in sheets – almost horizontally. That wasn’t my only disadvantage: I was in dress shoes, and I was totally out of shape. My only goal was to get home to ensure that my daughters were safe. At that moment, that tornado, was my biggest enemy – an enemy that had the potential to rob my daughters of their lives and destroy my family. As incredible as that tornado may be, I have a bigger enemy, that if not overcome, has greater potential to destroy my children; the enemy is me. As a father, I am called to father in the Father’s image by protecting, feeding and teaching my children. On one hand, I can be my children’s greatest advocate and protector, but if I neglect to master myself I can become their enemy.
What we believe interiorly is what we transmit exteriorly
We’ve grown up hearing phrases, “like father like son”, “the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree” or “he’s his father’s child.” There is an element of truth in these sayings. Somehow our characteristics, mannerisms and behaviors are transferred to our children – especially from fathers to their children. My 15 year old daughter was explaining to me the process of cell diffusion. Evidently, when their exists a higher concentration of solute particles in an outer cell membrane, it diffuses, or moves those particles to the less concentrated inner membrane of the cell. It is like that with fathers and their children. What we tend to have a higher concentration in – good or bad – moves, diffuses, or is passed to our children. I’ve often marveled at this truth as I am yelling at my children, “Stop yelling!” St. John Vianney said that Satan is nothing more than a barking dog chained to a tree. He can only bite you if you get too close. Lust is that dog. We can’t afford to play with lust as though it is a sweet chihuahua. No, it’s a lion prowling around waiting to devour our souls. (1 Peter) We all struggle with the difficulty of feminine beauty and sexual attraction and how to react to it. We are all aware of the challenges in this area: You Tube videos, images on the internet, scenes from movies that would make St. Peter blush. Often, we don’t have to go out and find these things – they have a funny way of finding us and our in box. St. James says that “everyone is tempted by being drawn away and enticed by his own passions. Then when passion is conceived, it brings forth sin; but when sin has matured it begets death.” (James 1:14-16) It begins with temptation – and that’s where we need to strike with the ax, lest the temptation lead to conceiving disordered passions, which lead to addictive tendencies, which in turn leads to death. None of us want to pass on this spiritual death to our children. None of us want our children and grandchildren to be overcome by a porn addiction, or to have a teenage pregnancy. If we want our children to be saved from lust, we must first desire to be saved from lust.
The Foundation of all life
Lust attempts to divorce love from sacrifice. A bigger enemy to our children than that tornado is a father bound by lust. If we don’t want Jesus to save us from lust, we don’t want Jesus to save our family. Our Lord taught, “But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Pope John Paul II, commenting on this passage said, “Are we to fear the severity of [Christ’s] words, or rather have confidence in their salvific content, in their power?” What this indicates is that the Lord is not condemning men who struggle with lust, but rather He is expressing the fact that He can save us from our lusts. “Liberation from lust” and the freedom it affords is, in fact, “the condition of all life together in truth.” This is good news. Christ calls each of us, as fathers, to personal greatness, to holiness – because our families, our children’s future depends on it. And Christ never calls us to do something that He will not provide the grace and means for us to accomplish. Our Lord is promising us that this battle against lust is worthy of each of us and if we pray for Christ’s aid to defeat this lion, we will be given the Power of the Holy Spirit, Who will enable each of us to become true men, great fathers. The real man, the real hero, sacrifices his selfish tendencies for the woman, and in doing so, he becomes the greatest of lovers. Love and sacrifice are one. Christ Who is love Himself on the cross proves this.
An Ancient and forgotten Remedy
So, how do we combat lust? There are three things that St. Joseph did, that if we apply to our lives, will produce incredible resistance to lust, while also increasing our ability to set the pace of self-giving love. 1) Entrust your fatherhood to the Mother. Simply entrust your needs to Mary. Be devoted to her as Joseph was – daily presenting to her our needs – our very selves to her. 2) Be with Jesus often. If we want to become true fathers we need to receive the Son. If we desire to become true men we must receive the true Man. By receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist several times a week, and visiting him several times a week, we abide in Him and He abides in us. His power, presence, peace lives in us. 3) Be humble – admit when your wrong. By confessing our sins, we are humbling ourselves before God, and God always exalts the humble. In the sacrament of confession Jesus doesn’t simply take away our sins, but He fills us up with Himself. St. Joseph, being the only imperfect person in the Holy Family must have humbled himself before Jesus often.
Humiliations if embraced, lead to humility and humility enables us to receive fortitude, which enables us to press on to become men of greatness. Receiving humiliations is the pivotal moment, the beginning to becoming great. When we fall prey to lust we must immediately drag our humiliated self to Jesus in the Sacrament of Confession. He will not reject us, for He says, “Whoever comes to me I will never reject.” (John 6:37) When we come to Jesus with our failings and faults, we become humble and God makes the humble great. This is the grace that we can transmit to our children.