Pornography

How enlightened are the eyes of your heart? This question came to mind during Lectio Divina the other day. Ephesians 1 finds St. Paul entreating, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened.”

Oh, how dearly we all need this enlightenment!

“The eyes of the body are the doorway to the soul — the heart,” the old saying puts it. Are our hearts enlightened by the radiance of God’s grace, or are they darkened by the spirit of denial? How do we use our eyes? Do we guard our hearts by guarding our eyes?

One of the greatest blessings given to us by God is the Internet, but it is also one of the greatest temptations and sources of evil. What offers light to the eyes of the wise also makes darkness available to the eyes of the foolish. Online pornography is a huge business, generating over $20 billion annually. In 2002, websites peddling porn were the largest online-income generators. One resource claims that the annual income from pornography is equivalent to the joint annual incomes of the three major television networks.

Priests must be aware of this danger — the darkness and the deviousness that deliver destruction into the hearts of the naïve and unwary. It is estimated that over 200,000 Americans are seeking professional help for their addiction to cybersex. When was the last time you preached on the dangers here? Be prepared to speak to your parishioners about guarding their hearts by guarding their eyes.

Sometimes priests hear a protestation from those being counseled or taught or exhorted. One such is: “Oh, it’s just a little bit of sex, who does it hurt?”

A story is told about a father with two children — young teens. They asked the dad for money to go to a certain movie. He refused, telling them that this particular movie was vile in its sexual overtones and explicit scenes. They begged and argued that the sex is just a little bit of the movie; the rest is quite a love story. “No,” he emphatically told them.

Freshly Baked Brownies

At dinner the youths sulked until the dad announced that their favorite dessert was being served: freshly baked brownies. The kids lit up, but the father continued to inform them. “Mom has made your favorite chocolate brownies, but there is one thing you should know before you eat the dessert. I had her mix a bit of manure from the garden into the chocolate batter.”

“What?” the teenagers indignantly asked. “How could you?”

“Well,” said the dad, “It’s just a little bit of manure. The rest is good brownies. Enjoy.”

It doesn’t take much darkness to destroy a soul.

What it comes down to is three essential tools to break out of the darkness of denial and become filled with the light of God. 1. Open your heart. 2. Fill your heart. 3. Guard your heart.

Open wide your heart to God. So many open just a crack, leaving God at the doorway of the soul. In refusing to trust God or to admit him into the recesses of the heart, darkness reigns within. Make a decision to admit God. In the words of St. John Paul II, “Open wide your doors to Christ. Do not be afraid.”

Fill your heart, because nature abhors a vacuum. Let Christ enter with the splendor of his mercy, occupying every space within. Break out of denial; ask Him to drive out the darkness and live within, filling your heart with light, joy and peace. Sin is not forced out of the soul; it is crowded out when Christ enters our hearts. There is no room for the false love offered by porn when the source of true love dwells within.

Guard your heart. Do not let even the smallest bit of poison enter. Like the story, a little bit of manure is all it took to destroy a dessert. A little bit of porn can destroy a soul, a family, and — in time — a society, a civilization. This requires a constant vigilance as to what we watch on TV, video and the Internet. It requires an inner strength that only God can provide.

Too often we let our guard down, naively inviting the evil one in. The eyes are the doorway to the heart, the soul. Guard your heart by guarding your eyes. The heart is enlightened when Christ enters. He is our hope.

I was reading the other day about the Hope Diamond, the dazzling 45-carat gem with an estimated value of $250 million. Its last owner donated the treasure to the Smithsonian Institution, where it remains today behind bulletproof glass — untouchable and unapproachable.

What hope is there in a rare stone? What does it offer a hurting world? It is locked away for safekeeping. Our hope is not in something locked up behind bulletproof glass, untouchable and unapproachable. Our hope, the hope for our children, for our families, for our society and for our civilization is Jesus Christ — the One who is always approachable and touchable through the Holy Eucharist.

I often invite those who are addicted to porn to go to daily communion and to spend an hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament daily. Here the Lord is touchable. He opens our hearts, fills them and gives us the grace to guard our hearts from all darkness, denial and evil.

Can we priests not offer a Holy Hour at least occasionally in reparation for the sin of pornography and as intercessory prayer for our parishioners? How dearly we all need deliverance from the denial of the destructiveness of pornography which imprisons us in darkness!

How enlightened are the eyes of your heart?

Guard your heart.

MSGR. CHIODO, a priest of the Diocese of Des Moines, is pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Des Moines, Iowa.