13th June. Friday in the 10th Week
Saint Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church.
Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), born in Lisbon, Portugal, became a Franciscan in the early days of that order, and served as an itinerant preacher mainly in northern Italy; he died in Padua, near Venice. Noted for his forceful preaching and expert knowledge of scripture, he was named a Doctor of the Church in 1946. He is best known as an intercessor for finding things that are lost.
First Reading: 1 Kings 19:9-16
(Elijah’s priveleged encounter with God, at the cave on Mount Horeb)
Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.
Gospel: Matthew 5:27-32
(Jesus’ words about chastity, scandal and divorce.)
Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that 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 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 of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Keeping pornography our of our monitors
The words of Jesus about the ideal of perfect chastity will raise more than a little unrest, in light of today’s widespread laxity towards this virtue. Apart from the challenge to couples of remaining faithful to their marriage vows, there is his stern warning against unchaste thoughts and desires. A couple of years ago Newsweek magazine featured a cover story about “The Sex Addiction Epidemic” (December, 2011), highlighting the problem of internet pornography being so rampant and addictive to many people today. People have written about the cybersex compulsion and priests who hear confessions have noted anecdotally how one of the sins most frequently brought to the Sacrament of Penance is the use of pornography, particularly on the internet.
It’s a big problem, and a big business. The popularity of online pornography is primarily driven by three factors: 1. Anonymity (real or, more likely, imagined); 2. availability (24/7); and 3. affordability (many sites are free and most are relatively inexpensive). A number of factors may be at work in impelling people to use internet pornography, such as overwork, loneliness and an immature spirituality. For the workaholics pornography may seem a risk-free stress-reliever; for those who are lonely or socially anxious it may give the illusion of being connected with others; and for the spiritually immature it can be the shadow side of a double life, one often marked by the seemingly perfect observance of external rules and rigid, black-and-white thinking. People with other addictive behaviours are at risk of adopting internet pornography as yet another form of self-medication.
People may express scandal or dismay when they hear of priests and religious using internet pornography, particularly in light of our vow of chastity or commitment to celibacy. But priests and religious are human too and need to take the same decision to resist this widespread miasma, just like everyone else in our society. Pornography is a problem; but it’s a symptom of a wide de-emphasis on the virtue of chastity in our day and age. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in par. 2339 calls chastity an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. … We gains our full dignity when, getting rid of slavery to the passions, we press forward to our goal, by freely choosing what is good. Later, in par. 2520 (“The Battle for Purity”) we find: “The baptized must continue to struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires.”