29 Jan 2012 Leave a comment
25 Jan 2012 Leave a comment
We live in a sexualized culture. This is hardly news to anyone with a television, a DVD player, or access to the internet. Images of sexuality, in all its’ forms and expressions, are constantly before us. And yet, as Christians, we are called to lead lives of chastity. Single people are commanded to remain celibate. Married couples express chastity as the total committment to their spouse, in body, mind, and spirit. A sacramental marriage encompasses sexuality in all the fullness and self-giving of a shared love which is open to the gift of new life.
Living a chaste life in our modern world is a strong expression of our faith in Christ. In the Roman Catholic Church, men who are called to the priesthood promise to remain unmarried and to live, as all single persons should, a life of celibacy. This is not a doctrine or dogma of our faith, but has been a traditional practice since the early Middle Ages. There are exceptions to this tradition, including the many Catholic priests outside the Latin Rite who are married men.
Jesus Christ never married. Among His Apostles, He called both single and married men to serve Him and found His Church. Jesus tells us that some men renounce marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of God. “Whoever can accept this ought to accept it” (Matthew 19:11-12). Christ saw the celibate life as a special and privileged calling, one for which not all men are suited, but one that gives glory to His Kingdom. St. Paul certainly supports the celibate life as a calling from God when he writes his first letter to the church at Corinth. Some early Church Fathers wrote in support of a celibate priesthood, including St. Cyril, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine.
A priest gives himself completely in service of the people of God. Pastors serve as “Father” to their flocks, shepherding and guiding them throughout all of life’s joys and sorrows. The priest is the representative of Christ. In this respect, a priest understands his identity by following the example of Jesus, who lived His life in perfect chastity and obedience. The priesthood is a holy calling, something set apart from the rest of the world. Just as Christ gave His life for His Bride, the Church, so too does every priest offer up his own life for the good of Christ’s people.
Most Catholics do marry, and all Catholics venerate marriage as a Holy Sacrament, an action of God’s grace in our souls. It is precisely the holiness of marriage that makes celibacy so precious, for only what is good and holy in itself can be given up for God as a sacrifice. In a poor comparison, just as fasting presupposes the goodness of food, celibacy presupposes the goodness of marriage.
“The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ; the spouse of the Church” (Pope John Paul II). His celibacy is a radical act of love freely given, in total committment to the Saviour of the world. His life, like that of Christ, goes against the culture of the day. Our priests are examples to us of a life poured out in service. Over the centuries, these men have brought billions of people to Jesus Christ. Through their service, they established the largest charitable organization on the face of the earth: The Catholic Church. They compiled the books of the Bible. Priests established the world’s first legal system in the Code of Canon Law, which is still in use today. We owe the college and university system of education to the work of faithful priests. The world’s first hospitals and medical centers were founded by priests and brothers of the Catholic Church. Priests work as missionaries in every country on the planet and thousands of them have been martyred for their faith. From the lions of the Roman Coliseum, to the despots of communist China, and the terrorist-murderers of Iraq, these faithful priests continue today to fearlessly lose their lives in sacrifice for Him. And they baptize our babies, hear our confessions, bury our loved ones and bring us Christ Himself at every Mass every day around the world. The history of the Catholic Church has, in large part, been the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His priests and the flocks they serve. As Catholics, we celebrate the dedicated men who answer God’s call to His priesthood and who offer everything they have to His glory.
22 Jan 2012 Leave a comment
My first job after graduate school was as a psychotherapist in a small town in west Texas. I worked for a public mental health agency and we were missioned to serve all the psychological needs of the community. We saw anyone and everyone that walked through our doors. It was a great learning experience for me. One of the aspects of our clinic was that our fees were based on our client’s income. The more they earned, the more they paid. But no one left without paying something. The idea was that people tend not to place value on things they receive for free. So even our poorest clients would pay something for their therapy sessions, even if it was just a dollar. And if they didn’t keep their appointments, they would still be charged. Very few would no-show their sessions this way. This arrangement didn’t come close to meeting our operating expenses, but that wasn’t the point anyway.
After all these years, I think our assumptions about value and worth were right. Life has taught me that people tend to not value things that come to them without a price. When something is valuable to us, we take better care of it. We make sure it doesn’t get damaged and, if it does, we have it repaired. We use it for the purpose for which it was made. We don’t let others misuse it. Last Sunday’s Mass readings included one from the first letter of St. Paul to the church at Corinth that really brought these truths home to me: “You were purchased at a price” (I Cor 6:19-20).
Thank about that for a moment. “You were purchased at a price.” You are so valuable that God bought you with the life of His only Son. What would you purchase with the life of your only child? Can you even imagine that kind of love? And yet that’s how much God loves you. In the midst of your sinful life (in the midst of my sinful life), that’s how much God values and loves you. He loves you more than you can understand, and with a love that is beyond your human comprehension. Knowing this should call each of us to have a conversion in our hearts and in our lives. We belong to the Lord. He has claimed us as His children though the sinless blood of Christ. All that we have, all that we are is His and His alone. Every breath we take is a gift of His generous love. This knowledge has big and practical consequences for us:
1. All human life is precious and must be treated with dignity and respect from the moment of conception until natural death.
2. Parents have a duty to raise their children in His Church, teaching them about God’s great love for them and guiding them in the way of that love.
3. We must love one another as God loves each of us.
4. Our bodies belong to God. They are the temple of His love for us and should be treated with holy respect.’
5. Every day is a gift from God and so we must spend it doing good and working for the benefit of others.
6. No one is outside the love of God. Even if we don’t like them, God loves them ferociously.
7. No one is unable to be redeemed. No matter the sin, no matter the sinner. We are ALL the prodigal children of the Father. By His mercy, we seek His forgiveness. Through His grace, we are saved.
8. God has never been closer to you than He is at this very moment. If you’re still reading this, it’s only because God is calling to you. He longs for your friendship because “you were purchased at a price.” He has valued you above and beyond anything else in the universe. You are the treasure of His Sacred Heart.
What’s your response to this sort of overwhelming love? How do you begin to be grateful?
“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” — St. Augustine (354AD-430AD)
17 Jan 2012 3 Comments
16 Jan 2012 Leave a comment
15 Jan 2012 Leave a comment
I’m a sinner. I can’t do anything to save myself. I’m weak and very prone to fall, over and over again. I’m attracted to all kind of stuff that’s bad for me. I’m lazy and self-centered. I’m impatient and easily frustrated with other people. I procrastinate. I fall time and time again. I just can’t seem to get it right. I try and try and I’m never able to be good. Most days it’s all just too much for me to bear and too heavy a load for me to carry.
“Can I carry that for you?”
I worry about everything. My family, my job, my health, the future. I imagine problems that don’t even exist. Then I worry that some day they might exist. It’s easy to find enough to worry about these days. The economy. Jobs. Terrorism. Crimes in our neighborhoods. The next epidemic of something horrible and unseen. Lots of times I lay awake at night and worry.
“Can I carry that for you?”
The world tells me to try harder, to do better, to work more, The world says all I have to do is get up earlier, stay later and work weekends. There are even some preachers who say that if you love God the “right” way He’ll give you lots of money and new cars and a big house. They call it the “prosperity gospel.” But I never knew Jesus to preach that kind of gospel. The world says I have a god inside of me that I can find if I do yoga and meditate and imagine good things in my future. It’s a lot to remember and a lot of work.
“Can I carry that for you?”
I’m thankful I don’t have to rely on myself, no matter how good my intentions might be. I’m thankful that Christ wants to take away my every burden and worry, every one of my sins and failures. I’m thankful He knows my weaknesses and loves me in spite of them. He knows every one of my sins and still He loves me beyond measure. He knows how frail my spirit can be and so He gave me His Church to be my support and guide. He feeds me with His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. He forgives my sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He comes to me as the Good Shepherd longing to find me and bring me home to Himself. Jesus loves me in spite of my unloveliness. He cherishes me as His beloved daughter, no matter how often I stumble and fall. All my burdens and worries are lifted in His love for me. No matter what may come my way, He’s there at my side to help me through. The world is full of lies and misinformation. The world is about “self-help.” Our Catholic faith is about “Jesus, help me.” You can’t think or dream or wish or work yourself into a better version of who you are. Only Christ can transform our contrite hearts into what He desires for us — eternal life with Him in heaven!
“In the world, you will have trouble. But take courage, I have conquered the world.” Matthew 16:32-33
14 Jan 2012 1 Comment