Reconciliation Lectionary: Matthew 5:27-32

mary-the-penitent.jpgThis piece of last Sunday’s Gospel got scant treatment from my pastor in his homily. Here’s why:

(W)e might focus on the saying about adultery and lust, about tearing your eye out and cutting off your limbs.  This is just one of many reasons why it is not a good idea to be a fundamentalist.

Jesus doesn’t talk about sex much in the Gospel, but when he does, it gets noticed:

“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.

Jesus is employing rabbinical exaggeration, so Scripture scholars say, a method of getting people’s attention to get them to reconsider a point that they had long taken as given.

Jesus is also urging us to go beyond the letter of the law. Adultery is bad, we all concede. But do we allow ourselves to hang out on the steps of that edifice of sin? Do we flirt on the boundaries, then draw back, satisfied we have given the appearance of virtue? The Lord seems to be telling us that holiness, what we should be striving for, goes to what is not seen and noticed by others.

“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.

This teaching on divorce is getting super-heated attention around the Catholic world these days. This very week, the octocards are in heads-together with Pope Francis, presumably talking about how we handle the reality of divorce and remarriage, our unforgivable sin.

Difficult readings, to be sure. But as Christians we have to confront the comfortable and the uncomfortable in the Scriptures. And of course, be aware that both our public and private lives are open to the scrutiny of our God.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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