Saturday, July 12, 2008

"If you look at a woman to desire her..." TOB 40

In chapter 2 of TOB John Paul the Great shifts from the creation account to Jesus' sermon on the mount. The passage that he analyzes is Matt 5:27-28:27

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.RSV

The word that is used for "lustfully" is better translated as "desire." Two other places where the word desire is used would be : Genesis 3:16 and Genesis 4:7. Take a look at the texts:

Gen 3:16 To the woman he said,"I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing;in pain you shall bring forth children,yet your desire shall be for your husband,and he shall rule over you." RSV

Gen 4:17 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." RSV

In both of the cases in Genesis, the word desire is used to describe a taking. JPTG gives a great definition of concupiscent desire in 40:1:

Concupiscent "desire," I would say, is the deception of the human heart with regard to the perennial call of man and woman to communion through ta reciprocal gift--a call that has been revealed in the very mystery of creation. Thus, when in the Sermon on the Mount Christ refers to "the heart" or to the inner man, his words do not cease to be charged with that truth about the "beginning," to which he had referred the whole problem of man, woman, and marriage in the answer to the Pharisees (see Mt. 19:8).

Notice that JPTG is not saying that concupiscent desire is completely opposite from that which God intended in the "beginning." We are supposed to desire our spouses. But we are to desire them in the way that we desire communion with God. We must first be willing to give ourselves before we can receive. When we "desire" to take something, we destroy the gift. One of the consequences of original sin is that we take something that is good and treat it as an end in and of itself, thereby foregoing the very thing that God has for us. We reduce the marital act to a physical exchange rather than a communion of persons.

JPTG is trying to tell us that our intentions are as great as our actions.

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