â€œENTER through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction. And those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.â€ (Mt 7,14)
With these words, Christ is issuing a call to temperance, restraint and moderation in the use of material and mundane things, and even in the use of the spiritual things that we can also abuse.
To be sure, Christ is no wet blanket who wants to plunge us into a joyless kind of life. He is a God of joy and peace, the kind of joy and peace that are real and genuine and that bring us to eternal life. Even more, he is all eager to share that joy and peace with all of us.
We just have to realize that with our wounded condition, we tend to find joy and peace in things that actually do not give them. These things can give us some semblance of joy and peace, but they are at best illusory, deceptive, false and dangerous.
So, when Christ in another instance told us to deny ourselves and carry the cross if we want to follow him, itâ€™s not because he just wants us to suffer, but rather because he wants us to attain the joy that is proper to us.
We should not be afraid to practice temperance, restraint and moderation in our earthly activities, always aware of our tendency to get lost and swallowed up by them. The practice of these virtues should not leave us feeling plainly empty. Rather they should lead us to feel a surge of joyâ€”in fact, an ineffable joy that the world cannot give.
If our pursuit for temperance, restraint and moderation does not have this effect, then we are doing it badly. And itâ€™s right that we would just feel bad about the whole exercise, drop it and change course.
We should see to it that our practice of temperance, restraint and moderation would give us greater intimacy with God and with everybody else, marked by praise and thanksgiving, and a great, driving desire to serve and to share, in spite of the limitations, weaknesses and mistakes that our wounded human condition would also cause.
This can happen if our motivation for this exercise if precisely the love of God and souls, and our idea of joy and peace is one that transcends the merely physical, sensual, emotional and material, and one that enters into the realm of the spiritual and supernatural.
We have to broaden our idea of joy and peace, and be ready to cope with the unavoidable tension when we have to blend the material and spiritual, the temporal and the eternal, etc. With Godâ€™s grace and our trust in Godâ€™s ways, we can do it, even if things look impossible. In fact, in this life, we have to expect that we meant to deal not only with the possible, but also with the impossible.
Temperance, restraint and moderation would give us a lightness of heart and spirit that would enable us to get in sync with Godâ€™s will and ways, and to adapt ourselves to any human situation, good or bad.
They would give us a sense of dominion, of self-mastery over our senses, emotions and even our intellectual activities that can go in any which way. Especially these days when we are bombarded with just too many things that can hijack our attention, we need to sharpen these virtues so as to keep our feet on the ground and avoid being up in the clouds.
We need to spread the concern as widely as possible, beginning with the family. We have to inculcate the proper attitude and teach the proper skills especially to the young who are now very vulnerable to fall into excesses and addiction, including sexual addiction.
Everyone should be made to understand that physical and sensual pleasure not only in food, drinks, comfort, sport but also and especially in sex (since this is the one that gives the most pleasure) should always be tempered.
Parents should be the primary teacher and model for this. They should realize that children learn things first in the family before they do in school and in other places. With gift of tongues, sense of humor and practical things, plus the grace of state that they have as parents, they fulfill this responsibility well.
Especially in the area of sexuality, parents are indispensable because they can get very intimate with their children in talking about it with hardly any danger.