Monday, October 30, 2006

30th Monday in Ordinary Time (II)
Sex and Mercy


Readings: Ephesians 4:32–5:8; Psalm 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6; Luke 13:10-17

If there is one area in which everyone knows the rules but finds them no less difficult to keep it’s that of sexual purity. So when we hear the first reading today warn against fornication or impurity… or promiscuity, it is not unlikely that at least some of us will feel more than a tinge of guilt. Yes, the rules are indeed easier to state than they are to live, especially in this sex-saturated yet strangely lonely consumer society of ours. And isn’t it the case that especially in the area of sex it often seems as though the harder one tries to fight against those frightening impulses the stronger they become? Is there a better way, perhaps?

The readings suggest as much by juxtaposing the theme of sex with several others that at first seem unrelated to it. Be friends with one another, says the letter to the Ephesians, and kind, forgiving each other readily as God forgave you in Christ. Friendship, kindness, mercy: what do these have to do with sex?

Isn’t it reasonable to think that in order to deal with our sexual temptations we need to go to their root? And doesn’t deeper reflection show us that we often act out sexually – whether on the street, in the bedroom, at the computer, or elsewhere – when we pine for that deep interpersonal connection to which all human beings are called? And could it be then that the path to sexual purity begins less with the strict enforcement of rules – as the Pharisees are wont to believe – than with a humble heeding of our own needs for intimacy?

Could it be that we first need to bring our loneliness, our weakness, our infirmity to Christ, who does for us what he does for the woman in the gospel today? Christ frees us from our affliction by offering us his friendship, his kindness, his mercy and love. Empowered by these precious gifts, we can then learn to befriend, to be kind and merciful to ourselves and to others. We can learn to see in ourselves and in others the dignity that befits the children of light, the dignity that prevents us from reducing subjects of love to objects of lust.

Where might sex and mercy come together for us today?

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