Saturday, June 28, 2014
Sin is Sexy - Isn't It?
Since talking about hell has become embarrassing for most Christians, you won't often find discussions about the eternal consequences of sin.
But look at the temporal consequences of sin: addiction, misery, spiritual blindness, compromising our relationship with the truth in order to rationalize our behavior, etc. Sin causes so many obvious problems this side of the grave that one wonders why we all habitually engage in it.
I think one of the reasons we love sin is that sin is sexy. I don't mean that all sin is about sex, or even that sexual sins are the most serious sorts of sins. What I mean is that the allure of sin is a kind of excitement that takes us out of ourselves. The thrill is a kind of mini-transcendence, or appears to be. The thrill is exciting, it's over-the-top, it's "sexy".
By contrast, virtue is typically quiet, hidden, mundane, slow to bear fruit, difficult to cultivate. A man who changes dirty diapers and is faithful to his wife and who works nine to five and who pays his bills - this looks awfully boring. A guy who drinks too much or whose irascible nature leads to bar fights, or who has a few sexual encounters that the missus doesn't know about, or who's been running that scam for so long that you begin to wonder when he'll get caught - this is exciting. This is "sexy".
Much of what addicts have to get used to when combating their addictions is the fact that life - the hidden life of virtue - is not chaotic and filled with artificial thrills. Everyday life without the drug-of-choice is not a constant kind of panic - and at first glace this seems boring. Life is not "sexy" without the high that the drug-of-choice provides.
But the high is always artificial. That's key to understanding any addition or any sin. The high of a drug or the thrill of a sin is our way of controlling an experience that takes us out of ourselves. But the irony is that this artificial control is an illusion; sin and addiction always make our lives harder to control in the long run.
I knew a young woman who was devoted to a life of sin, which in her case consisted of aggressively seducing any man she met, especially if they were married or "a challenge". She thought she had this game well under control, and that the high she got from it was one she could manage and feed on at will. Then one day she saw in a flash how entirely out of control her life had become. Both she and her victims were reeling in a cyclone of emotion and pain, and people's lives were coming apart at the seams. To her credit, she felt great revulsion and a powerful urge to repent.
And if she's still on the wagon, she's had to get used to living a life that at first must have felt much more boring to her. She's had to get used to finding her thrills in the things that actually provide them, to feeding on the bread of life and the living water, not on junk food and soda pop.
But this is all a way of talking about Mary, on this, the Feast of her Immaculate Heart.
Why do you think the Mass readings for today are all about suffering, lamentation and pain? The Gospel tells the story of Finding Jesus in the Temple, which is a joyful mystery, but the joy is preceded by a horrible sadness, panic and despair as Joseph and Mary search for their missing son. Even once He's found, the mystery remains, and the pain is part of that mystery.
That mystery includes the question, why is Mary's Immaculate Heart placed in the midst of this suffering? Why must she, sinless creature, be forced to endure such pain? For the same reason Our Lord had to, apparently.
Mary's Immaculate Conception is one of the most hidden of all mysteries that have been revealed to us. Her Immaculate Heart, filled with virtue and compassion, beats with love in small and unnoticed ways. Her suffering is, at today's Mass, placed in the context of the great sufferings of Israel, exiled and abandoned because of their sin; placed in the context of the tremendous sufferings of man, sufferings that spring from sin, sufferings that only the cross and a perfect sacrifice addresses.
An Immaculate Heart - a life of purity and virtue and love - is not "sexy". And in this world, purity and virtue and love must always suffer, for sin will have it so.
But it is precisely that suffering that is the way of the cross. The sword that "shall pierce your own heart, too" (Luke 2:35) unites her heart with His - as it unites our own hearts with His - and is the only way out of the cycle of sin.