SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1KGS 19:9, 11-16; MT 5:27-32  ]

The gospel text today might sound rather harsh and exacting. What does Jesus really mean when He said, “If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” and “if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away”?  Does He really expect us to do such a thing as to maim ourselves?

On the contrary, Jesus wants us to have the fullness of life.  What does this fullness of life entail?  Life consists of relationships.  We will find meaning in life only when there is relationship, a relationship that is right and proper both with God and with our neighbours.  Indeed, this is the only goal in life that is worth our sacrifice.  Wealth and status cannot give us life. Only love and authentic relationship can give us life.

It is within this context that we can understand why Jesus spoke against adultery.  He went even further to say that “everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”   In the understanding of Jesus, adultery, which is infidelity in relationship, is the worst sin because it hurts not only the sinner but others as well.  We all know so well that because of adultery, many sins arise.  We have lies, anger, hatred and even violence. We have so many broken families and dysfunctional children today because of infidelity.  Appropriately, adultery is often used in scriptures to portray man’s relationship with God as well.  The truth is that infidelity in human relationship also affects our relationship with God.  After all, love of God is intrinsically tied down to the love of man.

Consequently, since relationship is critical for happiness in life, the demand of Jesus is that we cut away anything that will hinder us from living the full gospel life.   We must do everything within our power to avoid the occasion of sin.  Just as we need to amputate a certain part of the body in order to save a person, all the more, we must be ready to part with anything that can cause us to break our relationship with God, the author of life and love, because we fail to love our fellowmen correctly.  What is the use of having something at the expense of a greater thing?

And the truth is that everything begins from the heart, including evil desires.  The heart is the place not only of the emotions, but the mind, will, thought, and intentions as well.  The heart sums up the being of the human person. But in truth too, the heart desires evil things only because of what the heart sees, both physically and intellectually.  The heart, which is the will, desires an object.

That is why the sin of adultery must first be dealt with in the heart.   But quite often it all begins with the eyes, for the eyes cause us to desire a certain good and the hands cause us to act.  The eyes will send the message to the intellect and the head will tell the heart to desire it.  The heart in turn commands the intellect to tell the body to act.  This is true for lust.  Consequently, even if we do not act, the thought is sufficient to indicate the intention of the heart.  Given the opportunity to act, the action will follow.  This explains why even if one lusts after a woman in the heart, one has already committed adultery in principle.

Yes, we are all called to the apostolate of love.  In demanding that we cut off anything that prevents us from love and life, Jesus is also telling us that life cannot wait.  It requires a radical decision and commitment.  Life cannot be lived half-heartedly.  We cannot postpone living or postpone loving.  It is either a decision to live now or never.  We must make a radical commitment to life.   To delay is to say to ourselves that we do not want to live.  But that would be a contradiction.

Perhaps, love is too difficult for us.  Relationship is always difficult.  Love has to be purified.  Quite often in relationships, we feel like giving up.  At times, we fail.  This was the case of Elijah in the first reading.  He apparently was zealous for the House of Israel, but he was fleeing because the Queen wanted to take his life for slaying her 400 prophets.  On the surface, it seemed that this was the reason why he ran away.  God asked him three times “’What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I am filled with jealous zeal for the Lord of hosts, because the sons of Israel have deserted you, broken down your altars and put your prophets to the sword. I am the only one left and they want to kill me.’”

But the real reason was that he was angry with God for not working wonders as He did earlier to protect him from his enemies.  He had a secret and hidden resentment against God, because he was disappointed with the way God acted. He wanted God to make Himself present in theophany to prove His might and power.  But the Lord refused to make Himself present in the wind, earthquake or fire.  Instead, He came in a gentle breeze. It would appear that Elijah was fleeing because his enemies wanted to kill him, when In truth his real enemy was himself.

We, too, must never be discouraged in our struggles in relationship.  We must not be too harsh towards ourselves, especially in overcoming the sin of lust or in purifying our relationship with our spouse or our friends.   When Jesus asked us to check the motives, He was not simply concerned about the act itself but what goes on in our hearts.  What is even more important is to search our hearts.  Through mistakes that we make, we will learn and find the strength and wisdom to overcome our lack of love for our spouse and partners.  Just as God told Elijah who ran away from his enemies, the Lord is also saying to us, “Go, go back the same way to the wilderness of Damascus.”  In other words, let us never give up fighting the battle to purify our love for our spouse and friends.

Indeed, the high ideals of married life are difficult for the modern generation.  But to those who understand the truth and necessity of the unity and indissolubility of marriage, Jesus will give us the grace and power to follow His way of holiness in their state of life. He does not abandon us even when we forsake him. The Holy Spirit will help us to overcome all things.   What we need to do is to follow Elijah, to spend time in contemplation of His love and His word, so that in the silence of our hearts, God will give us His assurance of love and grace.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved

Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.

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