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. Then in the late 1800s, it was uncovered to give a three-dimensional snapshot of life in the Roman Empire. The view is not always edifying. One house has a statuette of a boy lifting his phallus with the opening of the gate to salute a visitor. Perhaps even more than people today, Romans were obsessed with sex. For this reason St. Paul, writing not long before Pompeii disappeared, comments to the Romans on sexual license.
In general Paul’s letters indicate that many people became Christians as a way out of sexual enslavement. Christianity provides a support group to help people cope with an oversexed environment. It also promises the grace of the Holy Spirit to pursue a virtuous life. Paul emphasizes in today’s reading another reason to forego extramarital sex. He writes that the effect of sexual sin is death in contrast to eternal life Christianity offers.
Sex, like all creation, is a natural good for which we should thank God. However, it has been corrupted through sin so that it now appears as much a threat as a benefit. For this reason we need to be careful about our dealings with it. We should not think of sexual intimacy as inherently impure or sinful. Yet we cannot declare it good outside marriage.