Thursday, May 27, 2010

“But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5.28)

These words from our Lord are very difficult to hear especially in our 2010 context in which lust and physical pleasure are not to be seen as sinful by “society”. By today’s standards men and women are encouraged to freely experience their sexual passions with each other. Lust is a word not used by those who seek to normalize abnormal sexual tendencies and urges. And those who would suggest that physical sexual pleasure is to be subdued are considered old fashioned and out of touch with reality. Schools teach “safe sex” rather than “no sex” because ultimately “they are going to do it anyway.” But we cannot escape the commandment of our Lord that lust for another is no better than actually engaging in the behavior. This of course also plays a strong role in the dangers of pornography as people sit in the privacy of their own homes in front of their computers lusting after those displayed on their monitors.

But sexuality is not the only issue at hand in today’s Gospel reading. (Matthew 5.27-32) It is our responsibility to control our passions rather than give in to them. We live in a fallen world and are therefore tempted daily by the evil one to depart from our path toward God and theosis. Our Lord said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9.23 Matthew 16.24, Mark 8.35,) Our struggle to follow the Lord is a daily struggle and the Church offers us spiritual tools (disciplines) that help us to take control and maintain control of our physical passions.

When we embrace the spiritual discipline of fasting we are engaged in much more than a holy diet. When we fast, we place our spiritual journey ahead of our physical desires. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9.24) Another fasting season is almost upon us and we are yet again encouraged to step our spiritual struggle to defeat our passions. Beginning Monday, May 31, 2010, and ending with the Feast of the Holy Apostles on June 30, 2010, the Church teaches us to fast in honor of the Holy Apostles that received the Faith from Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and handed it down to the Church undefiled. The Holy Apostles taught us to “Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts” (The Didache of the Apostles). When we fast, we indeed abstain from these, while honoring the holy work accomplished by the Holy Apostles.

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