Homilette for Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Memorial of St. Peter Claver, priest

(I Corinthians 6:1-11)

Paul’s list of wrongdoers in the first reading today is revealing. Most of the sinners transgress the boundaries of passion. Talk of the “sexual revolution” almost makes it seem that sexual sins were invented toward the end of the last century. The New Testament, however, underscores the prevalence of sins of the flesh down through the ages. In fact, we should note how Jesus as well as Paul emphasizes the power of God to spare humans the dismal consequences of illicit sexual gratification.

We might also take note of how Paul writes of “sodomites,” not “homosexuals.” The two are not co-terminus as not every homosexual engages in sexual activity. The necessary distinction reminds us that being homosexual is not immoral and that homosexuals deserve the same respect as any other person. In fact, in the present age of sexual license homosexual adults living chastely may deserve admiration.

Most noteworthy about the passage, however, is the primacy of communal conflict on Paul’s list of vices. Christians are not to fight publicly with one another since open conflict undermines the reputation of the Church as well as its unity. Disagreements will erupt in any human organization, but they are to be resolved amicably. Paul’s emphasis on unity indicates the social nature of sin. When Christians sin, they not only offend God but also one another. The Church has a mission to be a light to the world. Sin dims that light so that non-Christians may not know Christ.