Sunday, June 13, 2010


When I was in school, I was required to read an essays whose author and title I have now forgotten.  The thesis of the article, however, was that Jesus' chastity consisted in the fact that he never tried to grasp from the Father that which belonged only to the Father.  Sins against chastity, the author suggested were those sins wherein a person attempts to take something that by right, can only belong to another.  This is more than stealing.  For instance, with Jesus, in his temptations int he desert, he never condescended to turn the stones to bread or to bow and worship the Evil One.  These were acts reserved solely for the Father.  For Jesus to have done them would have been an attempt on his part to take for himself action that must be reserved to the Father.  This weekend's first reading illustrates the point well.

King David had been given much by God: His throne, his kingdom, and his safety from the murderous threats of Saul.  David, unsatisfied with what God had given him, however, took the Bathsheba the wife of Uriah to be his own.  Bathsheba was not his to possess in two ways.  First, she was already the wife of another man.  Uriah had sole claim to her body and fertility.  Moreover, David had no right to try to take from Bathsheba only what was pleasing and satisfying to himself.  He did not see in the beautiful woman anything more than her beauty.  He did not value her as a person.  He did not recognize that he had no claim to any part of her.

It seems to me that as the author I noted above claims, sins against chastity almost always begin this way.  One person hopes to possess the pleasing things he or she sees in another without giving due recognition to the personal value of the other.  When one is fantasizing about another, one seldom stops to consider that the other has a soul, has parents, has siblings, that the other is truly another person and not just an object.   They cannot be owned or simply used by another.

We attempt to take and own what is not ours often however.  Sins against purity, gossip, and even cheating on homework are ways in which we do this.  Our response to these "unchaste" acts must be like that of the sinful woman in today's gospel.  We must turn out of ourselves, love much, and do penance.  We must seek to give away what we have been given.  We must not take what has not been given to us.  We must not assume to take on the role that belongs only to the Father.


  1. The essay you're referring to is by (now Bishop) Jean-Pierre Batut, "The Chastity of Jesus and the 'Refusal to Grasp,'" published in Communio. I read that for Fr. Laird's class. It totally blew me away -- changed the way I think about so many things. So amazing!

    I'll never forget how Batut defined chastity: a refusal to grasp and an indefectible adherence to Him who gives. It is profound, that we must refuse to grasp even something we have a "right" to, just as Christ refused to grasp his Lordship in the desert and his own life while on the cross. We must give ourselves in order to receive -- and we all remember the famous quote from GS 22 -- that man can only find himself through a sincere gift of himself.

    Possibly the most difficult part of this idea is coming to recognize that we have no need to grasp. We must only offer ourselves as gift and only receive what is freely given. It is this form of chastity which frees us from our innate tendency "to use," whether it be another person or anything else.

    Like I said, so amazing. Rocked my world. That article is worth an annual re-read!

  2. Thank you for filling in the blanks. It was a particularly good article and you have summarized it well in your few sentences.

  3. This brings a whole new meaning to the word. Great post.

  4. I may reference this post in our engaged couple retreats -- and will certainly read the article!


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