1. Continuing our cycle, let us
take up again today the Sermon on the Mount, and the statement:
"Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed
adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:28). Jesus appeals here to
In his talk with the Pharisees,
referring to the "beginning" (cf. the preceding analyses), Jesus
uttered the following words with regard to the certificate of
divorce: "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to
divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Mt
19:8). This sentence undoubtedly contains an accusation.
"Hardness of heart"(1) indicates what, according to the ethos of
the people of the Old Testament, had brought about the situation
contrary to the original plan of God-Yahweh in Genesis 2:24.
There we must seek the key to interpret the whole legislation of
Israel in the sphere of marriage and, in the wider sense, in
relations between man and woman as a whole. Speaking of hardness
of heart, Christ accuses the whole "interior subject" who is
responsible for the distortion of the law. In the Sermon on the
Mount (Mt 5:27-28), he also refers to the heart, but the words
pronounced here do not seem only to accuse.
2. We must reflect on them once
more, placing them as far as possible in their historical
dimension. The analysis made so far—aimed at highlighting the
man of lust in his genetic moment, almost at the initial point
of his history interwoven with theology—constitutes an ample
introduction, especially an anthropological one, to the work
that must still be undertaken. The following stage of our
analysis will have an ethical character.
The Sermon on the Mount, and in
particular that passage we have chosen as the center of our
analyses, is part of the proclamation of the new ethos, the
ethos of the Gospel. In the teaching of Christ, it is deeply
connected with awareness of the "beginning," namely with the
mystery of creation in its original simplicity and richness. At
the same time, the ethos that Christ proclaims in the Sermon on
the Mount is realistically addressed to historical man, who has
become the man of lust. Lust in its three forms is the heritage
of all humanity, and the human heart really participates in it.
Christ knows "what is in every
man" (cf. Jn 2:25).(2) He cannot speak in any other way than
with this awareness. From this point of view, in the words of
Matthew 5:27-28 it is not the accusation that prevails but the
judgment, a realistic judgment on the human heart. It is a
judgment which has both an anthropological foundation and a
directly ethical character. For the ethos of the Gospel it is a
3. In the Sermon on the Mount,
Christ directly addresses the man who belongs to a well defined
society. The Master, too, belongs to that society, to that
people. So we must look in Christ's words for a reference to the
facts, the situations and the institutions which he was familiar
with in everyday life. These references must be analyzed at
least in a summary way, so that the ethical meaning of the words
of Matthew 5:27-28 may emerge more clearly.
However, with these words,
Christ also addresses, in an indirect but real way, every
historical man (understanding this adjective mainly in a
theological sense). This man is precisely the man of lust, whose
mystery and whose heart is known to Christ. "For he himself knew
what was in man" (Jn 2:25). The Sermon on the Mount enables us
to contact the interior experience of this man almost at every
geographical latitude and longitude, in the various ages, in the
different social and cultural conditionings. The man of our time
feels called by name with this statement of Christ, no less than
the man of that time, whom the Master was addressing directly.
4. The universality of the
Gospel, which is not at all a generalization, lies in this.
Perhaps precisely in this statement of Christ, which we are
analyzing here, this is manifested with particular clarity. By
virtue of this statement, the man of all times and all places
feels called, in an adequate, concrete and unrepeatable way.
This is because Christ appeals to the human heart, which cannot
be subject to any generalization. With the category of the
heart, everyone is characterized individually, even more than by
name. Everyone is reached in what determines him in a unique and
unrepeatable way, and is defined in his humanity from within.
5. The image of the man of lust
concerns his inner being in the first place.(3) The history of
the human heart after original sin is written under the pressure
of lust in its three forms. Even the deepest image of ethos in
its various historical documents is also connected with this
lust. However, that inner being is also the force that decides
exterior human behavior, and also the form of multiple
structures and institutions at the level of social life. If we
deduce the content of ethos, in its various historical
formulations, from these structures and institutions, we always
meet this inner aspect, characteristic of the interior image of
man. This is the most essential element. Christ's words in the
Sermon on the Mount, especially those of Matthew 5:27-28,
indicate it unmistakably. No study on human ethos can regard it
Therefore, in our subsequent
reflections, we shall try to analyze in a more detailed way that
statement of Christ which says: "You have heard that it was
said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that
everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed
adultery with her in his heart" (or "has already made her
adulterous in his heart").
To understand this text better,
we shall first analyze its single parts, so as to obtain
afterward a deeper overall view. We shall take into
consideration not only those for whom it was intended at that
time, those who actually heard the Sermon on the Mount, but
also, as far as possible, modern men, the men of our time.
1) The Greek term sklerokardía
was formed by the authors of the Septuagint to express what in
the Hebrew meant: "non-circumcision of the heart" (cf. e.g., Dt
10:16; Jer 4:4; Sir 3:26f.) and which, in the literal
translation of the New Testament, appears only once (cf. Acts
Non-circumcision meant "paganism," "immodesty," "distance from
the covenant with God"; "non-circumcision of the heart"
expressed unyielding obstinacy in opposing God. This is
confirmed by the exclamation of the deacon Stephen: "You
stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always
resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you" (Acts
2) Cf. Rv 2:23: "....he who
searches mind and heart..."; Acts 1:24: "Lord, who knows the
hearts of all men..." (kardiognostes).
3) "For out of the heart come
evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false
witness, slander. These are what defile a man..." (Mt 15:19-20).
Taken from: L'Osservatore
Romano Weekly Edition in English 11 August 1980,page1
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