Normally from the Book of Isaiah, we hear the prophet say over and over again, “Remember the things that God has done for you. Remember the good things that God has done for you.” The Book of Isaiah is supposed to encourage us and help us realize that God has done good things for us in the past, and He is going to continue to do good things for us in the future.
It’s interesting because in this passage the prophet actually says, “Remember not the things of the past. See, I am doing something new.” What he is saying is that God is going to do something in your life unlike anything you have experienced before. Sometimes we have a tendency to think that God only works with us in a certain way. We believe God is able to handle us in only a certain way here. He couldn’t possibly do something else. Yet, He wants to do something new in us.
As I was reflecting on the woman caught in adultery, I thought about this whole idea of when Jesus said to her, “Go and sin no more.” He is basically giving her a new life of freedom where she can go and experience this new life. When I’m praying with the gospels, I think, “Ok, what is a modern-day experience with this.”
So, as I was thinking of the woman caught in adultery, it hit me that the modern day experience that we have for this is pornography. It is something that we see, and we catch people in the very act of doing. I realized what a big epidemic it is in our culture. One of the websites actually calls it the new drug. This is the drug that has a grip on our culture.
The church has this beautiful document on it, and it talks about how all men and women are created in the image and likeness of God and in the love of God in others. Pornography damages this image. We no longer look at people as created in the image and likeness of God. We look at them as objects.
It’s pretty profound because it goes on to talk about every single aspect of every single person that’s involved and how it damages us. It says that men and women, when they experience this, have a deep sense of shame, and it begins to erode self-worth.
It begins to distort one’s own view of this wonderful gift of sexuality and marriage and this coming together of man and woman. We know more and more that it is an addiction. Both science and personal testimonies confirm that people who start by occasionally viewing it later become compulsively trapped in the cycle of fantasy, ritual, acting out and despair. Then it goes back into more fantasy, ritual, acting out and despair.
Meanwhile, it is having an impact on husbands and wives, on families, and on children. There is a section on children that says that young people born into this digital age see something graphic on average by the time they are 11 years old. Think about how damaging that could be to a child’s mind.
The article talks about how that exposure can be so traumatic for our youth. Seeing pornographic images can steal their innocence and give them a distorted image of the beauty of sexuality, of relationships, of men and women. It can also make them more vulnerable to sexual abuse themselves.
It talks about marriage and future marriage, for those that are married and those that are preparing for marriage. It says that use within marriage severely damages spouses true intimacy and trust because both the act itself and the viewing become a deception of the lie, and usually involves one spouse or the other hiding their behavior. Now they are hiding this whole ritual from their spouse.
For single men and women who are preparing for marriage, it can be more and more difficult to discern a vocation to the priesthood, to married life, or to consecrated life because there is this damage that has been done to their own dignity. It increases isolation and destroys these young adults from undertaking the work of a real relationship and what it means to enter into a relationship with people.
Pope Francis often uses the image of the church as a field hospital. A field hospital is a place where there is just absolute war and devastation going on.
We’re out there, and we’re trying to do the best that we can to heal people. He says this beautiful thing, “No wound is so deep, however, as to be out of the reach of Christ’s redeeming grace.” So, no matter how bad a sin is in our life, no matter how bad we have entered into that, there is no wound too deep for Christ to enter.
I was viewing some of the documentaries of women who had left the industry. They talk about how horrible their lives were while they were there – the physical abuse, the sexual abuse, the drug abuse. They felt like they were no longer women. They truly felt like they had lost their dignity, and it was so hard for them to leave that.
They say to those that were involved in the industry, “Know that you are beloved and cherished by God, and the church reaches out to you, especially those who were victimized by any kind of sex trafficking or sexual abuse or exploitation, especially of children.” He says that the way they’ve been treated is deplorable and unjust, and no matter what they’ve experienced in the past, they should remember that they are beloved by God. They have this inviolable dignity, a dignity that cannot be destroyed. They are worthy of respect and love.
It talks of those guilty of exploiting others, and again, no sin is too great to forgive, but we exhort them to repent, convert, and put an end to any involvement in spreading this.
Then to men and women who use, “You are beloved sons and daughters of God. Be not afraid to approach the altar of mercy and ask for forgiveness.”
I know as a priest who hears confessions it is such an amazing privilege to be there with somebody who is caught and trapped in sin, and they are desperate.
They don’t even know if they are lovable anymore. They don’t even know if there’s a possibility to get out of it. Through the grace and the power of the sacrament, they are able to walk out of there with new hope and open eyes.
The document talks about spouses who have been hurt by their spouse using. It says, “You are greatly loved by the Father and you are not alone. The church accompanies you with love and tenderness as you confront this sin and its effects on your marriage and your family.
You have been deeply hurt, betrayed, deceived and even traumatized at what you may have found or discovered.” Christ can ultimately heal these wounds, too. So seek solace in prayer, receive the sacraments and Eucharistic adoration. I think what is so beautiful about Eucharistic adoration is we gaze at the body of Christ. We restore the glory of what the human body is called to lead us to.
It talks to parents and says to them, “Be vigilant. Be on guard. Protect your homes. Do not let this into your home. Watch what your children do. Talk to your children about it, but also, educate yourselves on all the different ways they can be exposed to it so you can be one step ahead of them.”
To all those who work with the youth, especially here at Walsh, you can have a great influence on the young just by being a role model in your life. You can help equip them with resources to protect themselves and to walk with others.
Then to all, there is this reminder that God created you in His image and likeness. The church looks to you with compassion and love no matter what you have said or done.
Think of Jesus and the woman caught in the very act of adultery. He looks at her with nothing but unconditional love. Then He says to her, “Go and sin no more.”
I remember when I heard this line in the past, I would think, “Man, she better not screw this up. He’s given her a new chance, right?” It’s all on us. But, it’s not. Jesus has had this amazing intimate moment with her, and He’s basically saying to her, “You don’t ever have to go back to that again. You’re free.”
I think about the line from the first reading, “Remember not the events of the past.” I think pornography and sexual addiction leaves these memories in our minds that seem to never go away, yet Jesus gives us the freedom and the power to go and sin no more.
Having said all this, I invite everyone to think about how we’re all impacted by this just by the age that we live in. But don’t despair. Know that there is no sin that God can’t redeem, and remember that He’s doing something new. He wants to do something new in us that is more powerful than anything He’s ever done before.
Just as He looked at that woman that was caught in adultery, He looks at each and every one of us with nothing but love. When He says to us, “Go and sin no more,” He’s giving us the freedom to know that we don’t ever have to go back to that.
As you come to the Eucharist today, I invite you to ask God for that gift of complete redemption. As we receive the body of Christ, may He be in us and totally redeem us, body, mind, soul and spirit, so we remember not the things of the past. May we know and believe in the healing and the freedom that the Lord desires to bring to us.