Thursday, March 26, 2009

Theology of the Body Reflections - Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery

There are a lot of life issues going on right now. At least I won't have to worry about not having a topic to write about anytime soon. Despite all these current issues, I'd like to take the time to do another reflection on my readings on the Theology of the Body. The issue I'd like to discuss in my reflection today centers around the seventh commandment, thou shall not commit adultery. If you are following along with me, this reflection covers Chapter 2, Speeches 34 - 38.

JPII does a marvelous job explaining this section and I really don't have to do much interpretation, but more of just repeating what JPII said. Sometimes his words can be hard to follow because he was so knowledgeable and spoke in such intelligent language, but this section I found to be very clear. I had many thoughts as I read these speeches and I think I can make some good comparisons with what is going on in the world today. Some problems remain in society from age to age and sometimes new problems arise when old problems fade. We'll talk more about this shortly.

The topic is adultery. Adultery has been around a long, long time. It was a huge problem back in the time of Moses; this was reinforced when it was listed as one of the ten commandments Moses received from God. Adultery is still a problem today and it was a problem in the time of Jesus. As JPII often does, he takes a look at a couple of different passages from the bible to help explain the deeper meaning of adultery. Let's take a look at the passages JPII quoted.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish but to fulfill" (Mt 5:17). This is one of the most important passages in the entire bible. In fact, it is the backbone of our Christian belief. We believe, as Jesus says here so clearly, that the New Testament fulfills the Old Testament. The Old Testament has many great writings and prophets, but much of the Old Testament teachings were (and continue to be) misinterpreted by people. Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament. He came to speak the truth so that we might be able to understand the Old and New Testament. Jesus is the truth. What he says IS, so when he speaks all must listen. One of the teachings that was widely misunderstood during the time of Jesus (and still is today) was that of adultery.

"Because of the hardness of your heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Mt 19:8). Once again we see Jesus appealing to the beginning. The beginning is how God intended things to be, not what they have become. Because God gave us the gift of free will, we chose sin and that sin has clouded our understanding of many things and led to the deformation of the Law. Divorce is something created by man not by God. God intended for man and woman to be joined as one flesh. Jesus says that "because of the hardness of your heart" did Moses allow divorce. Jesus explains how and by what means we can deform the law in our minds. He appeals to our hearts, not just our outside appearance or signs. Just as man deformed God's purpose for man and woman to become one flesh in marriage, so has man deformed the meaning and severity of the law against adultery.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'" (Mt 5:27). The Sermon on the Mount was directed toward listeners who were the Chosen People, people who had received the law from God. These people knew the law, but they did not really know the law. They knew the law as they came to understand the law, not as the law was intended by God. In the beginning, God made everything and it was good. God established the law from the beginning, and so the law created by the Divine Legislator, God, was all good. The law had been misinterpreted and Jesus points this out as we see in the following line spoken by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

"But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:28). Imagine what kind of reaction Jesus received when he spoke these words. He tells me that even a look is adulterous? This certainly wasn't the teaching they heard before concerning adultery. JPII explains how the Chosen People since the time of Abraham put into practice a "casuistic interpretation of the law". He continues, "The abandonment of monogamy… was dictated by the desire for offspring, for numerous offspring." Isn't this so ironic? It is to me. We are currently in a culture that looks down on people for having children. Instead of sinning out of a desire for children, we now see great sin in the form of preventing children through widespread usage of birth control, and we are even going so far as to killing the innocent child in the womb. The later issue is more disturbing if you ask me, but we'll tackle that issue several more times in later posts I'm sure. In Old Testament times, it was a widely accepted practice for husbands to have concubines who would give them children that his wife could not provide. Even the lives of some of the illustrious representatives of Israel after Moses such as David and Solomon attest to the practice of polygamy. Adultery was seen only as a man taking possession of another's wife, not the possession of other women in addition to their wife. So when Jesus speaks about adultery as being a sin committed in one's heart, it must have been a shock to many.

In the Old Testament, prophets used an analogy when explaining adultery. While the analogy is a good one; Israel was the adulterous bride when it worshiped false Idols and God was the groom, it was an analogy that helped one understand the seventh commandment but it failed to address the interpretation of adultery itself. An analogy is good, but it never fully explains that which it intends. For example, a common analogy for the Church is Body of Christ. While this is a good analogy, it does not fully explain the true meaning and role of the Church. The Chosen People of God understood the seventh commandment through good, but not complete, analogies. Jesus explained adultery by confronting adultery itself. This is hard for many people to accept or understand, but the truth is often hard for us to accept or understand. Jesus never said that following Him would be easy.

God knows what is in our heart, and truth does not change as man's interpretation of the law changes. Unfortunately, since the original sin of our first parents, man has always tried to interpret the truth instead of accepting the truth. Man can discover truths revealed by God, but man can not create a truth. This desire to interpret a truth to suit our wants and needs is in our sinful nature. We must resist this urge, because we can't outsmart God. This does not mean that we should not use our brain. We have a brain for a reason. We should use our brain to help us discover the truth and to continue to learn more about our faith. God knows what is in our hearts and in our minds. Although we may not recognize it as such, our heart and mind is more often the culprit of sin than any action. Adultery is more than just cheating on your wife. Unmarried men and women can commit adultery just as well as married men and women commit adultery. Adultery is a denial of the original meaning of the body. Adultery is selfishness. Adultery is lust. Adultery is denial of a chaste single life and a denial of a monogamous married life. Adultery is a denial of gift of self and gift to self. Adultery is a denial of the sacredness of our body and the sacredness of others. If we think about adultery in these terms, we can better understand the theology of the body and the complexity and great challenge God presents us with the seventh commandment; thou shall not commit adultery.

If you haven't done so already, don't forget to sign the petition at to protest Obama's scheduled commencement address at Notre Dame. Also don't forget about the Provider Conscience Clause. For more news on these issues and other pressing issues please visit the sites I have listed in my recommended links. I am forming some really exciting ideas on ways that I can do more to promote the culture of life. I am in the early planning stage, but I fully intend to make this idea become a reality. More about this is sure to come so stay attentive. I am at peace despite all of the negative news I've been reading, because I know God is in charge. I can not bear the weight of all the sins of this world and nor can any other individual. We must speak up when we see wrongdoing, we must act on our faith, we must pray continuously and the rest is out of our hands. God will see our efforts and maybe through the grace of God we might be able to convert others to the side of life. God bless!

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