Reflection from Bishop Toal about Church teachings on sexual morality
“Blessed are the pure in heart; they shall see God.”
Amid today’s challenges to the Church’s teachings on sexual morality it is important to keep in contact with, and take our inspiration from, Our Lord’s own teachings, and in particular his words in the Beatitudes.
For people of Christian faith we experience the deep longing within us to see God – the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ Our Saviour. We reach out to Our Saviour through the course of our lives here on earth, and ultimately place our hope in eternal happiness when we shall see God face to face. The Beatitude – “Blessed are the pure in heart; they shall see God” – does set a path for us, a way of living, which carries us from communion with the Lord here on earth to the hope of eternal union in him in heaven. It expresses a way of happy living which lifts us above our earthly desires and invites us to seek our ultimate fulfilment in the Lord himself.
Although purity of heart extends to different aspects of human life it has always had a strong relevance and application to how we value and use our sexual desires and appetites. It has encouraged us to understand that self-control, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is necessary for us all, and that the longing for sexual experiences and intimacy have to be tempered by the deeper longing for God and faithfulness to Our Lord’s teachings as lived and transmitted in the tradition of the Church. Within that tradition we recognise the call to purity both within and outside of Christian Marriage: within marriage to live in a communion of life and love in complete faithfulness to one’s spouse, open to the gift of new life; and outside of marriage to a life of abstinence from sexual intimacy, offered in self-giving to and with the Lord in love and affection for all whom we share our lives with.