DAILY MASS, GOSPEL AND COMMENTARY:
“You shall not commit adultery“
“You shall not commit adultery“
Gospel of Friday, 10th week of Ordinary Time
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. (30) 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.
(31)“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.”
Gospel Commentary from the Navarre Bible, Commentary to the Gospel of St. Matthew (with permission)
27-30: Guarding of the sight, avoiding occasions of sin, and means to live the virtue of holy purity.
This refers to a sinful glance at any woman, be she married or not. Our Lord fills out the precepts of the Old Law, where only adultery and the coveting of one’s neighbour’s wife were considered sinful.
- “Lustfully”: feeling is one thing, consenting another. Consent presupposes that one realizes the evil of these actions (looking, imagining, having impure thoughts) and freely engages in them.
- Prohibition of vices always implies a positive aspect — the contrary virtue. Holy purity, like every other virtue, is something eminently positive; it derives from the first commandment and is also directed to it: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt 22:37).
- “Purity is a consequence of the love that prompts us to commit to Christ our soul and body, our faculties and senses. It is not something negative; it is a joyful affirmation” (St. Josemaria,, Christ is passing by, 5). This virtue demands that we use all the resources available to us, to the point of heroism if necessary.
- “Right eye,” “right hand,” refers to whatever we value most. Our Lord lays it on the line and is not exaggerating. He obviously does not mean that we should physically mutilate ourselves, but that we should fight hard without making any concessions, being ready to sacrifice anything which clearly could put us in the way of offending God.
- Jesus’ graphic words particularly warn us about one of the most common occasions of sin, reminding us of how careful we need to be in guard of the sight. King David, by indulging his curiosity, went on to commit adultery and crime. He later wept over his sins and led a holy life in the presence of God (cf. 2 Sam 11 and 12).
- “The eyes! Through them many iniquities enter the soul. So many experiences like David’s! — If you guard your sight you will have assured the guard of your heart” (St. Josemaria,, The Way, 183).
- Among the ascetical methods of protecting the virtue of holy purity are: frequent Confession and Communion; devotion to our Lady; a spirit of prayer and mortification; guard of the senses; flight from occasions of sin; and striving to avoid idleness by always being engaging in doing useful things.
- There are two further means which are particularly relevant today: “Decorum and modesty are younger brothers of purity” (St. Josemaria, The Way, 128).
- Decorum and modesty are a sign of good taste, of respect for others and of human and Christian dignity. To act in accord with this teaching of our Lord, the Christian has to row against the current in a paganized environment and bring his influence for good to bear on it.
- “There is 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 a matter for you” (St. Josemaria, The Way, 121).
31-32 Divorce and adultery in the Mosaic law. Jesus’ re-establishes the original plan of God on the indissolubility of marriage.
The Law of Moses (Deut 24:1), which was laid down in ancient times, had tolerated divorce due to the hardness of heart of the early Hebrews. But it had not specified clearly the grounds on which divorce might be obtained. The rabbis worked out different sorts of interpretations, depending on which school they belonged to — solutions ranging from very lax to quite rigid.
- In all cases, only husband could repudiate wife, not vice-versa. A woman’s inferior position was eased somewhat by the device of a written document whereby the husband freed the repudiated woman to marry again if she wished.
Against these rabbinical interpretations, Jesus re-establishes the original indissolubility of marriage as God instituted it (Gen 1:27; 2:24; cf. Mt 19:4-6; Eph 1:31; 1 Cor 7:10).
- [The RSVCE carries a note which reads: “unchastity”: The Greek word used here appears to refer to marriages which were not legally marriages, because they were either within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity (Lev 18:6-16) or contracted with a Gentile.
- The phrase except on the ground of unchastity does not occur in the parallel passage in Lk 16:18. See also Mt 19:9 (Mk 10:11-12), and especially 1 Cor 7:10-11, which shows that the prohibition is unconditional.]
- The phrase, “except on the ground of unchastity”, should not be taken as indicating an exception to the principle of the absolute indissolubility of marriage which Jesus has just re-established. It is almost certain that the phrase refers to unions accepted as marriage among some pagan peoples, but prohibited as incestuous in the Mosaic Law (cf. Lev 18) and in rabbinical tradition.
- The reference, then, is to unions radically invalid because of some impediment. When persons in this position were converted to the true faith, it was not that their union could be dissolved: it was declared that they had never in fact been joined in true marriage. Therefore, this phrase does not go against the indissolubility of marriage, but rather reaffirms it.
On the basis of Jesus’ teaching and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church has ruled that in the specially grave case of adultery it is permissible for a married couple to separate, but without the marriage bond being dissolved: therefore, neither party may contract a new marriage.
- The indissolubility of marriage was unhesitating taught by the Church from the very beginning; she demanded practical and legal recognition of this doctrine, expounded with full authority by Jesus (Mt 19:3-9; Mk 10:1-12; Lk 16:18) and by the Apostles (1 Cor 6:16; 7:10-11, 39; Rom 7:2-3; Eph 5:310. Here, for example, are just a few texts from the Magisterium on this subject:
- “Three blessings are ascribed to matrimony The third is the indissolubility of matrimony — indissoluble because it signifies the indivisible union of Christ with the Church. Although a separation from bed may be permitted by reason of marital infidelity, nevertheless it is not permitted to contract another matrimony since the bond of a marriage lawfully contracted is perpetual” (Council of Florence, Pro, Armenis).
- “If anyone says that the marriage bond can be dissolved by reason of heresy, domestic incompatibility, or wilful desertion by one of the parties: let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, De Sacram. matr., can. 5).
- “If anyone says that the Church is in error when it has taught and does teach according to the doctrine of the Gospels and Apostles that the marriage bond cannot be dissolved because of adultery on the part of either the husband or the wife; and that neither party, not even the innocent one who gave no cause for the adultery, can contract another marriage while the other is still living; and that adultery is committed both by the husband who dismisses the adulterous wife and marries again and by the wife who dismisses her adulterous husband and marries again: let him be anathema” (ibid., can. 7).
- “Taking our starting point from that Encyclical, which is concerned almost entirely with vindicating the divine institution of matrimony, its dignity as a Sacrament, and its perpetual stability, let us first recall this immutable, inviolable and fundamental truth: matrimony was not instituted or re-established by men but by God; not men, but God, the Author of nature, and Christ our Lord, the restorer of nature, provided marriage with its laws, confirmed it and elevated it; and consequently those laws can in no way be subject to human wills or to any contrary pact made even by the contracting parties themselves. This is the teaching of Sacred Scripture; it is the constant and universal Tradition of the Church; it is the solemnly defined doctrine of the Council of Trent, which uses the words of Holy Scripture to proclaim and establish that the perpetual indissolubility of the marriage bond, its unity and its stability, derive from God himself” (Pius XI, Casti connubil).
- “It is true that before the coming of Christ the perfection and strictness of the original law were modified to the extent that Moses, because of the hardness of their hearts, allowed even the members of God’s people to give a bill of divorce for certain reasons. But Christ, in virtue of his power as supreme Lawgiver, revoked this concession and restored the law to its original perfection by those words which must never be forgotten: ‘What God hath joined together let no man put asunder” (ibid.).
- “For the good of the parties, of the children, and of society this sacred bond no longer depends on human decision alone. For God himself is the author of marriage… The intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable unity between them”( Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 48).
VIDEO COMMENTARY ON TODAY’S GOSPEL
Today’s gospel is rich in reflection. But I shall focus on just one aspect of marriage.
One of the most common causes of daily friction between spouses is simple nagging. It is one of the complaints of husbands against their wives. And this seemingly harmless wife-activity may even lead some men to adultery – for example, when the object of nagging is money.
Let me take this from two points of view. If your husband, because of your nagging, drives faster rather than slower, keeps the toothpaste uncovered, keeps the tank lever of the toilet bowl unflushed, shaves less frequently, not more, after your nagging – wives, perhaps, you can learn from the way animal trainers are able to make dolphins flip, elephants paint and sea lions to balance a ball on the end of their nose. If your husband throws one dirty shirt in a hamper, say “thank you.” If he throws in two, kiss him. Let him bask in your appreciation and he will gladly do things voluntarily now compared to when you were still an incessant nagger.
Just remember that no marriage is perfect. It is a commitment to value and accept your spouse – in all his or her irritable glory – for the rest of your life. Accept your spouse for who they are, not who you want them to be. You cannot make a person become a good conversationalist, a docile yes-person, a do-it-all McGyver, or a gym rat like you. Find out what your spouses’ strengths are and focus on that.
Divorce or separation, as the case may be, should not be an option at all if two people work hard to make a marriage work. Judith Wallerstein in her book “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce” says that barring physical abuse, substance addiction, and other severe pathologies that cannot be tolerated in any home, if the children’s welfare is concerned, a lousy marriage is much better than a great divorce.
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