Waiting is one of the most difficult tasks in our current modern era. Restaurants, retail shops, Amazon, and Google make every effort on behalf of the American people for humans to wait less and less for something to arrive or for something to be purchased. Thus instant coffee, instant feedback, and Instagram becomes the vacuum through which many people keep the time. As a person’s life become faster and faster, to what end are we striving so valiantly for? What can be so precious and so urgent that much of a person’s focus and attention rests solely on accomplishing the next thing?
Cruelly enough once we “have arrived” at our intended destination, we are already on to the next journey in life. Nomads, those that travel from place to place, call homes graves of the living. In some ways, we too can relate to a nomadic type of existence. Yet, in order to officially “arrive” at a particular and intended destination, the pilot, boat captain, or individual must know where exactly it is they are going.
The season of Advent is a humble journey toward Bethlehem, the place in which the Son of God was born to a woman in swaddling cloths. Just as Mary and Joseph needed to pay attention to the signs pointing out danger, so too must we as Catholics and Christians be watchful and alert along our journey through this pilgrimage called life.
If American culture is so infatuated with speed and efficiency, granted we may arrive at a particular destination, how will we know it is in fact the right one? Therefore spiritual vision becomes one of the greatest gifts that God bestows upon mankind in order for persons to not only see the direction, but also map out its course in order to arrive safely. In point of fact I am sure if someone told you to travel to the Ozarks without giving you proper direction, there is in fact a high probability of never reaching your intended destination.
In today’s Gospel Jesus warns his disciples to be watchful and alert. But if the signs of the times simply instruct us to do the complete opposite through speed and efficiency, why is it important to be watchful and alert? What are we supposed to be waiting for? In many ways, we translate being watchful and alert like we are watchful and alert while on a fishing trip. We have prepared the bait, set the line, waiting in suspense for immediate gratification knowing that a fish is on our line, only do we realize in a short time we become distracted and worse off disinterred in catching a fish. Yet, when a fish attaches itself to our line we become frantic and eager to pull in a great catch. Given the pace at which our culture and lives operate, waiting seems like forever.
Today we need to discuss an important topic that has an enormous impact on our spiritual vision. Yet a topic surrounding so much shame that it is almost never preached about. Given the fact that many prominent public figures have been accused of heinous crimes within the last couples of weeks regarding morality it is important to bring to light some of the problems within our culture and how Christ wants to help us regain our spiritual vision.
What seems like forever to you? Is it a million hours, a million days, a million minutes? What if I were to tell you that forever can seem much shorter than you and I could ever imagine. Popular editorialist writer Matt Walsh, states One Million Years. Human beings have consumed 9 billion hours of pornography on one porn site since 2015. That’s One Million Years of porn. On one website.
I’m telling you this because these figures are serious. More than serious: staggering, incomprehensible, unthinkable, and apocalyptic. Regrettably pornography is America’s favorite pastime. According to surveys, almost 80% of American men between the ages of 18 and 30 admit to watching porn regularly. Nearly 70% of men between the ages of 31 and 49 admit to it. Half of men from the age of 50 to senior citizen also confess to viewing porn regularly. 30% of younger men say they watch porn every day. Porn viewership is not quite as common among women, but it’s far more common today than it was 10 years ago. Remember, too, this is just what people are willing to admit to doing.
It’s no wonder that the porn industry is worth $97 billion, which is only slightly higher (about 100 times higher) than the $750 million it was worth 20 years ago. Today, porn grosses more money than the NFL, NBA, and MLB combined. You can read more about the statistics I have described simply by locating this homily on my website. But you shouldn’t need to study the issue extensively to determine whether four and a half billion hours of pornography is healthy for human beings individually and human society collectively as a whole.
Pornography has one goal in mind, giving the viewer pleasure. That’s it. The porn viewer is not concerned with any other aspect of sex. Pornography completely severs the sexual act from any notion of love or dignity. Sex is used like a product, and the humanity of the person on the other side of the camera is not taken into account. They are just objects to be consumed. The porn watching experience is by design empty, hollow, lifeless, and dehumanizing.
This is what fuels many Americans, four and a half billion hours of this, a lifetime of this. The average child starts watching porn around 10 or 11. Once a young man has been fed this soul deadening material throughout his formative years and long before he has ever had an intimate, real-life moment with a woman in the context of spousal love, he has already seen a woman from every angle and position imaginable. He is bored of the naked female figure without ever having witnessed it in person. If we are not able to recognize the gift and dignity of another human being, how are we going to recognize Jesus Christ in our lives?
In the confessional it is sometimes hard for the priest to tell if a sin is being confessed based on the vagueness of the penitent to define what sin they have committed. But we have to bring this issue into the light of God’s love, even if it is uncomfortable.
Fr. Kyle Kowalczyk’s, a priest of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul recent homily helps people understand the nature of this destructive vice and how to combat it.
- First, the porn industry is evil. I’m specifically talking about the producers. Let’s just say a few words: abuse, drugs, alcohol, trafficking, rape, exploitation, depression, suicide, etc. It is an evil empire built on sex and money. When viewing porn, a person supports this evil.
- Porn videos are worse than you think. They’re not just private acts that one shouldn’t see; they are unnatural acts that no one should ever see! Let’s say a few words: bizarre, forced, violent, children, animals, groups, etc. It is far from the beautiful gift that God has created and given to married couples
- Porn affects the brain like a drug. It is addictive just like cocaine. It hijacks the brain by triggering neurotransmitters such as adrenaline and dopamine that make one feel good. Eventually the body begins to think it needs these outbursts of pleasure and it becomes more difficult to stop.
- Marriages are falling apart. 55% of married men, and 25% of married women are looking at porn at least once a month. According to American divorce lawyers, 56% of their cases involve one person’s obsessive interest in porn. And statistics among Christians are not much better.
Let’s be honest about this, our kids and people in general are being targeted by the evil one and by the orchestrators of this evil empire. Of those adults who report being addicted to pornography, nearly all of them say it started when they were kids.
Sexual sin obviously isn’t a new thing. Jesus talks about adultery of the heart but Internet pornography is an epidemic! Every priest and mental health care professional is painfully aware of its devastating effects on the human person. Several state legislatures have even declared porn a public health crisis based on the following harmful effects: the “hypersexualization” of adolescent and prepubescent children, normalization of violence in sexual relations, objectification of women leading to trafficking and prostitution, addiction, and impaired marital and family life.
This all certainly sounds grim. But I’m actually here to preach a message of hope. There is always hope! St. Paul, in the New Testament exhorts the people to live in the light. Pornography and masturbation are “secret” sins. We get into them secretly, but we usually can’t get out of them secretly. We need help from our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Two of the favorite lies of the evil one, which he whispers to everyone at some point or another, are, “There is something wrong with you,” and “You are all alone.” Of course, there is something wrong with all of us. It’s called sin. But Christ died for your sins, and when you give this sin to Christ, the only thing left is shame. Shame is what keeps us from reaching out and being healed. I want everyone to listen very closely right now. If you are experiencing shame, because someone you love is stuck in this vicious habit, Jesus loves you immensely.
Jesus Christ not only wants to heal you, but also can heal you. No one is stuck with this sin for the rest of their life. I’m willing to wager that nearly everyone in this room has been affected in some way by pornography. I’m also willing to wager that if you were to tell a close friend, parent, or priest what you are going through, that you won’t be despised or rejected or hated. Rather, you will be comforted, helped, and loved.
I want Incarnate Word parish to be a place where men, women, and youth can confess their attachment to pornography and their need for help, without fear of being judged, despised, or ostracized. I want our parish to be a place that recognizes mercy and grace. I want our parish to be a place where parishioners can come for support and help in attaining the healing they are so desperately looking for.
So, how do we accomplish this? First let me tell you what not to do. I don’t want you driving home after Mass wondering whom in this car has been looking at porn. And I certainly don’t want it to be the topic of conversation over brunch. This is a sensitive issue, and we need to be patient and give everyone else the benefit of the doubt for now.
What I do want you to do though is this: First, go to confession if you haven’t already; viewing pornography and masturbating are each mortal sins, and need to be taken care of in the confessional let alone receive communion in a state of serious sin where Jesus begins the healing process and gives the confessor the opportunity to start again.
Sometimes the most difficult part about the topic of pornography is simply raising the issue. But I don’t want to simply name the elephant in the room; I want to kill it with the grace and power of God. I firmly believe that if we are open to bringing this sin into the light, anything is possible.
Perhaps, we will start to see small groups of men, women, and youth who struggle where they can receive accountability, love, and support in order to help them break free. Perhaps we will see small groups of spouses who are feeling hurt, abandoned, and betrayed, where they can receive encouragement, healing, and the hope to fight for their marriages. Second, I want every family to become familiar with the resources that are already available. There are a great list of resources on the Archdiocesan website.
Third, I want everyone to put filters, apps, software, and passwords on all your devices to protect your family and yourselves. We can’t just be holier than porn, we need to be smarter than it. Covenant Eyes for the whole family is only $14/month, and I’ve heard a rumor that if you honestly can’t afford that, they’ll give it to you for free!
Fourth, after you’ve done all that I want you to talk with your children, even your young children, about the dangers of pornography and what to do when they see it. We have resources available to help, and it’s not as terrible as you might think. Kids of any age need to know that no matter what they’ve done, they can always go to their parents for help and they won’t be in trouble.
Fifth, I want anyone who is struggling seriously, on any side of this issue, to tell a good friend, a counselor, a parent, or a priest so a conversation can lead to healing and growth.
Today’s Gospel is rather fitting as we begin this first Sunday of Advent. Jesus does not want anyone to perish by not being prepared. Given the values and pace of our modern culture, we can certainly lose our spiritual vision and even worse lose our soul in the process, but being the Good Shepard, Jesus Christ is willing to leave the 99 in search of the 1. May this Holy season of Advent help you regain your spiritual vision so as to reclaim the victory that is found in Jesus Christ!