Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 363

You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Jesus' teaching about lust in the heart echoes the ancient teaching, familiar to every child who has attended Christian or Jewish education, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife."
The last two of the Ten Commandments are remarkable for their authority about what goes on in the invisible places in our hearts. Where the other eight commandments address public, visible behavior, "thou shalt not covet" addresses one's inner life and thoughts. That too is subject to God's scrutiny and judgement. That's because it does matter. What is whispered in the secrecy of my heart is inevitably shouted from the rooftop.

But we should approach this topic carefully. I don't believe "God is out to getcha if you don't watch out." No one can know what I am thinking, though many can speculate. For that matter, I might not notice what I am thinking! Ideas flit about in my head, seeming to enter by one ear and out the other. Some I take hold of, others I ignore, most vanish without a trace.
I learned years ago to pay little attention to the irrelevant in my head. Practicing meditation, I noticed that I put flags on certain thoughts. I had rules about what ideas were permitted in my head: I should not remember old quarrels; I should not replay movies or TV shows; I should not prepare my next sermon; and, most especially I should never-ever have a sexual image in my head! Relaxing in meditation, paying attention only to a single word of prayer, I learned to ignore everything else. Was I lusting in my heart while I meditated? I don't know; I didn't notice.
I have watched smokers rush for the door after a lecture. They put one foot across the sill and stopped to light up, even as traffic backed up behind them. I asked a fellow about that, "Were you thinking about your next smoke during that entire lecture?"
He denied it; it only came upon him as the session was ending. But the desire was there, hidden behind and eating away at his attention the whole while. What a cross that must be!
Lust is an equally heavy cross; but, apparently, it preoccupies an awful lot of people. Perhaps they meditate on it too much, arousing themselves with unnecessary anxieties, fears and desires. The entertainment culture tells us continually how important it is. They must suppose that sexual unease is normal; it's never okay to be okay.
We hear about the tragedy of harassment, sexual abuse, exploitation and rape daily. The culture tells us these behaviors are both normal and Unacceptable. The MeToo movement describes the continual anxiety of everyday life for many women: "A man worries that women might laugh at him; a woman worries a man might rape her."
Young people seem to be continually confused by mixed signals. When she smiled, he thought it was an invitation. But it was only a girl's habitual reaction to a bewildering situation. When she said yes he thought it meant yes, until it didn't.
Sexual anxiety causes many to struggle over their sexual identity. "What am I?" the young person asks, "Gay, straight, trans, metro, male, female...?"
I am quite sure my grandparents never worried about that. They got married; they had children; they died of old age and wondered why young people ask such odd questions.
Meanwhile, devout Christians sit in meditation, letting idle thoughts drift away, letting the Father of Jesus govern our minds. 
“Come to me, (Jesus says) all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Sex is just not that important.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.