Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jesus' Priestly Love, A Celibate Love

Vocations Talk: English
St. Ignatius Parish, Austin TX
August 17-18, 2013

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning.

My name is Sean DeWitt. I am a seminarian of our beloved diocese of Austin going on my 5th year in the seminary. Fr. Brian McMaster, the vocations director for the diocese, has asked me to come speak for a few minutes on the priesthood and religious life. So lets get right to it.

Boys, or better men, listen up. I am talking to you. God is calling you to be catholic priests of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You and I are the laborers ready to be sent out for the harvest. God is calling priests from among us. He is calling us. Yet, there is one problem, isn’t there men? Yep, one problem: girls. Seminarians can’t have girlfriends and priests can’t get married. And let’s be honest, that just doesn’t sound like a good time.

So let’s just put it out there. Celibacy is the promise to live a life of perfect continence. That means to refrain from all sexual relations, i.e. to refrain from entering into Holy Matrimony. Okay, whoa, but why? Why does the Catholic Church ask this discipline of her priests? Let’s start with a plain fact. Aside from all of the myths and fables spun by such works as the Divinci Code, it remains that Jesus lived a celibate life; he never married. And like everything Jesus did, this was not an accident. No, it was intentional. He had a specific reason. What was that reason?

Men, in order to understand this, let’s go to the Last Supper account in John’s Gospel. At the Last Supper after Jesus had humbled Himself in washing the disciples feet after Jesus had celebrated the first Eucharist, the first mass, with His new priests, the Apostles, Jesus sits back to give them a talkin’ to so as to prepare them for the trials ahead, so as to prepare them for the priestly life they were beginning. Indeed, He would be handed over in a matter of hours. He sits them down and gives them a commandment, we know it well: this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Well, okay (they must have been thinking), how did You love us? Jesus continues: no greater love has a man than to lay down his life for his friends. Ah, the cross, of course. But wait, did we listen? Jesus said love one another as I have loved you. “As”. Jesus gave up His life on the cross, He laid down His life for those whom He loved, but how, as a celibate man. Jesus’ priestly love was that of celibate.

Okay, now this sounds crazy, absolutely crazy. Our culture certainly doesn’t give voice to this way of life, this way of living the priesthood.

But hold one just a minute and listen to what our Lord Jesus is saying. It is right there in the scripture. I, Jesus, the eternal high priest, loved you in this way, as a celibate man, and I want you, my priest, whom I have chosen, to love as I loved you. In this way you will lay down your lives for your friends. This is the reason the Catholic Church requires celibacy of her priests, because that is how Jesus, the high priest, loved and asked His Apostles to do likewise.

Yet, having said all of this, we don’t want to do it. It is still a hard teaching to accept. And I myself as a young man learning and trying to live a life of priestly celibacy understand this. But I want to assure you, men, that this is perfectly normal. It is natural. Few are the number of seminarians and priest that when God called said, “yes, of course, I would love to do that God.” “You know, God, I was thinking exactly the same thing.” No, yet, our initial desire or lack thereof is not a sign that we don’t have a vocation to the priesthood. So stay open and listen to the voice of Jesus. Is He calling you to be a priest? Is He calling you to love as He did?

Now, I would be remiss if I did not say something to the girls. For they too have a special place in the life of the Church. As the priest is a spiritual father—and we call them father do we not?—religious sisters are the spiritual mothers in the Church. Their spiritual maternity is born from their relationship with their spouse Jesus Christ. Yes, that’s right, they are married to Jesus. So I encourage you, do not be afraid to give your self in this way to Jesus.

Thank you.


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