Day 6: Freedom to Choose Love
Editor’s Note: TOB is the abbreviation for St. John Paul II’s book “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body” Pauline Press
Choosing Jesus amid a host of identity options is key to our clarity. And good love for others. Centered in Christ, looking intently into His mirror of perfect love, we can begin to love clearly. Aligning our will—and the whole of our divided selves—with the Healer frees us to choose love amid disordered desires.
I love that! My feelings—sublime and sacrilegious—do not hold sway on the quality of my love for others. My will determines whether what I offer pleases God and confirms or confuses my fellow humanity.
How true and loving are we when we adopt one of a host of alternate sexual ‘selves’? Many would claim they are finally being ‘true’ to their most authentic selves. Understandable: those who have hid inner conflicts behind conventional guises experience relief once ‘out’.
Still, I must say: ‘You have not been true enough, not as authentic as you think.’ Only Jesus can take us down to the base of who we are and what we want. Only He can unveil the truest desires of our heart. And He reveals Himself as the One who can help us, one step at a time, to live the love we want to give.
St. John Paul II calls this descent of Jesus into our depths ‘the ethos of redemption.’ It is nothing less than the power of the Holy Spirit infusing our spirit with the courage to choose the truth and beauty for which we have longed. I contend that such earthy holy desire is deeper than our disordered desires. We contend for true desire with ‘temperance’, or the inspired will’s choice to master troubling desires. We can do so gently and compassionately, but firmly. In the freedom Love affords us, we control disordered desires; they do not determine our identities, nor need they control our actions and intentions.
He writes beautifully: ‘The ethos of redemption is realized through self-dominion, through temperance of the desires, when the human heart makes an alliance with this ethos…when the person’s deepest and yet most real possibilities and dispositions show themselves, when the deepest layers of his potentiality find a voice, layers that the concupiscence of the flesh (e.g. lust) would not allow to show themselves…the ethos of redemption…is based on a strict alliance with these layers’ (TOB 49:6).
My deepest truth? I want to love others well and so represent something of Jesus to persons who need my reliable, chaste, and masculine witness. I strike down all lustful thoughts and feelings to the contrary. I do so freely, for love’s sake, willfully, and successfully, most of the time, due to One greater who lives in me. ‘Jesus, rouse the gift we are. Help us to attend to the treasure you summon from the trash. Free us from our constant faultfinding and free us for vestiges of paradise in our memories and in our lives today. We refuse the liar who tries to rewrite Eden out of our histories. Unite us to the home of our original dignity.’
‘Jesus, have mercy on us as Your Church. We have abused weaker members, including children, and protected ourselves. We have violated the most vulnerable. In Your mercy, free us to superabound with justice. Grant us Kingdom discernment and courage to reform ourselves. May our repentance grant us Kingdom authority to strengthen the weak, discipline violators, and restore the violated.’