We all struggle with lust. Lust can take many forms: for example, we lust for money, power or love. Lust is an intense feeling of wanting or longing for an object or person. Many of us equate lust with sex. We know how real this is in our lives. Many a time we confess this sin in Confession.
Many a time too we want to overcome lust. In the video “Guarding Your Life Against Lust” Matt Fradd shares the advice St Thomas Aquinas offers Christian to overcome the sin of lust.
St Thomas proposes four ways to combat lust. They may seem common because we have heard or know them. They are challenging to practise. However if we keep practising them consistently over time they can empower us to overcome and defeat lust.
Practising St Thomas’ four ways may be more promising than the advice we often hear for overcoming lust that our family, friends or people in the Church offer us. Oftentimes, we dismiss their advice; we think they are unhelpful.
Here are the key points (paraphrased) Matt Fradd makes in the video:
The four things St Thomas teaches us to overcome lust are:
We need to flee the external things that can lead us to sin eg bad company, foul language, reading or watching photos/films that lead us to sin. These are external triggers eg porn We need to avoid these eg move away from them, push them aside, walk away from them.
We should avoid internal reactions and thoughts that lead us to sin. These come to us from the past. These are not sin if we don’t act on this. When we choose to deliberately entertain and act on them we sin. We should also avoid in internal emotional states that can lead us to act out on the triggers. For example, loneliness that moves us to watching porn or looking for unhealthy behaviour
We should pray. We should be careful about praying: it’s not about praying in exchange for God to give us chastity. Rather, we should pray to know God’s love and to live in God’s love. Our acting out sexually happens because we are trying to manage our emotional emptiness, pain and wants. Prayer helps us focus on God and God’s goodness in our lives.
We need to engage in wholesome activities. We need to have an ordered life, ie practise a daily routine that helps us to focus on God and on living morally correct, well and happily. We have to be intentional in our choices and what we do so to live a wholesome life. Being intentional about wholesome relationships with others is just as important.
Having listened to Matt Fradd, here are three points for your prayerful reflection this week:
(a) Be still and have an honest look at yourself and your life. What do you lust after? Are you able to manage your lust or is your lust having a hold over you, e.g. as an addiction? List the evidence you see in your lives to justify or support your answer to the question before.
(b) Consider the four ways St Thomas proposes to help us overcome lust. Then, answer these questions:
Which of the four ways do you find yourself drawn to because you really want to practise it? Why?
Which one of the four ways challenges or disturbs you the most? Why?
Spend some time and share your responses with Jesus.
(c) Having listened to Matt Fradd’s sharing, what do you sense God is asking you to do as you continue living in the world as a person with SSA? What graces or help do you want God to give you to live as a better Christian by making God’s call or challenge real and alive in your life?
Bring to Jesus your responses to these questions and share them with him. Then, ask him to help you trust God’s action that is now working in you after you have answered (a) and (b) above.
Words of Encouragement for this week
“Love doesn’t mean doing extraordinary or heroic things…It means knowing how to do ordinary things with tenderness.” – Jean Vanier