Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
(Romans 6:19-23; Luke 12:49-53)
The ancient city of Pompeii was buried under a river of volcanic lava in 79 A.D. and left unseen for 1700 years. When it was uncovered, the world had a snapshot of life in the Roman Empire. One house, by no means extraordinary, has a statuette of a boy lifting his phallus with the opening of the gate to salute the visitor. Perhaps even more than people today, Romans were obsessed with sex. For this reason St. Paul, writing not long before ancient Pompeii was buried, can address the perniciousness of sexual license.
Paul’s letters and, to some extent, the gospels leave the impression that many early Christians were and found Christianity as a way out of sexual enslavement. Christianity not only provides a support group to help one overcome lascivious desires but also the grace of the Holy Spirit to pursue a virtuous life. Paul emphasizes in today’s reading another reason to forego immoral sexual actions. He writes that the outcome of sexual sin is death in contrast to eternal life which Christian discipleship offers.
Sex, like all creation, is a natural good for which we give God thanks and praise. It has been corrupted, however, through sin with universal enslaving potential. For these reasons we are cautious about our approach to sex. We should not think of intimate sexual relations as inherently foul or dirty, yet we cannot proclaim it as a good outside marriage.