Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said, .
But I say to you,
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 to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
Of the five senses – sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch – sight is the coolest, the most distant. Sexually, little happens there; but, oddly, sex today is all about looking.
Real sexuality has little to do with appearances. Its real triggers are touch and smell, two things that modern people avoid like the kiss of death. Body odors of any kind are considered offensive. We might want to hear and see each other but generally prefer to stay beyond the range of smell.Touching, too, is best avoided. I’ve watched school children pile into church pews. The smaller ones can seat a dozen in one pew, shoulder to shoulder. If one squirms they all squirm. The larger sixth graders still sit shoulder to shoulder, eight or ten to a pew. But adults often prefer one person per pew! Even taking a seat in the same pew with a stranger in an otherwise empty church might be read as invasive or threatening. (During the "sign of peace" they wave to each other!)
What happened between the sixth grade and adulthood? Obviously, sexuality – puberty, menstruation and the discovery of desire. It's best avoided.
Our culture is all about the visual, from the movie to the television and the computer monitor. Many people visiting our national parks never get out of the car; they watch the out-of-doors from air-conditioned comfort. In a society focused on the visual, drawing most of its pleasure from the cool, uninvolved distance of watching, Jesus’ warning about adulterous looking is explosive. We have invested billions in looking. People go to jail for looking.
Entertainers go to extreme lengths to look desirable. Even singers whose asset is supposed to be the voice and musicians who make instrumental sounds must dress and act seductively for the impassive camera, in the desperate hope that someone, lured by sex into watching, might also like their sound. Because it is so cool, people can watch for hours, disengaged and disinterested.
It is good to sit before the Blessed Sacrament, an icon or crucifix and to gaze upon that beauty. Jesus has warned us against gazing with lust; it can only leave us deeply wounded. Resting our eyes on a sacred image we touch the holy and are healed.