GOSPEL READING: Matthew 5:27-32
27 “You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. 31 “It was also said, `Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Meditation: What does Jesus mean when he says “pluck out your eye” or “cut off your hand and throw it away” if it leads you to sin? Is he exaggerating here? Jesus used forceful language to urge his disciples to choose for life – an enduring life of joy and happiness with God – rather than for death – an unending death and total separation from a community of love, peace, joy and friendship with God. Jesus set before his disciples the one goal in life that is worth any sacrifice and that goal is the conformity of our will with God and what he desires for our well-being and happiness with him. Just as a doctor might remove some part of the body, such as a diseased limb, in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to sin and which inevitably leads to spiritual death.
The great stumbling block – bad example
Jesus warns us of the terrible responsibility that we must set no stumbling block in the way of another, that is, not give offense or bad example that might lead another to sin. The young in faith are especially vulnerable to the bad example of those who should be passing on the faith. Jesus teaches that righteousness involves responding to every situation in life in a way that fulfill’s God’s law, not just externally but internally as well. Jesus says that evil desires spring from the heart. That is why the sin of adultery must first be dealt with in the heart, the place not only of the emotions, but the mind, will, thought, and intentions as well.
God’s intention from the beginning
God’s intention and ideal from the beginning was for man and woman to be indissolubly united in marriage as “one flesh” (see Genesis 2:23-24). That ideal is found in the unbreakable union of Adam and Eve. They were created for each other and for no one else. They are the pattern and symbol for all who were to come. Moses permitted divorce as a concession in view of a lost ideal (see Mark 10:2-9). Jesus sets the high ideal of the married state before those who are willing to accept his commands. Jesus gives the grace and power of his Holy Spirit to those who seek to follow his way of holiness in their state of life – whether married or single.
The power to live a holy life
If we want to live righteously as God desires for us, then we must know and understand the intention of God’s commands for us, and decide in our heart to obey the Lord. Through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit, the Lord writes his law on our hearts and gives us his power to live his way of righteousness and holiness. Do you trust in God’s love and allow his Holy Spirit to fill you with a thirst for holiness and righteousness in every area of your life?
Lord Jesus, begin a new work of love within me. Instill in me a greater love and respect for your commandments. Give me a burning desire to live a life of holiness and righteousness. Purify my thoughts, desires, and intentions that I may only desire what is pleasing to you and in accord with your will.
12 What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid. You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: The fuel of adultery, by Chromatius (died 406 AD)
“Because adultery is a serious sin and in order to uproot it, lest our conscience be defiled, he [Jesus] forbade even lust, which is the fuel of adultery. According to the words of blessed James in his epistle, ‘Lust when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death’ (James 1:15). The Holy Spirit speaks concerning this to David: ‘Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock’ (Psalm 137:9). The symbolism here is that the blessed and truly evangelical person roots out the desires and lust of the flesh arising from human weakness. He does this immediately before they grow, at the onset, through faith in Christ who has been described as a rock” (1 Corinthians 10:4) (excerpt from TRACTATE ON MATTHEW 23.1.6-7)
[Note: Chromatius was an early Christian scholar and bishop of Aquileia, Italy. He was a close friend of John Chrysostom and Jerome. He died in 406 AD. Jerome describead him as a “most learned and most holy man.”]
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.
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