Not only is purity considered something ”old fashion” by many today but it is often ridiculed. After all, don’t we live in an “enlightened” society, a society that glorifies “recreational” sex. What’s this stuff about purity, abstinence, modesty, respect for one’s sexuality and the sexuality of others. Sex is a multi billion dollar business; masturbation is “healthy release” and having an “affair” is exploring life.
In today’s first reading at Mass, St. Paul the Apostle, tells us in Corinthians 1:12-18:
“Someone will say, ‘I am allowed to do anything.’ Yes; but not everything is good for you. I could say that I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave. … Avoid immorality. Any other sin a man commits does not affect his body; but the man who is guilty of sexual immorality sins against his own body. Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; He bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory.”
Today is the feast of St. Maria Goretti, 1890 – 1902. Her story is as contemporary as can be. She was born into a poor Italian family. On a hot July 6 summer afternoon, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old but physically mature. Alessandro, an 18 year old neighbor, ran up the stairs, seized her and pulled her into a bedroom intending to have sex with her. She resisted saying: “No, God does not wish it. It is a sin.” Enraged, Alessandro took out a dagger and started striking at her blindly. She was taken to a hospital where she died. Before her death; however, she forgave her murderer. Alessandro was given thirty years in prison. One night he dreamed about Maria gathering flowers and offering them to him. This started him on his journey of conversion and repentance. In 1950, Pope Pius XII canonized Maria Goretti. In the vast crowd that gathered in St. Peter’s for the ceremony were Maria’s mother and siblings – and a converted Alessandro!
Purity – which is ultimately respect for one’s body and the bodies of others – is not “old fashion.” It is a virtue that all of us are called to. It is certainly counter-cultural. St. Paul reminds us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are not just simply ours to do with as we want. We are to use them for the greater honor and glory of God.