The Happy Priest on the Beautiful Sacrament of Holy Matrimony
Marriage manifests God's love and Celibacy is a calling to love even more intensely
How does Jesus love us? He loves us by the total giving of himself to us. "A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends" (John 15: 13).
As Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in his first encyclical letter: "Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it" (Redemptor Hominis, 10.1).
We can more fully experience love of this kind in two ways: either through married love or through celibate love. Let us first consider married love.
This Sunday's liturgy directs our attention to God's infinite act of love in the creation of the first man and woman. "It is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2: 18).
For all who are called to the vocation of Holy Matrimony, God, in his infinite wisdom chooses a spouse for each person called to marriage. Marriage is one of the seven sacraments. A man and a woman give of themselves by pronouncing a vow to love each other totally and unconditionally until the end of their lives here on earth. The indissolubility of marriage is an essential part of Christian marriage. "Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate" (Mark 10: 10).
The total and free gift of each to the other expressed in the exchange of the marital vows comes to fulfillment in the consummation of their yes through the gift of themselves to each other in the martial act. The act of consummation is a profound expression of giving their entire beings, body and soul, to each other, in the marital embrace of love. The honeymoon should never end. The love between married couples should intensify more and more each day.
Love is the total gift of self lived out day by day within the ordinary circumstances of daily existence. To live love authentically within the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is not an easy enterprise. Both husband and wife must rid themselves of all selfishness, for it is within their daily existence that they live out every detail of the Christian way of life.
This is why deep contemplative prayer and daily Eucharistic life are so essential. Because God is love and we are called to love, every time we encounter the God of love we are renewed in such a way that we can love even more. It is only through grace that we can overcome our sinfulness and our selfish tendencies caused by our fallen human nature.
Celibate love for the kingdom of God is a charism. This charism or gift can be expressed through the Catholic priesthood, the religious life for men and women, or through the commitment made by lay people who dedicate themselves to the single life. Celibacy is a calling to love even more intensely.
Many people today criticize celibacy. They argue that celibacy is not natural. Well, they are certainly correct but for the wrong reason, when they affirm that celibacy is not natural. Celibacy is not natural; it is supernatural. Celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God is a unique gift from God for his Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic tells us: "Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social. From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming. Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model" (1618).
The Catholic Church maintains that celibacy is a gift from God for his Church. By not marrying, a young man is called to imitate Jesus and be totally consecrated to him. Celibacy allows a priest to be completely dedicated to a life of service to the flock entrusted to his care. Celibacy also permits the priest to be a witness of eternal life. Saint Gregory of Nyssa reminds us that "the life of virginity is the image of the blessedness that awaits us in the life to come."
When a young man is called by God to be his priest, he is not called to a life of repression. Instead, through Holy Orders, his entire emotional being is transported into a spiritual world of love that is ...
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