Lectio Divina: Matthew 5:27-32
1) Opening prayer
God of wisdom and love,
source of all good,
send Your Spirit to teach us Your truth
and guide our actions
in Your way of peace.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 5:27-32
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. 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. "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."
• In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus offered a rereading of the commandment: “Do not kill” (Mt 5:20-26). In today’s Gospel Jesus rereads the commandment “You shall not commit adultery.” Jesus rereads the law starting from the intention that God had which was proclaimed centuries before on Mount Sinai. He seeks the spirit of the Law and does not limit himself to the letter. He takes up again and defends the great values of human life which constitute the background of each one of these Ten Commandments. He insists on love, on fidelity, on mercy, on justice, on truth, on humanity (Mt 9:13; 12:7; 23:23; Mt 5:10; 5:20; Lk 11:42; 18:9). The result of the full observance of the Law of God humanizes the person. In Jesus we can see what happens when a person allows God to fill his life. The last objective is that of uniting both loves and the building up of fraternity in defense of life. The greater the fraternity, the greater will be the fullness of life and greater will be the adoration given by all creatures to God, Creator and Savior.
• In today’s Gospel, Jesus looks closely at the man-woman relationship in marriage, a fundamental basis of human living together. There was a commandment which said, “Do not commit adultery” and another one which said, “Anyone who divorces his wife, has to give her a certificate of divorce.” Jesus takes up again both commandments, giving them a new meaning.
• Matthew 5:27-28: Do not commit adultery. What does this commandment require from us? The ancient response was: a man cannot sleep with somebody else’s wife. This was demanded by the letter of the commandment. But Jesus goes beyond, surpasses the letter and says, “But I say to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
The objective of the commandment is reciprocal fidelity between man and woman who assume life together, as a married couple. This fidelity will be complete only if both know how to be faithful to one another in thought and in desire and have a total transparency between them.
• Matthew 5:29-30: Tear out your eye and cut off your hand. To illustrate what Jesus has just said, He states a hard word which He uses on another occasion when He speaks of scandal to little ones (Mt 18:9; Mk 9:47). He says that if your right eye should be your downfall tear it out and throw it away, for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have to have your whole body thrown into hell. He affirms the same thing concerning the hand. These affirmations cannot be taken literally. They indicate the radical nature and the seriousness with which Jesus insists on the observance of this commandment. It means that if something in your life is causing you to sin, get rid of it!
Today there are many things which might drive or tempt us to sin, or to consider sin. It may be the Internet, a television show, money, etc. These things expose us to consider sinning perhaps, and if so, are best removed from our life in order "To be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect!” (Mt 5:48). To rephrase Jesus’ advice in today’s language: “if the TV causes you to sin, or tempts you to sin, or teaches you how to sin, turn the TV off!”
• Matthew 5:31-32: The question of divorce. The man was permitted to give a certificate of divorce to the woman. In the discourse of the community, Jesus will say that Moses permitted this because the people were hardhearted (Mt 19:8). “But I say to you: anyone who divorces his wife, give her a certificate of divorce; but I say to you: anyone who divorces his wife, except in the case of concubinage, exposes her to adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” There has been much discussion on this theme. Basing itself on this affirmation of Jesus, the Eastern Church permits divorce in case of “fornication,” that is, of infidelity. Others say that here the word fornication is the translation of an Aramaic or Hebrew word zenuth which indicated a marriage among people who were relatives, and which was forbidden. It would not be a valid marriage. In the Western Church as well, this only applies to valid marriages and where both parties are capable of understanding what marriage means, that it is not just a “lifestyle”. Where the marriage is not valid, there is not a divorce.
• Leaving aside the correct interpretation of this word, what is important is to see the objective and the general sense of the affirmation of Jesus in the new reading which is done of the Ten Commandments. Jesus speaks about an ideal which should always be before my eyes. The definitive ideal is “to be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). This ideal is valid for all the commandments reviewed by Jesus. In the rereading of the commandment “Do not commit adultery,” this ideal is translated as transparency, honesty, and chastity between husband and wife. However, nobody can say, “I am perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect.” We can never merit the reward because we can never be perfect. What is important is to continue walking on the road and always turn our eyes toward the ideal. At the same time, as Jesus did, we have to accept people with the same mercy with which He accepted people and directed them toward the ideal.
4) Personal questions
• How do you live in society today, with a constant flow of advertising based on immodesty, and still live within the advice of Jesus?
• How is this to be understood: “to be perfect like the Heavenly Father is perfect?”
5) Concluding Prayer
Of You my heart has said,
“Seek His face!” Your face, Yahweh, I seek;
do not turn away from me.
Do not thrust aside Your servant in anger;
without You I am helpless.
Never leave me, never forsake me, God, my Savior.