Chastity and Mercy 5: River Here
God calls each of us to be a river of life for others. Chastity liberates that flow; sourced in Christ and no longer sidelined by fear and lust, we grow into channels of pure, creative energy. The river’s end? To build up Christ’s body, one member to another.
It is radically simple, as anyone who attends a Living Waters-like group can attest. We gather in order to overcome sins against chastity then discover that the light of Love is routing dark motives and acts. Forgiven by Jesus, He then asks us to be His rays of light for others. What guides us is the other’s good; grace welling up from Truth frees us to deny ourselves for what is best for another. Then, as the Spirit guides and empowers, we summon that good in our brother or sister.
This is the training ground for true friendship. ‘The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship’ (#2347) exudes the catechism, and such life-giving friendship is the basis for all other relationships. We must grasp this: chaste friendship, governed by robust self-giving aimed at the other’s good—is the foundation of all other loves. That applies to singles who would love not to be, for marrieds (yes, chastity applies as much to the sexually active as to the abstinent) and to persons who became celibate in response to God’s invitation to devoted partnership (#2349).
In each of these states of life, God calls us to rejoice in our sexual longings and with inspired self-control to become a gift that enhances the gift of another. Our greatest temptation may not be surging waters of desire that drown another but rather a neurotic fear of doing so that keeps us isolated. In the words of Aquinas, ‘asexuality’, more than temperate desire, ‘is the moral defect.’ The exuberant chaste soul feels many things but chooses the one thing—another’s good.
We can witness the other virtues at work in chaste friendship. Pieper highlights prudence—the mature ability to make right decisions–as essential to friends who seek to see the truth and act clearly on it. In other words, a wise friend, governed by love and a truthful vision of the other, will help him or her make true decisions. These may well be in service of clarifying who (s)he is as gender ‘gift’ and in helping him or her offer it without compromise. Prudent friendship seems an important antidote to the ‘spiritual friendship’ group who lose the truth each time they reinforce the ‘gay self’ as intrinsic to the friend at hand.
Temperance obviously comes to play in chaste friendship. That can apply as much to moderating positive desire as it does negative feelings. For example, one may be tempted to disdain a friend due to character defects. Self-control helps one to not reject but rather to wisely engage the friend for the sake of self-awareness and growth in holiness. And if non-marital friendship should awaken sexual desire then self-control helps one elevate that desire to holy love, which insists on the other’s good. Wise and good boundaries protect friendship (and the dignity of the friend and his/her loved ones) from one’s still-being-integrated desires. Friendship can still thrive as we become chaste, each of us a work-in-progress.
For this we need fortitude. How essential this virtue in forming good friendships! We who have experienced rejection and fear and sexual confusion in friendship need the will and Spirit to persevere. Pieper writes beautifully: ‘Because man is vulnerable, he can be brave.’ Every Christian is vulnerable to one’s gift being rejected. For this we can choose to put ‘on Christ’ and unite our losses to Himself, confident that He who created us is ever-beautifying the gift we are. We can hold fast to that truth, especially when fallen creatures inform us otherwise.
Let’s not allow anyone to block the stream flowing from the Source through these pretty good vessels. He made us to engender life in others. Where we are, the river is.
‘Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers and sisters, love one another deeply from the heart’ (1P 1:22).
‘Father, thank You for releasing “streams of living water within us” (John 7:38) in order to make us sources of Your gift of life. May our friendships reflect this gift-giving. Grant us the prudence, the temperance and the fortitude to build fruitful friendships. Build up Your body as we Your people build up one another.’