“It is an illusion to think we can build a true culture of human life if we do not . . . accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and their close inter-connection.”
John Paul II, The Gospel of Life (n. 97).
Our generation is one plagued with sexual anarchy, and the rejection of guilt. Ultimately ours is a generation that refuses confession, and as such is a culture that destroys itself through the anarchy inherent in the absence of reconciliation. It is riddled with questions and contradictions too great to be reconciled, and yet it terms itself free. The only thing it is free from is chastity, and in so doing, it is free for nothing at all. Pope John Paul II sees this and seeks to Liberate us from the bonds of unchastity and the bonds of sexual depravity that modernity has championed as true freedom.
All the “liberties” that modern culture wants to make sexually charged are simply chains by other names. The sexual freedom of our culture is freedom for myself, and so it is a freedom that is bound to every passing whim, and is not truly a freedom at all. The Pope seeing this proposed to undertake a series of teachings to answer some of life’s most pressing questions about sex, existence, and what it means to be human.
The Theology of the Body is John Paul’s answer to sexual anarchy and the dissolution of Humanity in the wake of a sexual revolution that like all the revolutions of the 20th Century have had far more detrimental effects than positive ones. Since the lectures began, they have cultivated profound respect and a renewed imagination in the realm of sexual ethics and sexual polity.
In the lectures JPII takes a positive interpretation of the Church’s sexual teachings and frames them in terms of the ultimate question: “How shall I be free to love my neighbor?” The answer he proposes is that Love, true Love, requires work, sacrifice and holiness and here’s why: “Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.”(Gaudium et Spes 22). The Holy Father’s solution is that Christ is the eternal mediator, between man and man, and between man and God. He proposes that especially sexuality is consecrated by the power of the gospel, and none shall be truly free apart from it.
In short, the heart of the lectures is a sexual salvation open for all through either celibacy or marriage and the freedom that these two bring to the human person. This salvation happens by redeeming sexuality from the throes of false liberty that is liberty from everything and sees sexuality as something that is free for the other and for The Triune Lord.
Pope John Paul II merely follows the advice of Jesus and shapes his lecture as such in keeping with the greatest commandment. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your heart and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
He insists that love is something that will place demands on us and not be “free for the taking” because and precisely because if it is to be love at all, it must have its origin in the Triune Love itself, and nowhere else. JPII also says “Only the chaste man and chaste woman are capable of true love.” Chastity is not just a bygone of an outdated era, it is the only way in which the human person engages love at all.
A sexuality that cannot keep these commands cannot be free at all. As Pope John Paul II said “Real love is demanding, I would fail in my mission if I did not tell you so. Love demands a personal commitment to the will of God”
Without a love that works, a love that creates space for the other, we cannot truly love at all. For love must echo the loving act of God’s creation.
Liberation and the sexual freedom that the Holy Father teaches will come by obeying the Lord’s Commandments, which are what is natural to us, they are what our bodies are intended for. They are very difficult at the start but then they become more “natural” through the process of the disciplines and obedience. As with all life, there is a process of growth ad recognition, and just as bodies mature, so should their disciplines.
When we love God and neighbor in the proper language with our bodies and holy intent, then we will form the habit to be disciples, most especially with our bodies. We shall then follow and in turn spread His glorious light. We will be able to “Think without thinking” and love without legalism. This is the heart of the Theology of the Body, a revolution that frees us for our neighbor and in so doing, truly gives us ourselves.
Ultimately the path to sexual freedom must believe the following: “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” –Pope John Paul II