The Happy Priest on the Beautiful Sacrament of Holy Matrimony
boundless and fulfilling. The priest is called to love unconditionally, just like Jesus, and to love without seeking anything in return except the reward of eternity.
As expressed by both Jesus and Saint Paul, total consecration is the loftiest way to serve God and the Church. Thus, the Catholic Church historically maintains that the practice of celibacy is a special grace from God, which allows priests to serve their people with total dedication.
Countless priests throughout the world are celibate, not out of disdain for the gift of life, but because of a greater love for that new life which springs from the heart of Jesus. They live this life of courageous self-denial and spiritual joyfulness with exemplary fidelity. This phenomenon bears testimony to an exceptional facet of the kingdom of God living in the midst of modern society.
Neither the hysterical voices crying out for an end to celibacy nor the evil actions of false brethren can invalidate the heroic testimony of the countless ranks of faithful priests, for whom celibacy has been the sign of their total gift of themselves to their God and their Church.
Thus the Sacraments of Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders complement each other in the mystery of divine love. The priest gives his entire being to God in the covenant of spiritual marriage. He then takes bread and wine, and pronounces the words of Jesus: This is my body and this is my blood given for you. A man and a woman called to the covenant of marriage stand before the altar of sacrifice and give themselves to each other as a gift: this is my body and this is my blood given for you.
The altar of the Eucharistic sacrifice is the place that makes present the mystery of Christ's redemptive act of Calvary, the act of his unconditional giving of himself as gift to all of humanity. The marriage bed can be seen as an altar upon which spouses offer their bodies as a living sacrifice, truly pleasing to God (Romans 12: 1).
When we begin to understand the mystery of the Sacrament of Marriage and how it is a reflection of the marriage of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5: 21-33), we can then begin to understand why contraception is intrinsically evil. Every marital act must keep together "the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act (Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, 12).
Sexual intercourse, the marital embrace, can be an image of God who is love and gift. The human body makes the invisible reality of God's love visible. God created the human person for the purpose of being loving persons who freely choose to love. Through love, they give themselves as a total gift of themselves to each other. Thus, by being a total gift of themselves, married spouses, through the marital embrace, make visible the invisible reality of God who is love and God who loves us unconditionally
Celibate love, through the body of the celibate person, makes visible the invisible eschatological reality of the anticipation of what is to come; i.e., the marriage of the Lamb. "For when they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; no, they are like the angels in heaven" (Mark 12: 25).
Father James Farfaglia, is a contributing writer for Catholic Online and author of Get Serious! - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics. You can visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: marriage, holy matrimony, sunday homily, homily, catholic spirituality, father james farfaglia
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