COR THOUGHTS 239: The Time of Fulfillment

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The readings this weekend speak of the need to change our lives in light of the fact that “the time is running out” (second reading) and “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Gospel). “This is the time of fulfillment,” announces Jesus. “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” In short, the good news that we are to believe in is that God created us to share in the eternal bliss of his love, a bliss that Scripture calls the “Marriage of the Lamb.” The tragedy of sin is that we doubted this gift and took fulfillment into our own hands, making idols of the good things God created to lead us to him – like marriage. When St. Paul says “those having wives [should] act as not having them” (second reading), he’s inviting us to examine where we’re directing our desires. If it’s to anything less than the Infinite, we need to repent. To repent means to stop pursuing ultimate fulfillment in created things and entrust the satisfaction of all the desires of our hearts to the one who put them there in order to lead us to him. If we are ever to find the happiness for which we long, like the fishermen in this weekend’s Gospel, we must “abandon our nets” – all our attempts to “catch” happiness for ourselves – and follow Christ into “the time of fulfillment.”

The Harm of Hookup Culture and How One Woman Transcended It, Pt. 2

From the Ebook "Good Catholic Girl"

Sad student girl

[By Alice Owens]

Of course, back then, just like today, partying in college goes hand in hand with hooking up. In my moody teen days I never had a boyfriend, and all my sexual education came from porn. In other words, I was inexperienced when it came to real people.

When I did enter the real world, sexually speaking, I found that sex on campus sucks. I didn’t arrive at college looking to engage in a crash course of Bedroom 101, but it soon became clear that sex and hookups were happening all around me. I felt pressured to fit in, and I wondered what all the fuss was about. Everyone seemed to be enjoying exercising their sexual freedom, and I was on board with the sexual revolution’s idea of putting women in the driver’s seat. I had just turned eighteen, and my life was ahead of me. What better time than now to experiment? What could go wrong?

Now, years later, I see things differently. I look back on my college sexual experiences and I can see how, overall, they influenced me for the worse. Those years hurt me—in the sexual arena, in interpersonal relationships, and in terms of my self-confidence. Even as I actively seek to heal from them with therapy and self-care, I still have a long way to go. The repercussions of my campus sexcapades continue to haunt me to this day.

COR THOUGHTS 238: Directing Eros toward True Fulfillment

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This Sunday’s Gospel reveals the first words that John the Evangelist puts in the mouth of Christ. Jesus probes our hearts with a critically important question: “What are you looking for?” (Jn 1:38). It’s a question about that “ache” we all feel inside for something and where we’re taking that ache. The Greeks called that deep longing eros. It’s a desire for infinite love, infinite union, infinite bliss. Sadly, we often take that yearning to “false infinities.” When we do, we “miss the mark” (that’s what “sin” means). In this week’s second reading, Paul is trying to help us redirect eros so that we hit the mark: “The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord” (1 Cor 6:13). Our bodies and our erotic desires are meant to lead us to the eternal marriage of Christ and the Church. Both the sacrament of marriage and Christian celibacy – each in its own way – witness to this ultimate union with God. As Papal Preacher Father Cantalamessa put it, “the primary object of our eros, of our search, desire, attraction, passion must be Christ.” Only as we learn how to direct eros toward Infinite Love do we find “what we’re looking for.” This, also, is how we “glorify God in our bodies” (second reading).

The Harm of Hookup Culture and How One Woman Transcended It, Pt. 1

From the Ebook "Good Catholic Girl"

Couple at home

[By Alice Owens]

What’s a twenty-something woman in New York City doing living the religious straight and narrow?

I remember a friend bluntly asking me this question one day. Perhaps I had just mentioned that my out-of-town fiancé was visiting and staying on a guy friend’s couch instead of with me. By the standards of the modern world this made no sense. But there I was, happily drawing lines and holding boundaries, doodling pictures on my love letters and innocently holding hands—just living, as I saw it, the way a good Catholic girl should.

I remember thinking that the answers to my friend’s question would sound too earnest and uninteresting. Because I want to live the Gospel? Because I care about following the Ten Commandments? In the greater scheme of things, my desires didn’t seem all that novel. People have been striving to do these things for more than two thousand years. But to spell it out for him would probably come across as evangelizing—and make me sound even dorkier than I needed.

Still, I tried to give him an honest response. He wasn’t satisfied with my quick answers, though. There’s a story in there, he encouraged me. I ought to share it. The story’s already been told, I thought. Over and over again by people trying to follow their faith. Look at all the saints and martyrs throughout Christian history. They chose to live a life that the world didn’t understand, right?

My answers felt true to my heart, but I didn’t realize back then that they didn’t tell the whole story. I didn’t come to my deeper answer for some time. And even if I’d known it then, I would have been too ashamed to share it.

COR THOUGHTS 237: Rise up in Splendor, Jerusalem!

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This Sunday we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord – his manifestation to the gentile world (represented by the Magi) that he is the Bridegroom of the entire human race and all of creation, too. Reading Scripture through the lens of the Theology of the Body helps us to recognize this spousal symbolism throughout. This Sunday’s first reading, for example, is dripping with nuptial connotations; we just need to have eyes to see it. Whenever you encounter references to “Jerusalem” or “Zion” or “temple” in Scripture, think “Bride-Church-Woman-Mary.” And wherever you have reference to “her,” it’s not too difficult to recognize the reference to “Him” – Christ, the Bridegroom: “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem, your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you” (Is 60:1). This is the foretelling of the coming of the Bridegroom to the Bride, the coming of Christ to the Church, Jesus to Mary (Mary is the symbol of the Church). Mary is always the full revelation of “her” and Jesus is always the full revelation of “Him.” And when we follow the light, as did the Magi in the Gospel, we will always find “Him” with “her”: the masculine and the feminine elements together (see Mt 2:11). “Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow” (Is 60:5).