The Wayward Heart
“I am only human, not God, and what I am doing is natural. I cannot be faulted for the way I was made.” These were the words of my acquaintance who struggled to believe in the truth of the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexual morality. These words contain both a confirmation of our fallenness and a call to overcome it. Over the course of many conversations I came to realize that this person’s struggle was fundamentally a struggle with a basic question we all must face: “Can the teaching really be lived, or is it just an ideal?” Pope St. John Paul II asks a similar question about grace and redemption in general in Veritatis Splendor 103:
“But what are the “concrete possibilities of man”? And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ’s redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means that he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. And if redeemed man still sins, this is not due to an imperfection of Christ’s redemptive act, but to man’s will not to avail himself of the grace which flows from that act.”
Asking God for Help
I had many conversations with my acquaintance who struggled to believe that the teaching could be lived. When pressed to explain how living this way could be true if the majority of people think otherwise, I always found myself coming back to John Paul II. I discovered that the wayward heart is not easily steadied, but I continued to hope that there would be a day when this person would see that the only way to live it is by asking the one who made him.
Christ has not called us to anything impossible, but to all things possible. The possibility exists only with the help or “grace” of God. Grace elevates our human nature in a way that enables us to live according to our supernatural end. God can actually transform the desires of our hearts to be in conformity with the moral teaching of His Church. He can increase our faith and enable us to act accordingly, but He will not do this without our consent.
A New Creation
The wayward heart of my acquaintance did not consent to the grace of God but preferred to remain under the domination of concupiscence. The last words this person ever spoke to me were, “I cannot be faulted for the way I was made.” But St. Paul reminds every wayward heart that, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). We were made new through baptism and are given the grace to live this new life through the Sacraments. All who are distanced from the spiritual life can go to Confession and start again, receiving an increase in grace through the Eucharist and other Sacraments.
Do not be a wayward heart like the adulterous woman who “eats, and wipes her mouth, and says, ‘I have done no wrong’” (Prov 30:20). Identify what is keeping you from fully living the faith. If you do not agree with a particular teaching, then seek out reputable Catholic sources on the issue. God will reward you. And remember that “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13). My acquaintance did not look for a way of escape through Christ but chose instead to deny the need for a redeemer, saying, “I cannot be faulted for the way I was made.” None of us can be faulted for the way we were made, but all of us can be faulted for denying our need to be redeemed.
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