Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
(1 Kings 19:9a.11-16; Matthew 5:27-32)
Of the longings of the human heart sexual desire takes a primary place. Beyond intimacy, men want to dominate women and to use them for self-propagation. Women seek to manipulate men for protection and for children to mother. Jesus addresses this mutual exploitation with his commandments in today’s gospel.
Once again Jesus calls for a change of heart. His disciples have to avoid lust, the inordinate desire for sexual pleasure. Desire becomes inordinate when one seeks sexual relations with someone other than his wife or her husband. Desire also looms inordinate when it views one’s wife or husband as an object for sexual pleasure. As Jesus’ instruction on divorce indicates, spouses are to cherish one another. Marriage commits two people to love one another in order to raise children in the likeness of God.
Jesus equating lust with adultery has caused many people to feel a burden of guilt. Is such guilt warranted? We think so. It is not that we want people to feel bad about themselves. To the contrary, we want people to feel accomplished by foregoing pernicious desires. Lust can lead people beyond adultery to abandonment of family. By itself, it redirects a person from his or her primary responsibilities to dwell on fantasies. Although painful, guilt moves one to repentance. It is part of the journey to holiness.