I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. - Romans 12:1
Sometime in my past I acquired a small leather-bound book titled The Catholic Girl’s Guide, published 1918, edited by the Rev. Francis X. Lasance. I don’t remember where or when I got it—a garage sale or used bookstore maybe. I thought it was funny.
It is 670 pages of hand-wringing about chastity. You can open it up anywhere and find chapter headings like “The Faded Lily” and lines like, “My daughter, you can form no idea how large is the number of those who sink into hell on account of sins of impurity.” According to the guide, sin comprises thought, word, and deed. So you can’t even think impure things.
But if we put aside Fr. Lasance’s intent behind the references to faded lilies, do these old-fashioned words still make any kind of sense? I think they actually do. What “impurities” floating around in your head, for example, cause you to sink into a kind of low-grade, chronic hell? And keep you from being somewhat less than a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God?
Maybe the recall of those reruns of “Jersey Shore” you keep watching. Or your obsessive worry about your credit score, or the suspicion that your mechanic is cheating you or your partner is cheating on you, or your sadness about cellulite.
Someone once told me that a fine cure for anxiety is to ask yourself if your thoughts are worth having. It’s said that nothing we can think or experience is foreign to God. Not foreign, perhaps, but what about holy? Never mind what Fr. Lasance means by “sins of impurity.” Consider instead what this scripture might mean by “holy and acceptable to God.”
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight.
Christina Villa is Philanthropy/Communications Consultant at The Pension Boards-United Church of Christ, New York, NY.