The above line is from The Inferno, Canto VII, line 21.
I move between St. Paul and Dante in this post.
In the last post, I highlighted some sections from Romans, and in this part of the epistle, St. Paul specifically is referring to homosexuality.
What has struck me is this. The loss of faith came first and then the sin.
We are emphasizing the wrong thing about homosexuality, even some clergymen are doing so. We keep talking and writing about the inclination or tendency as the basis for the sin.
No, the basis for the sin is the lack of faith. The second basis for this sin is the denial of natural law.
Paul clearly states that the men fall away from God first, and then commit sin.
What does he mean?
In our culture of psychology, we turn to the roots of sin, such as the disordered attraction suffered by homosexuals. Paul omits that step entirely. He was living at a time when this sin was rampant in certain places, (not all, by the way). But, he points to an important factor, which is that the lack of faith and trust in God causes sin.
We do not have to be slaves to passion. We choose to do so.
Let me compare this with a person who has a tendency to drink too much, which, sadly I see daily here in Dublin. In my block alone, there are two pubs, one at one end of the block and one at the other end, with another one in-between and an off-licence, all in the space of 300 feet. Amazing. Four places to buy drink in this small block.
Now, if a person had a drinking problem, this block would be an occasion of serious sin. If I go to early Mass, I see drunken men on the street in front of some of the pubs. They have been there all night. In a mile and a half walk to Church, I must pass at least ten pubs. I should count them. Too many.
Now, why are these poor souls going into the pubs? Something is missing in their lives which would keep them away.
Faith in Divine Providence, the knowledge of the Love of God, and the resting in this Love are lacking.
First, as St. Paul points out, is the lack of faith, and second, sin.
We all have crosses. Poverty, loneliness, stress at work, broken marriages, loss of children, hatred from those close to us, abandonment, fear, illnesses of all kinds, whatever.
We have the power not to succumb to sin if we recognize that Christ has changed us and wants to heal us completely.
This may take our entire lives
. We may have to spend time in purgatory, but we shall experience purification and freedom if we really follow Christ.
Now, of course, we sin while having faith, but less and less seriously as we go along the path to holiness. The more we die to self, the more we pray and do penance, the more God will bless us with grace.
Of course, we have to avoid the near occasion of sin. We must.
Fo one young woman, for example, that means not watching romantic Jane Austen movies. as these make her fantasize about men, instead of living in the singleness which is her cross. She would love to be married, but has come to realize this most likely will not happen as she grows older. To watch a Jane Austen movie puts her into the occasion of sins-pretending, lying to herself, day-dreaming, and all the wastefulness of fantasizing.
She will be a saint someday, as she will not let herself be in an occasion of sin. God bless her.
Now, this temptation may seem not as serious as that of same-sex-attraction. But, for her, it is a fight.
We cannot judge crosses. We cannot judge the pain of suffering. But, if we do not allow suffering, we shall suffer in hell. Anything, even reading, can bring us to mortal sin:
Inferno Canto V, lines 70-142 Paolo and Francesca
After I had heard my teacher name the ancient knights and ladies, pity overcame me, and I was as if dazed. I began: ‘Poet, I would speak, willingly, to those two who go together, and seem so light upon the wind.’ And he to me: ‘You will see, when they are nearer to us, you can beg them, then, by the love that leads them, and they will come.’
As soon as the wind brought them to us, I raised my voice: ‘O weary souls, come and talk with us, if no one prevents it.’ As doves, claimed by desire, fly steadily, with raised wings, through the air, to their sweet nest, carried by the will, so the spirits flew from the crowd where Dido is, coming towards us through malignant air, such was the power of my affecting call.
‘O gracious and benign living creature, that comes to visit us, through the dark air, if the universe’s king were our friend, we, who tainted the earth with blood, would beg him to give you peace, since you take pity on our sad misfortune. While the wind, as now, is silent, we will hear you and speak to you, of what you are pleased to listen to and talk of.
The place where I was born is by the shore, where the River Po runs down to rest at peace, with his attendant streams. Love, that is quickly caught in the gentle heart, filled him with my fair form, now lost to me, and the nature of that love still afflicts me. Love, that allows no loved one to be excused from loving, seized me so fiercely with desire for him, it still will not leave me, as you can see. Love led us to one death. Caïna, in the ninth circle waits, for him who quenched our life.’
These words carried to us, from them. After I had heard those troubled spirits, I bowed my head, and kept it bowed, until the poet said: ‘What are you thinking?’ When I replied, I began: ‘O, alas, what sweet thoughts, what longing, brought them to this sorrowful state? Then I turned to them again, and I spoke, and said:‘Francesca, your torment makes me weep with grief and pity. But tell me, in that time of sweet sighs, how did love allow you to know these dubious desires?’
And she to me: ‘There is no greater pain, than to remember happy times in misery, and this your teacher knows. But if you have so great a yearning to understand the first root of our love, I will be like one who weeps and tells. We read, one day, to our delight, of Lancelot and how love constrained him: we were alone and without suspicion. Often those words urged our eyes to meet, and coloured our cheeks, but it was a single moment that undid us. When we read how that lover kissed the beloved smile, he who will never be separated from me, kissed my mouth all trembling. That book was a Galeotto, a pandar, and he who wrote it: that day we read no more.’
While the one spirit spoke, the other wept, so that I fainted out of pity, and, as if I were dying, fell, as a dead body falls.
We have to decide to live with suffering that is redemptive.
To suffer ssa could make one a great saint.
St. Paul, the Church's first theologian
, is correct. The lack of faith, the lack of relationship with God comes first. And, then sin. Sin clouds the intellect and weakens the will. Let us remember this when we are with our brothers and sisters who need our help to break away from the gay lifestyle. That lifestyle is their occasion of sin.
Dante refers to Aquinas and Aristotle in lines 106-108, Canto VI
. "as the soul becomes more perfect, so it is more perfect in its several operations." This quotation refers to the line in which Virgil states that after the Final Judgement, those already in hell will be more perfected in their view of the justice of their punishment, but will then feel more pain. I apply this to myself, in never being presumptuous, and praying for final perseverance. This must be part of our discussion-the awareness of grace and justice.
to be continued...