June 14, 2019
by Andy Alexander, S.J.
Creighton University's Collaborative Ministry Office
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 363

2 Corinthians 4:7-15
Psalms 116:10-11, 15-16, 17-18
Matthew 5:27-32

Praying Ordinary Time

Prayers for Fathers and Husbands

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Rediscovering Corporal Works of Mercy

We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us
. 2 Corinthians 4

"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." Matthew 5

These are powerful readings. Paul really articulates something we all experience - feeling fragil, as fragile as a clay pot. And, he reminds us that we hold a treasure in this clay pot - this body of clay we are - for a purpose: that we might live with a humble sense that the "surpassing power" we possess comes from God and not from our own abilities. What is the great power, we might ask?

We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.

We can feel afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, always carrying within us the dying of Jesus, and yet be filled with hope, not feeling abandoned or destroyed. We can feel that the very life of Jesus may be shown through us.

It is an amazing message of hope. Each of us can fill in the blanks to identify where we are feeling quite like an earthen vessel, and we can all be consoled to realize that we carry a treasure of hope in this fragil pot.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew is taking us deeper , beyond the Ten Commandments. He's saying, "You have heard this, but I say to you ..." In this section, he's reminding us of the commandment to not commit adultry. And, he is calling us to face the heart of the issue itself - lust - specifically, lust in our heart, even with our eyes.

Using the power of hyperbole, he says that if our eye or hand causes us to sin - basically to give in to lust, that is, to want something I can't or shouldn't have - then we should put a stop to the lust. Jesus reminds us that lust is deadly for us and it is better to experience the challenge of dying to this addiction that to face eternal death.

We can cringe when he talks about adultry and divorce. Jesus isn't insensitive to the great tragedies that lead to divorce today. He's trying to challenge the Jewish tradition which gave all the advantage to the man. In today's language we'd say that a sacramental marriage - one which mirrors Christ's own love and fidelity for his Church - should last forever. Of course, we recognize that not every marriage is a sacrament. That's why we have anullments. Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, on "The Joy of Love," following the Synod on the Family, gives a full treatment of the Churches' teaching on marriage and on difficult situations.

For all of us, however, there can be fruit in reflecting on what Jesus says in cautioning us about lust in this culture we live in today. There is a chastity that all of us are called to, in which we are called to give witness to what is is to regard each human person with dignity and reverence, never to be seen or used as an object of my pleasure or needs. We can pray for the healing our world's need to return to respecting each and every person as a child of God. As we each move in that direction, with freedom, it will be so much easier to appreciate and love one another, the same way our Lord loves each of us. A great desire to pray for.

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