In the first reading St. Paul spoke of his moral weakness. If we are honest about it, we must confess to the same weakness.
He said he knew what was the right thing, and he wanted to do it, but time after time he slipped. As he put it: “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.”
Dwelling on his problem, Paul explained, “I take delight in the law of God in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind.”
He asks, “Who will deliver me?”
Then, knowing the answer, he says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ Our Lord.”
A situation that arose three centuries after Paul’s time brought this passage in to prominence. Pelagius, a priest from Britain, became an immense hit with rousing sermons about people marshalling their spiritual energies to become saints. Pelagius was like Norman Vincent Peale the Presbyterian minister whose book “The Power of Positive Thinking” outsold the Bible in the 1950’s.
Living far out of the public eye in north Africa, St. Augustine heard about the sermons of Pelagius, and he became alarmed. His own experience had matched that of St. Paul. With St. Paul he was convinced that the drive for sinfulness in each of us was too strong for anyone to deny it on his own. Augustine gave the name Original Sin to that drive toward evil. With Paul he was convinced that it was only by calling on power from Christ that we can keep our sinfulness from wrecking our lives.