10Jun 10 June. Friday, Week 10

1st Reading: 1 Kings 19:9-16

Elijah’s 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.”

Bible

Elijah’s Prayer

Today’s responsorial psalm is the prayer of one who sincerely seeks the true God. “It is your face, O Lord, that I seek.” We can identify with that psalm, because we are all to some extent seekers. What we are ultimately searching for is none other than God, the origin of our being and the final destiny of our lives. As St Augustine famously put it, “You have made us for yourself, o Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” It is the seeker in all of us that makes us pilgrims, on a journey towards the fully disclosed presence of our God. Elijah the prophet was clearly such a seeker as he set out on his journey to the mountain of God, Mount Sinai, or Mount Horeb, as it was also called. When he reached that mountain, he met the divine presence, but not in the way he would have expected. Within Elijah’s religious culture, it was thought God that God was found in the more extraordinary phenomena of nature, in fire or storm or earthquake. But on this occasion, God’s presence was revealed in a much more subtle and quiet way — in what the reading calls, “the sound of a gentle breeze.” Another modern translation of the phrase expresses it as a “sound of sheer silence.” Such sheer silence is not easy to come by in our noisy times with amplifiers blaring, or earphones in such constant use. Yet, it is in silence that the Lord can be most clearly heard. And since silence is not a salient feature of our modern culture, we often have to seek it out. To seek silence is, in a very real way, to seek the Lord, because it is in silence that we become most attuned to the Lord’s passing by.


Keep porn off our screens and bookshelves

The ideal of perfect chastity proposed by Jesus in this Gospel may cause some unease in light of today’s general laxity towards this virtue. Apart from the challenge to couples of remaining faithful to their marriage covenant, today’s Gospel sternly warns against unchaste thoughts and desires. Some time back, in a cover story about “The Sex Addiction Epidemic” Newsweek magazine flagged how rampant internet pornography has become and how it seems to prove addictive to many today. People have written about the cybersex compulsion and priests have noted anecdotally how one of the sins most mentioned by penitents is addiction to pornography, particularly on the internet.

It’s a big problem, and a big business. Online pornography is driven by three factors: 1. Anonymity (real or imagined); 2. availability (24/7); and 3. affordability (many sites are free or inexpensive). Various factors may be at work in drawing viewers to internet pornography, such as overwork, loneliness and an immature spirituality. For a workaholic, pornography may seem a risk-free stress-reliever; for a lonely or socially isolated person it may offer the illusion of intimate connection; and for an immature character it can be the shadow side of a double life, often marked by a perfect observance of external rules and rigid, black-and-white thinking. People with other addictive behaviours are at risk of adopting internet pornography as a form of self-medication.

Some may be scandalised or dismayed to imagine even priests and religious using internet pornography, particularly in light of our vow of chastity, a commitment to lifelong celibacy. But priests and religious are human too and need to take the same positive decision as others to resist this widespread miasma in our society. Pornography is a major symptom of the wide de-emphasis on the virtue of chastity in our day and age. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, (par. 2339) calls chastity an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. – We guard our dignity when, shaking off slavery to our baser passions, we press on with freely choosing what is good. Later it says: “The baptized must continue to struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires.”

It’s something to think about, as we pray to grow up in holiness.


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