Step 4 of “73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God”
4. Not to commit adultery…
Sex and worship are bedfellows. It is not without reason that those concerned about the spiritual life are the same people who seem to struggle the most with sins of the flesh. Both are fueled by passion and the goal of the spiritual life is to channel that energy in the right direction. Every thing has it’s rightful place in life.
The first question that arises in regard to this injunction, is why would St. Benedict feel a monk needed to hear this? The answer of course, is that no one is beyond the realm of the temptation of any sin. In this case a monk who left the monastery to be with another was committing adultery.
But a wider application of this maxim is that at the heart of adultery is a search for something that no human being can offer us, that sense of deep satisfaction that we truly belong.
The desire that we all feel to be loved and to belong is something that we will live with our entire lives. The connection that we feel with another human being or community is capable of giving a foretaste to the communion that we seek, but incomplete at the same time. A person who confuses the incompleteness of this sought after communion, and believes that it could be gained by going off in search for it somewhere else, is deceived.
The effect of this sin is all too evident, if we but reflect on it. Jesus said that a person who “lusts in his heart after another” has already committed adultery. It has been said that given that definition, that we all have sinned in this regard. So how then is it possible to put this maxim into practice?
The truth that underlies this injunction is perhaps best illustrated by the story in John’s Gospel of the Woman at the well. Jesus who finds himself alone at the well asks the woman for a drink. The conversation that ensues ultimately comes down to a question of satisfying the thirsts that we experience in life.
The woman had been married five times and was living with a sixth man at the time she spoke with Jesus. He points this out to her and if fits into the context of the “I thirst” and Jesus’ claim to be the source of water that will satisfy that thirst. There is something about this encounter with Jesus at the well that leads the woman to go into her village and to evangelize leading many others to Christ.
Examine her motive for setting out to bring others to Jesus, she says, “He told me everything I ever did.”
There is something in Jesus pointing out all the empty wells, that she has sought out in her life to satisfy her thirst, that leads her to accept that he is the living water that she truly seeks.
Adultery is wrong above all because it is based on a lie which is, “The reason I am not happy or fulfilled right now is because of my situation and if I was with X or Y that would change.”
We can get so caught up in the rush of excitement that new relationships promise that we can lose all objectivity when facing temptations in life. Unfortunately we may fall into the same trap and learn the lessons over and over that what we desire is not a human connection but something that every human relationship is but a foretaste.
We have no idea what happened to the Samaritan woman after her encounter with Jesus at the well. Did she marry number six? Were there more men that followed?
My hunch is that she married number six and found in him a mate who was a helper to her and that she no longer confused the lust for more as something that anyone who was a mere human could fulfill. We too, will experience a quench to that unquechable thirst when we turn to God with all our hearts.
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