On Adultery and Divorce

Matthew 5: 27- 32
1 Kgs 19: 9a,11-16/ Ps 27: 7-9, 13-14

He who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
(Matthew 5:28)

As metal is no match to rust,
The most corrosive sin is lust;
On your volition put no trust,
Shun temptation, run if you must.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5: 27-32)


After His discourse on the 5th commandment, Jesus now expounds the sixth commandment. Both of these commandments concern the grievous sin of murder. While the former is about killing the body, adultery is about killing the soul. While the former commits the sin against another, the latter inflicts the crime upon himself. That is why it is better to lose a sinful part of one’s body than to have his entire existence consigned to damnation because of it.

Our Lord made His point very dramatic in order to impress the gravity of the carnal sin, but I doubt if He was merely being hyperbolic. He really meant what He said. One who degrades the body of another by leering looks and lascivious thoughts just as surely harms his own body far more than actually gouging out his eye or cutting off his hand.

It is the sanctity of marriage that Jesus is protecting here. This love relationship is what Satan wants to destroy ever since Christ instituted it. He employs the twin scourges of adultery and divorce to this end. Jesus knows how vulnerable we are to the devil’s tricks, and how desirable to the human eye is the forbidden fruit of fornication. That is why he wants us to nip the temptation in the bud when the occasion arises, and if need be, sacrifice an eye and a hand to preserve our eternal inheritance. St. Paul echoes this in his letter to the Corinthians: “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites…  shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9, 10).

Many of our young people today have fallen prey to the so-called ‘sexual revolution’, giving rise to the spread of transmittable diseases like AIDS and venereal disease, unwanted pregnancies and abortion. Their elders like to point their finger at the pornographic bent of the media, movies, and the internet. But have we ever seriously considered the example that we might be giving? We hesitate to teach them time-honored values like chastity lest we are branded as “old fashioned”. We have to let them know that the One we follow is and will never be “old fashioned”. Every time we welcome Him into our hearts in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we make sure that we are providing Him with a clean chamber, worthy of His pure nature. Once we have given Him a proper place within, then we can be sure that nothing impure can take up residence there again. This is an important lesson that we can teach our children. If they believe in Jesus Christ, I’m sure they will listen.

Thank You, Jesus, for Your lessons in fidelity and chastity, and for Your grace that helps preserve our marriage. Keep us strong against the temptation of adultery, as we pray for all marriages to prevail against the evil of divorce. Amen.

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