Bottom line: It's a huge challenge to live Jesus' teaching on marriage and on celibacy - but not impossible.
Our first reading says, "It's not good for the man to be alone." God calls each of us into being and he gives us strengths to share generously. We also have personal weaknesses that require assistance from others. Archbishop Desmond Tutu observed, "the totally self-sufficient person is sub-human."
God created the animals to give us a certain companionship, but that's not enough. God's final, most complex creation - for sure the most beautiful - is the woman.
The fact that God creates her from Adam's rib, near his heart, speaks to something mysterious: the tug of affection that results in the desire to share life together in physical intimacy. It's the greatest earthly blessing a man can receive. As the Psalm says, "your wife will be like a fruitful vine. Your children like olive plants.' The Psalm concludes with a beautiful blessing, "may you see your children's children."
Jesus goes back to that vision when they confront him with the sticky question of divorce. God made us male and female - and for that reason a man leaves his father and mother. It doesn't mean he stops honoring them or caring for them, but they do take second place. Joined to his wife, the two become one flesh.
Because of this vision of marriage, Jesus has a strict teaching about use of sexuality: either complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Dr. Scott Hahn somewhat playfully said that it's not enough to say sex is good. Campbells Soup is good. It's insufficient to say sex is great. Kellogs Frosted Flakes are grrreat. For us as Christians sex is holy.
To recognize and live the sanctity of sex requires a revolution in thinking. That's why after giving this demanding rule Jesus picks up a child and says we have to become like a child to enter his Kingdom. It's not so much that children are innocent but that they are not afraid to depend on others. We need to become childlike. Not childish, but childlike.
In connection with this I want to say a word about next Sunday's Gospel. I'll be in Peru and I know Deacon Gene will do his usual fine job illuminating the Gospel, but I want to note one verse: where Jesus talks about giving up all for the Kingdom, including home and family. Jesus has an exalted view of marriage, but he says that some will not marry for the sake of the Kingdom. I know celibacy has become a difficult topic, especially in light of the clergy abuse scandal and the ways we priests have fallen down in living celibacy.
It may be we need to make more place for married priests - like Fr. Tom McMichael, a Lutheran pastor who converted to Catholicism. He does a magnificent job serving pastoral needs of Skagit County. I'd personally like to have more married men in the priesthood.
I am, however, convinced that God called me to celibacy and I know the immense satisfaction of being a spiritual father. I've had the opportunity to get to know some of our young priests. I worry about them getting stretched to thin. I want us to be a parish where lay people - both volunteers and paid staff - can take more responsibility in administration and pastoral care. We've also seen the unique role of a religious sister as Sister Barbara did for 41 years here. Join me in praying a sister or sisters may come to help us. Male and female God created us. We want to develop the great gifts of Catholic men and women.
It's a huge challenge to live Jesus' teaching on marriage and on celibacy - but not impossible. I admit sometimes things look bleak. We wonder how we put our Church back together. The truth is we can't but God can. We will hear Jesus say, "For human beings it is impossible. But not for God. For God all things are possible. Amen.
From Archives (27th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Summer - Kings and Prophets*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru