Christian Sexuality : Sign of Hope – Bishop Edward Scharfenberger

 

Once again, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger has his finger on the pulse of our Christain/Catholic Faith.  His article in the Diocese  of Albany newspaper, THE EVANGELIST, His Eminence tackles the secular issue of sexuality within the scope of Catholicism.  

 

Below are snippets of his article:

Christian Sexuality : Sign of Hope

with the full content in the expandable section.

Christain sexuality: Sign of Hope:

Christian sexuality: sign of hope

BY BISHOP EDWARD B. SCHARFENBERGER

The denigration and, one might even say, desecration of human sexuality that we have become so painfully aware of in our time has roots that go right back to the fall in the garden of Eden.

 

We cannot give into discouragement, because that is the most diabolical of all temptations. Satan wants us to lose hope. He hates God and God’s creation, and wants to do everything that he can to engage us in its destruction.

 

But God created all things good. It is sin alone that can destroy. Human sexuality is a gift from God that can be much abused and disfigured, but it is meant to be a sign of God’s love and, therefore, a sign of hope.

 

Christianity has always had a very high and, one might even say, sacramental view of human sexuality. At the time the Gospel was catching fire in the first Christian centuries, there were two prevailing views about sex. The first was that sex was just an urge, and that the only way to deal with it was to treat it like any other appetite. Since mostly everyone was married — in Roman times, not to be connected to a family was tantamount to social and economic suicide — the institution of prostitution flourished. This was how many people dealt with their sexual passions.

 

From this viewpoint, unfortunately, came the notion that both sex and being single were not very remarkable things — certainly nothing to write poetry or songs about. Since people who were single were, almost invariably, involved in prostitution, all this “sexuality” — outside of marriage — came to be more or less lumped together.

 

Another view of sexuality was almost as popular. It was that sex was just plain dirty. In a way, just like the first view, this resulted from an inability to see sex as something that could be uplifting and beautiful.

 

Unlike the first view, however, which encouraged complete and undisciplined indulgence of sexual appetites, this view took the position that it was better just to avoid it altogether. Ironically, considering that this was pagan society, this rather puritanical attitude paralleled the virtually promiscuous one.

 

When Christians began reflecting on the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ for their intimate lives, they soon realized that neither of these views could be reconciled with the Gospel. Nothing God created was dirty, even if fallen human nature often led to the abuse of very good things.

 

Christianity also had a very high view of marriage. Christ had pronounced it indissoluble in his strong statements against divorce. Marriage, however, was not so determinative for the well-being and spirituality of a Christian. While held in high esteem, because conjugal love was a relationship reflecting God’s very essence, it was not considered the only way to live a good Christian life.

 

The Scriptures tell us that the early Christians took very good care of widows, for example. This was in contrast with pagan practice, which often put a considerable burden on them. Caesar Augustus, for instance, imposed a tax on widows who would not be remarried after two years.

 

Christ himself, of course, was unmarried, which was something unusual for a religious leader of his stature. St. Paul — especially in his first epistle to the Corinthians, chapters six and seven — makes it very clear that he does not encourage single people to marry unless they are prepared for a long and difficult journey.

 

This is not because sex is in any way considered base or undesirable, but because it belongs in a committed, faithful and lifelong relationship only, which is admittedly a challenge.

 

From the very start, Christians understood that sexual intimacy only belonged in marriage: a relationship of a man and a woman that, like the trinitarian nature of God, was designed for the procreation and welcoming of other persons into the human family.

 

In contrast to the pagan views of that time, then, Christianity had a very high view of sexuality. It was not just treated as an urge or an itch; nor was it something that could be separated from its life-giving meaning.

 

Considering a place in the community for both the single life and married life, Christianity is very realistic: neither wild-eyed romantic nor cynical. It was fully expected that Christians, whether married or single, could live chaste lives, meaning that their sexuality was only lived out in a way appropriate to each relationship.

 

The reason for this confidence in being able to live chastely was the Christian faith in the first intimacy of every Christian, God himself, and the belief that we all have a glorious future in the family of God in heaven. Everything did not depend upon this world that is passing away.

 

People — married or single — who make Christ the center of their lives find themselves less dependent on the attitudes and reactions of those around them, less vulnerable to perceived slights, ingratitude and human failures. The knowledge of God’s generous, enduring, all-forgiving love is like the fuel that ignites the fire of love.

 

For Christians, sex is always a sign or sacrament of hope, not a power for manipulation, conquest or mere sensual gratification. Indeed, the true meaning of marriage is determined by this radically new and positive view — which even challenges the many attitudes of the modern world.

 

(Follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishopEd and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)

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