The purifying fire of prayer.
This isn't a sermonette - but I want to mention something about today's Gospel and chastity.
For years I prayed for chastity - without always avoiding the occasions of sin. I know - how dumb. Truth be told, the milieu I worked in, the people I worked with, was a sort of occasion of sin. Over the years I changed friends, moved from this job to that job, did countless things to remedy the situation - to no avail. I was my own occasion of sin. My life was disordered. It got worse the more I tried to isolate myself. It was me - the things that came out of my heart defiled me, as another Gospel passage would have it. I realized that even more keenly when I changed jobs and worked for a religious community - thinking I'd be safe there. (I've always worked at another job to support myself and my art work.)
What I learned however, is that even though we can't always change our outward situation and live in an occasion-free environment, or as I said, we imagine that by changing our outward circumstances we flee the occasions, frequently some of us find we keep going back to the trough for more. It is then we understand we are the problem. We can't dissociate from ourselves, can we? No. But we can - we must - pray for the graces we need to be faithful in difficult circumstances. Today's Gospel taught me that way back when... prayer is the trap door out of sin, as St. Teresa said... 'fornicator though I was.' (A Gorcum martyr said that.)
Saved in situ.
Modern life is an occasion of sin - and most of us are disordered in one way or another. I'm not saying people do not need to avoid the near occasion of sin, nor a deliberate occasion of sin or anything like that. You do what you can, yet we live in an adulterous generation and, like I said, we're all disordered to some degree.
Yet what today's Gospel taught me, way back when, is to "pray always and never lose heart." Ask for the grace in prayer. Be that widow and keep asking. The more often you fall, the more often you ask. A Carmelite once told me, 'go to confession several times a day if you must - but keep praying." She exaggerated a bit I think, since very few priests would tolerate such things - but I understood her. Confession and the sacraments and prayer. You can walk through the fiery furnace with the boys of Babylon* if you remain faithful to these - because the angel of God is with you when you pray.
One has to understand that carefully however, because I'm not encouraging the sin of presumption, or suggesting that prayer and the sacraments act as charms or something magical. People who suffer from grave temptations will know what I mean. We need to come to a point where we long for healing with all of our heart - then it is we can come to the point where we pray without ceasing for that grace. Today's Gospel is testimony that it is possible and that God will free us from our enslavement to sin. (I prefer that term to 'addiction'.) When it happened to me, it seemed very sudden and unexpected - totally new. One day at adoration I heard a voice say, 'you are free'. That after nearly 30 years of struggle. I didn't earn it however - it was sheer grace, which is why the experience was new and alive - living as for the first time, as it were.
There's a reason for that I think. Sometimes God doesn't grant us what we ask right away because the asking is itself a form of purification - the asking, the falling and rising, make us humble after we rise, and God is thereby glorified in showing mercy and restoring our "rights".
This may not be very good moral theology, but just remember, nothing is impossible for God. So pray always and don't lose heart - no matter what your situation. Remember the disciples tried to keep people away from Christ - like the blind Bartimaeus, the Canaanite woman, and other 'unclean' people - but they got through to Him, and He healed them.
*The Babylonian furnace offered in this instance as a metaphor for the occasion of sin.