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Matthew 5: 27-32 – Week 10 Ordinary Time, Friday (King James Audio Bible KJV, Spoken Word)

27 ¶ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Through these verses of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus directs us to consider and take to heart not the outward show of the Law, the behaviour which other people can see, but rather the inward spirit – our thoughts, our mind, the invisible part of ourselves, which is visible to ourselves and to God.

This is deep spiritual cleansing. It is also a blessed relief. Where the Law of Moses as expressed in the Pentateuch laid down many regulations of behaviour, which were then subsequently elaborated upon, through to Jesus’ time when the Pharisees are condemned by Jesus for their overly precise and hypocritical, hollow, sense of the letter of the Law, Jesus gives us instead guiding principles, which centre on our interiority, on our souls, on our inward sense of truth, of what is just, and of how we may best be with God.

In these Gospel verses of the Sermon on the Mount, the act of adultery remains prohibited, and now we uncover a deeper rationale to the prohibition. Perhaps this is at risk of stating the obvious. If so, then it is a mark of how our sense of what is natural and just has accepted Jesus’ teaching. We learn in this reading that it is the lustful aspect of our seeing another person which can cripple us – damning us should we not recognize this trap and avoid it.

We should distinguish between lusting after and desiring to share love with another person. Love is a gift shared between two people. Sexual pleasure is one aspect of this gift. This entails respect and mutuality. It goes hand in hand with commitment. Such relationship is a joyful celebration of our life, our humanity, and our overarching relationship with God. It is not disposable.

Lust, though, is not to do with mutuality. It does not respect the individual and his or her dignity. It wants to turn a human being from being properly human and to make him or her a means of gratification. Sexual pleasure now becomes not about love but rather a kind of pornography. When we look at another person and think like this, seeing that person such wise and ourselves using that person, then we lose ourselves.

Jesus’ message, then, is easy and simple. It is only a lesson in respect of our fellow human beings. We are called by Jesus to live in relationship with each other, to respect and value each other, and ultimately to love each other as God loves each one of us. This is far from being a sexually repressed teaching, as if we should fear our God-given sexuality. Far better than that, it is a lesson in how to value each other fully and use and enjoy and be careful with God’s gifts.

‘There is a need for a crusade of manliness and purity to counteract and undo the savage work of those who think that man is a beast. And that crusade is your work.’ St Josemaria Escriva.

Concluding Prayer

Lord God,
the Cross reveals the mystery of your love:
a stumbling block indeed for unbelief,
but the sign of your power and wisdom to us who believe.
Teach us so to contemplate your Son’s glorious Passion
that we may always believe and glory in his Cross.
We make our prayer through our Lord.

King James Audio Bible KJV | King James Version | Endnotes

Adultery And Divorce

In The Sermon On The Mount, Jesus addresses the issue of adultery and divorce, and how the Law relates now to the commandment: ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’.

Jesus says: ‘Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.’ (Matthew 5: 27-28)

Here, Jesus is telling us that adultery is not just a physical act, but also an attitude of the heart. Even if a person does not commit the act of adultery, if they look upon another person with lust, they have already committed adultery in their heart. This means that adultery is not just about external actions, but also about internal desires.

Furthermore, Jesus says: ‘And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.’ (Matthew 5:29)

Here, Jesus uses hyperbole to emphasize the seriousness of the sin of adultery. Is Jesus literally telling us to pluck out our eyes? Is Jesus is telling us to take drastic measures to avoid sin? Certainly, Jesus’ teaching is as to the primacy of heaven. We must be willing to sacrifice anything that leads us to sin, no matter how important it may seem to us.

Now let us turn to what Jesus says about divorce. Jesus says: ‘It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.’ (Matthew 5:31-32)

Jesus is telling us that divorce is not in accordance with God’s plan for marriage. Divorce is only allowed in the case of infidelity (fornication). In any other case, divorce would lead to adultery. If a man divorces his wife for any reason other than infidelity and marries another woman, he commits adultery. Likewise, if a man marries a divorced woman, he commits adultery.

This teaching of Jesus has been interpreted variously by Christians. The Catholic Church, for example, considers marriage to be a sacrament, and therefore, divorce is not allowed except in very limited circumstances, such as adultery or abuse. The Church also does not recognize civil divorces as valid, and therefore, Catholics who divorce and remarry without an annulment are considered to be living in adultery.

Some Protestant denominations have a more lenient view of divorce, allowing it in cases of abuse, abandonment, or irreconcilable differences. However, most Protestant churches still consider marriage to be a sacred institution and do not promote divorce.

Jesus’ teachings on adultery and divorce emphasize the importance of purity in heart and faithfulness in marriage. Adultery is not just a physical act, but also an attitude of the heart. The central message remains: we must strive for purity and faithfulness in all aspects of our lives, including in marriage.