13 June – Friday in Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19:9a. 11-16
Then the word of the Lord came to him saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ Then he was told, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ Then the Lord himself went by. There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then a voice came to him, which said, ‘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.’
‘Go,’ the Lord said, ‘go back by the same way to the wilderness of Damascus. You are to go and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. You are to anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and to anoint Elisha son of Shaphat, of Abel Meholah, as prophet to succeed you.
Jesus said, ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.
‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’
If a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery.
What a challenging statement this is for us who live in today’s society. Everywhere we turn, sex and lust are marketed to us in some medium or another – in the form of advertisements, movies, television programmes, novels, and music, to name a few. I am not a man so I admit that I do not understand the heightened challenges men must face but I can only imagine that it would be very hard not to lust when our culture frames “sex” and “lust” in such attractive ways.
Nonetheless, Jesus does not bend the rules for us. He does not allow us to make excuses for our “lustful” behaviours. If we lust, we have sinned. There are no exceptions and we cannot blame anyone or anything but ourselves. Although our culture and the media may weaken our defenses through their taunting, the choice to lust belongs to us and us alone. This may portray a very gloomy picture for those who are seeking purity of heart but are finding it hard to do so. After all, aren’t we the victims to media and our culture? Why can’t Jesus be more understanding?
I once heard, however, that this statement was not said by Jesus to put us down; rather it was, and remains, a piece of Good News because by proclaiming this statement, Jesus assures us that purity is possible in our world today. With the increasing popularity of Theology of the Body (a Good News reflection on our sexuality, sex, and marriage by Pope John Paul II, and led by Christopher West), we are witnessing one way where we can learn to lead pure and holy lives.
In the words of Viktor Frankl (1946), a famous psychologist who went through the Nazi concentration camp, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Even though our sexual desires have been twisted by sin and the world, we can ask our Lord Jesus to help us experience our sexuality in the way He has created it to be. When we do so, be assured that He will answer our prayers. The road to purity is definitely more challenging than the road to lust and impure behaviours. However, if we embark on this harder road with courage and keep our eyes on Jesus, we will ultimately find all that we are seeking: healing, peace, reconciliation, joy, dignity, and freedom.
(Today’s reflection by Jean Cheng)
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for the gift of my sexual desires. I give this twisted, lustful desire to you and I ask you, please, by the power of your death and resurrection, to untwist in me what sin has twisted so that I might come to experience my sexual desire as you created it to be. (Prayer said by Christopher West whenever he struggles to remain pure in his heart – which can be many times a day.)
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to those who, through their willingness to endure the struggles of leading a virtuous life, have shown us and given us hope that purity and chastity is possible for each one of us.
14 June, Sat -1 Kings 19:19-21; Matthew 5:33-37
15 June, Sun – Exodus 19:2-6a; Romans 5:6-11; Matthew 9:36-10:8; Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
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