The Sacred Flame

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All men were made by God in his image and likeness.  And all of us are known and loved by God as distinct individuals.  It is this special relation each of us has to God that is the foundation of our dignity as persons.

Everyone has this dignity as a child of God, and so every individual is worthy of our respect, for each person is made by God to be loved by him and to have God's life within.  We ourselves have this dignity, of course, and so we must also have respect for ourselves which is called self-respect.

To maintain our self-respect and respect for others we have to do what we know is right and avoid what we know is wrong.  To do this we need to develop our self-control and overcome our weaknesses.  The Sixth and Ninth Commandments, "You shall not commit adultery" and "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife", demand from us that respect which we are to have for ourselves and for others, and in a special way for those things that belong to married life and the family.

Be Fruitful

When a seed is planted in the earth there are certain laws that govern its development, and if the conditions are right it grows into a specific plant, whether it is a sunflower or an olive tree.  Then it will produce seeds after its own kind which will propagate the species - that is, reproduce or multiply.  God finds this very good; it is the way he designed things.

Animals propagate as well.  Like the flowers, when conditions are right everything happens according to certain laws and there is no misuse of these powers.  We don't have to preach self-control to plants and animals because they act through instinct.

But man is different.  Like plants and animals, he reproduces and multiplies and fills the earth.  This is what God wants, for Scripture says:  God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.  God blessed them, saying: "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth. . . " (Gen 1:27-28)

But, unlike the rest of visible creation, man does not multiply blindly, following the seasons, like plants, or by instinct, like animals.  These creatures are not free to make decisions about their reproductive powers.  Man is free.  This is an aspect of man's dignity.  It is also a possible source of abuse.

Man may have very powerful urges, but he is not led blindly by his instincts.  The plant or animal does not have to trouble itself about the proper use of its powers.  For man, though, their use is not a matter of "instinct".  Man is called to cooperate with God in a plan that is not recorded in his genes or in his blood but is revealed by God in his Commandments - specifically, the Sixth and Ninth Commandments.

Many people look upon these two Commandments as restrictions: but we can think about them in the following way.  The seed that becomes a sunflower is guided to this fulfillment by a biochemical blueprint invented by God.  And though we do not see it, God who holds the sacred flame of all life has a blueprint for our fulfillment too, and he alone is wise enough to guide the use of man's reproductive powers.  If he can lead the sunflower to full beauty from a seed, then he can lead a man to fullness of life by the laws he has given us, though we may see only a little of his plan.

When you are about to plant a seed and water it, you do not have to remind it to trust God: the seed knows all that, so to speak.  It is man who need to be reminded to trust God!

Laws of Life

All this is said to point out the proper beauty and value of the human reproductive powers.  The Sixth Commandment guides us in our actions, the Ninth in our thoughts and desires.  It is important to remember that all our actions start in our mind, and so we should see the importance of properly directing our thoughts and desires.

Put simply, the pleasures and joys of human sexuality are reserved for marriage.  Any use of these powers outside of marriage is a serious sin.  God plans to give those who marry an actual share in the creation of a new human being; God creates the soul and the human parents help fashion the body.  Does it seem unreasonable, then, for God to surround the use of these powers with laws to ensure their rightful use?  Sexuality is something central to our human nature; isn't it important to use our sexuality according to the will of God, who created and loves our nature?

The love between a man and a woman, made fruitful and blessed by God in marriage, lovingly brings a new child into a family, where he will have the attention and devotion of both father and mother.  It is to assure such conditions for children that God has designed human sexuality to be enjoyed only in marriage, and then only in the proper way.  Society is filled to overflowing with the problems and evils and afflictions caused by disregard for God's wise guidance and authority. 

The proper use or control of our sexual powers is called chastity, which is a virtue or good habit.  It requires that we practice self-denial and self-control.  A chaste person will avoid anything that might be a temptation to sin, such as indecent books and movies.  Our purity is something to be protected.  To safe-guard it we are forbidden to commit any act in thought or deed that is impure and shameful.

What God requires of us is purity of heart and soul, all in keeping with our dignity as his children.

 Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534

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