Daily Reflection

Purity, Divorce, and Prayer in the Old and New Covenants

June 14, 2024 | Friday
  • Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
  • Matthew 5:27-32

    1 Kings 19:9a, 11-16

    Psalm 27:7-8a, 8b-9abc, 13-14

    Matthew 5:27-32


    Jesus said to his disciples:

    “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.

    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.

    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 to have your whole body go into Gehenna.


    “It was also said,

    Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.

    But I say to you,

    whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful)

    causes her to commit adultery,

    and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”


    Opening Prayer: Lord God, I desire each day to encounter you in prayer. I find you in your Word and in the depths and garden of my heart. I hear your gentle voice as you walk with me and fill me with your Spirit.


    Encountering the Word of God


    1. Old Covenant Payer in Genesis: The episode with Elijah, in the First Reading, is an eloquent testimony to the reality of our encounter with God in prayer. In a certain sense, Elijah represents a culminating moment in the prayer of the Old Testament: the wind, the earthquake, the fire, and God passing by, all recall other episodes of prayerful encounters between God and his people. The story of Adam and Eve in the garden before the fall suggests a close relationship between God and his children. The garden was the habitual place of encounter between God and man. After the fall, we are told that God was walking in the garden in the cool breeze of the day (Genesis 3:8). After the fall, man’s relationship with God continues: in the offering of the first-born of Abel’s flock, in the invocation of the divine name at the time of Enoch (Genesis 4:26), in Enoch’s and Noah’s walking with God (Genesis 5:24; 6:9), and in Noah's offering that was pleasing to God (Genesis 8:20-21) (CCC, 2569). God walks with us. He is present to us and desires that we enter into prayerful communion with him. 


    2. The Old Covenant Prayer of Moses and Elijah: The First Reading also recalls the encounters between God and Moses. God called to Moses from the fire of the burning bush. At the foot of Mount Sinai, there was thunder and lightning, smoke, fire, and an earthquake (Exodus 19:16-18). Later on, when Moses asks to see God's glory, God responds: “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord;’ and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” God placed Moses in a cleft of a rock and covered him until he passed by. God removed his hand, allowing Moses to see his back, but did not show him his face. Elijah does not encounter God in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but rather in a gentle, whispering breeze. The Catechism connects Elijah’s experience with that of Moses and the Transfiguration: “Taking the desert road that leads to the place where the living and true God reveals himself to his people, Elijah, like Moses before him, hides ‘in a cleft of the rock’ until the mysterious presence of God has passed by. But only on the mountain of the Transfiguration will Moses and Elijah behold the unveiled face of him whom they sought; ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God [shines] in the face of Christ,’ crucified and risen” (CCC, 2584).


    3. New Covenant Prayer and Life: Today’s Psalm invites us to pray: “I long to see your face, O Lord.” Our longing and waiting for the Lord is answered in the coming of Jesus Christ. The law of the Old Covenant was incapable of reconciling us with God; the New Covenant, established by Jesus Christ, fulfills and perfects the Old Law. The New Law, the Catechism teaches, is the grace of the Holy Spirit: it is a law of love because it makes us act out of love infused by the Holy Spirit; it is a law of grace because it confers the strength of grace to act; it is the law of freedom because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law (CCC, 1972). In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus brings about a fundamental revision of the way of understanding and carrying out the moral law of the Old Covenant. Yesterday, we saw his revision of the Fifth commandment. Today, Jesus addresses the sixth commandment. Tomorrow, Jesus takes up the eighth commandment. In his revision, Jesus brings the Old Law to fulfillment for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. He challenges the New People of God to a righteousness that surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees. In particular, we are challenged to live a radical interior purity: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Purity of heart means life according to what the Spirit wants and not according to what the flesh wants (Romans 8:5-10; Galatians 5:19-23). In this way, through life according to the Spirit and by praying in union with the Son, we truly enter into communion with God.


    Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, teach me how to pray as I ought. I do not want to multiply words unnecessarily. I want a true relationship with you. I will praise you and give you thanks for all you have done. I will ask you for what I need according to your Father’s will. I will beg for forgiveness and mercy when I fail and sin against you.


    Living the Word of God: How is my life of prayer? When do I pray best? In the morning or in the evening? On the weekend? Do I see prayer as conversing with God, having a conversation with a friend who loves me? What is God asking me to do to improve my life of prayer?

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