Friday, December 28, 2012


Marriage and Celibacy according to Jesus:

4 He answered, 'Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning made them male and female

5 and that he said: This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh?  [Quote from Genesis, chapter 2, verse 24]
6 They are no longer two, therefore, but one flesh. So then, what God has united, human beings must not divide."

10 The disciples said to him, 'If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry."
11 But he replied, 'It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted.
12 There are eunuchs born so from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can." (The Gospel of Matthew)

There are two mysteries wrapped up in this passage of Matthew.  Each one of them refers to the same thought that is expressed by God the Creator in Genesis.  Each one of them is as ancient as human beings.  Humans have always found a way to relate to God in order to be complete in their being.  /For the most part humans follow the path that was outlined by God, they leave everything behind in order to devote themselves to an exclusive communitarian relationship between man and woman.  This is a basic human calling that God set forth for the greater good of his earthly creatures.  It is His plan that the male should not be afraid to collaborate with God Himself to make the world a better place.  It is His plan that the woman should stay by the man's side as a loving partner for the sake of the betterment of the world as well.  The role of the man was considered to be important for the health and protection of the woman.
In the early going, one man was often responsible for more than one woman.   As time went on, however, the relationship between humans and God became more defined and the cleaving of man to woman and vice versa became more exclusive.  There is a good example of the difficulties that polygamy presented to God fearing, righteous people in the very first chapter of the first book of Samuel.  Alkanah, the man, had more than one wife.  He had one whom he liked more then the other.  The difficulty was that the one whom he really loved was barren.  Her name was Hannah.  The lesser loved of the two, who disliked Hannah, was Penninah.  As far as love stories go, this one is quite touching.  Hannah turns out to be the mother of Samuel the great Patriarch who himself never married, but gave himself completely to God, right from the moment of his birth, through the vow of his mother.  It is therefore quite clear that when Jesus talks about those who are eunuchs by their own doing, do it for the Kingdom of Heaven, he had some examples to fall back on.
It is therefore important to our religious and spiritual life that we have people who are able to live the advice and the pronouncements of God and His Son Jesus for the sake of the Kingdom.
I dare say that Jesus came to us to clarify a lot of things that needed clarifying from the Old Testament.  One of them, of course has to do with the way humans live and how they relate to one another and to God Himself.  For the many, it is through the grace of Matrimony.  For "Those who can" it is through a complete dedication of self to the Kingdom.
It is clear in the Scripture that in both cases, "man" leaves his father and mother" to cleave to another person. In the case of Matrimony, he and his spouse cleave to one another.  In the case of the dedicated eunuch, man and woman, father and mother are left behind for the total dedication of self to the Kingdom.  In both cases, Jesus doesn't negotiate anything away.  He says simply, "'It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. ... Let anyone accept this who can."
This is why it is clearly defined by the Catholic church that these two states of life are perpetual.  They cannot be negotiated away and substituted for by an alternative status.  Jesus says it clearly, that he/she who is divorced and who goes and lies with another commits adultery.  The same goes for the dedicated celibate.  We have the story of Samson that shows us the consequences of violating the vowed dedication that was made to God and forsaken in sin.  Closer to Jesus, we have the story of David, the great sinner as well as the great saint.
In the Gospels we have the great example of both kinds of dedication.  We have the stories of righteous married people and the example of John the Baptist, John the Evangelist and Jesus Himself who never married.
I am writing this because I get into many conversations about priestly celibacy.  Most of them carry the question:  "When will the Roman Catholic Church allowed married priests to minister openly as a matter of course rather than by exception?"  My answer is always the same, "Never."  It is not that there is anything immoral about a married man accepting Holy Orders.  It is the fact that the call to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic church carries with it the non-negotiable requirement of perpetual celibacy.  This is the sign on earth that there is a great reward that is worth living for in an extraordinary life style in a disciple's relationship with God.  The solid, non-negotiable call to a stable marriage and the living out of the grace of God to keep it that way is also a sign that there is a great reward awaiting those who do not seek to negotiate their way out of it.
There is also a great reward for those who, having tried and failed, remain focused on God in their new state.  They too are examples that the Kingdom of Heaven is worth dying for, even if the dying starts early and takes a while  to carry us to our eternal reward.
Then, finally, there are those who will dare to ask, "And, what about you?"
My answer is simple.  David had his sin. Peter had his sin.  They died dedicating their lives to God.
All I am doing is dying slowly, doing what I can to keep my focus on God.
So, after my slow martyrdom  I don't want anybody to feel bad at my funeral.  Keep your hankies dry.  Know that I died happy, even it is was on Mount Nebo rather than Jerusalem.
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