Did you catch the language of the second reading when St. Paul talks about “the first Adam” and “the last Adam?” It is his reference to our human nature and, with God’s grace, our possibilities. St. Paul talks about the first Adam being an earthly creature – and that is a good thing. When God created this world, he pronounced his work to be good – and when we created the first Adam and Eve, he pronounced his work to be very good. We are the work of the divine potter who knew us before we were created in our mother’s womb. We are part of that divine, creative outpouring of love that is how and why the world was created and what sustains the world in being.
But sin entered the world through the first Adam and Eve – sadly, the creative work of our hands. But hope, promise and redemption entered the world in the “last Adam”, i.e., Jesus Christ, the living sign of our possibilities, the sign post of our destiny. Listen to the words of St. Peter when: “His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature…” It is a reality share in the Offertory Prayer of the Mass: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” (Eucharistic Prayer II)
The path to share in the divinity of Christ, to ever give glory to God in the wonder of his creation, is the compass by which we are called to live. And sadly, that compass is ever under attack by forces, influences, temptations and more – all trying to lead us onto a path of ruin.
Perhaps there is no attack more pernicious than pornography – and the internet, smart phones, tablets and computers make it more accessible than ever. Here is a small sample of scary statistics about the availability, use, and malevolence of pornography and those who traffic in this sin.
- Porn sites receive more monthly internet traffic than Netflix, Amazon, & Twitter combined. (WebRoot)
- One site provided more than 4.6 billion hours of porn. That is a pay-for-service site. Its counterpart “freemium” site hosted 33.5 billion visits in one year. (NCOSE)
- Its use is so widespread that 35% of all internet downloads are porn-related. (WebRoot)
- Porn is a global industry taking in an estimated $97 billion annually, with about $12 billion of that coming from the U.S. (NBC News). The fastest growing segments? Child porn and porn delivery to minors. (NCOSE)
- 64% of young people, ages 13–24, actively seek out pornography weekly or more often. A study of university students found that 93% of boys and 62% of girls had seen Internet pornography during adolescence. (NCOSE)
- 624,000+ child porn traders have been discovered online in the U.S. (Innocent Justice)
Pornography use shapes the lens by which users view, interact, and construct the world. And that is not simply the assertion of moralists or people trying to impose a moral code upon the world. It is something that has been well researched and documented in psychological, sociological, and neuro-scientific arena. The first Adam, called to share in the divinity of Christ, is being sidetracked and diverted to participate in sinful endeavors that are literally altering your brain.
In my pastor’s column this week, I briefly describe the neuroplasticity of the human brain and the effects that pornography has upon it. It shares the same effects as drug addiction and alcoholism. When an individual compulsively and chronically watches Internet pornography, they stimulate neuroplastic changes that reinforce the experience, build brain maps for sexual excitement against which established, God-given brain maps for “natural” sexuality cannot compare – and in fact those existing natural pathways seem to atrophy. The pathways point to sexual behaviors increasingly aberrant.
There is so much more that could be said, but in my research for this weekend, it was that last item that, in its own way, says so much. The very natural, God-given creation of the human person in all his or her glory, is being atrophied, reduced and diminished. The gift of self of husband to wife and wife to husband in marital intimacy is perhaps one of the purest gifts and expression of love in the human experience. And it is slowly, inexorably being atrophied and extinguished.
Imagine a world in which pornography is the new normal – would it mean the end of true love in the world, replaced by simple stimulation. Perhaps too dramatic and apocalyptic a vision, but then again…
Any priest confessor will tell you that in the last 10-15 years, the occurrence and reoccurrence of the use of pornography and all that follows, is alarmingly increasing. It is this age’s scourge and plague. And please do not think that it is not in your home. It is simply too available, too prevalent, too easy to access – and too shameful to admit. It is literally the new silent killer. It is a new idolatry leading away from our destiny: may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
What to do? At the end of Mass today we have available a simple booklet “You are Loved” that reminds each one of us that in the beginning, the middle, and the end we are loved by God – and that makes all things possible. Also, we have a webpage (sacredheartfla.org/safehaven) which offers a wide arrange of resources for us as individuals, as families, and as a faith community to begin to understand this modern-day scourge and the way it impacts the lives of individuals, couples, children, and families.
What to do next? If you know someone who needs to lay down this burden in their life, and begin anew the journey to God, hand them the booklet, and let them know they are loved.
And after that? I have no easy answer, but know there is professional help, and most of all know that God is a God of love, who has the Psalm 103 reminds us: “He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion. The Lord is kind and merciful.”