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Teaching about adultery and divorce

Gospel Reading: Mt 5:27-32
Jesus said to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

A shocking passage, indeed. Is Jesus seriously demanding barbaric mutilation from his disciples and from us? Let us be honest, if we all took these words of Jesus literally, we would be blind or maimed already. And that Jesus surely does not intend.

What then is the meaning of his outrageous words?

They are very strong sayings that shock and wake up. For sure, whoever has heard them directly from his mouth or reads them in the Bible or hears them proclaimed as Gospel at Mass cannot go on with life without reflecting seriously about their meaning.

Jesus is here directing our attention to rooting out wrong desires before they develop and lead us to sin. And that rooting out can be as difficult and painful as cutting off a limb of the body. Jesus knows exactly how weak we human beings are, how we postpone difficult decisions, especially when it comes to changing our habits or doing away with an addiction. Only a decisive action can and will free us from something that we have realized must be stopped.

And so, Jesus goes to the root of sin, to the unchecked desires entertained in the heart and mind, to the lustful looks and fantasies that can be uncontrollable and lead to sinful actions. “Cut it off” before that happens.

How determined am I to act decisively when it comes to habits, attitudes, and hidden fantasies?

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.