Can gays be married and should priests be allowed to marry now? Seems like two different topics that have nothing to do with each other. However both topics have one thing in common. We have been talking about these topics for gays and priests for decades in the news media, print broadcasts and on line. There has been a drum beat for the rights of individuals to marry whether they are religious or secular. The U.S. Supreme Court has rendered its decision on homosexual marriage. In the case of Church politics there is no supreme court to render a decision about whether Catholic priests can marry yet. However through the eyes of God, “sub species aeternitatis, like the philosopher, Baruch Spinoza in his work “Ethics, I will take an aerial view of the matter to take on the real issue behind being married or not.
There is much confusion about marriage these days so much so that I am reminded of a story with some levity in which a young man of 14 returned from Confirmation class. His parents asked him what he learned about marriage. He replied, “I suppose with the new US Supreme Court ruling, priests can now marry if they love each other.”
In the eyes of God the genuine issue is, can one become more holy and more pleasing to God in either state, married or single? God is a lover and if anyone were to sum up the story about God in the Bible with one word it would certainly be “nuptials”. (Isa. 62:5; Jer. 2:2; Hos. 3:1) In the OT—Israel is the bride and God is the Groom and in the New Testament the Church is the bride and Christ is the groom. (Mt. 9:15) The bible is a story on how much God loves his people and how much He wants them to be with him through their own volition. To be holy is to be other directed towards God. To be Holy is to make God our first priority. To be holy is to love the Lord God with our whole hearts, minds and souls. So the real question that the media will not cover then is, can priests be more holy either celibate or married and can gays be holy, married or not? The quick answer depends on how much sanctifying grace either is filled.
Our blessed Lord said that a rich man cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 19:23) At face value we tend to look at material possessions as the baggage that one must shed before entering into heaven. This is too limited a view. Jesus says that even if we were to lust in our hearts we have committed the sin without acting on it. (Mt. 5:28)
Therefore the term, “rich”, can be related to being too filled up. We say the chocolate cake is much too rich for our tastes. Being rich is being so filled with pride there is no room for God’s grace. There is only the presumption of self-righteousness. The sin against the Holy Spirit can either be material or psychological. (Mk. 3:29, Mt. 12:31) The sin against the Holy Spirit is the one sin that cannot be forgiven. Translated into an analogy, from God’s perspective, the patient refuses to take the antidote to his malady from the poisons of pride and arrogance, he as filled himself up. The patient is residing in a make believe hospital private room of self-righteousness not realizing that the hospital gown he is wearing is semi private from God’s view!
Some will say, “But I am not filled with pride and self-righteousness, I have these innate passions that I have been born with that must be fulfilled. “ God knows you before you were formed in the womb. (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:16) and yet He desires your volition with His grace to be in charge of those emotions. St. Francis of Assisi got it right when he said that our bodies are like an ass. The ass wants what it wants when it wants it. We must decide who is in charge the ass or ourselves.
A Christian pastor tells the story about an adolescent group of males having a discussion about getting it on with a girl. They said they could not control their passions in the heat of a moment. But the pastor disagreed and said he would prove it to them that they really can take charge of their heightened emotions. In the old days there was this thing about a baseball diamond and getting to the various bases and the hormones are flying and the girl and boy’s eyes are getting bigger and bigger within a room of the house, when all of a sudden, the door flings open and her Navy Seal dad, who just returned from Afghanistan appears. Boom all emotions are impaled. The point of the scenario is the largeness of the father , a Navy Seal superseded the youth physical emotions. The pastor pointed out that when God the Father is large in our lives then we too can take charge of those innate passions for love of God the Father, our Father. When we are filled with God’s sanctifying grace God the Father becomes larger and larger in our lives. The more we make ourselves a star in our own movie the less and less God the Father is in our lives.
How large is God in our lives? Jesus tells us that harlots and thieves will enter into heaven before the religious leaders of his time. (Mt. 21:28-31) Mary Magdalene and the thief on the cross, Dismas (tradition holds was his name), recognized that they needed the grace of God’s love. One was addicted to sexual sin and the other to material possessions. There was depravity within their souls. Mary Magdalene wanted to be embraced by the love of another human being. Dismas wanted to be embraced in the arms of material things. Both changed their lives when they encountered the largeness of the Father’s genuine “Love” itself.
Lesser attractions turn us away from God. A priest’s personal lesser attraction can be similar to the sin of the religious leaders in Jesus’s time. Rather than being filled with the love of God, priests could have a tendency for the love of their institution, the buildings and money of the Church. They may love their organization over the love of God and God’s people. The religious leaders of Jesus’ time made the temple a “den of thieves” because their economic superseded the love of God. (Mk. 11:15-17) For gays their sin can be to replace God with a cause and their own self-righteousness. Recently after the Supreme Court ruling a priest was spat upon during the New York gay pride parade. In both cases where such sins could occur I would ask about the condition of either’s prayer life. Prayer is the lifting of our minds to God. Without a relationship with God there is no faith. Without faith there is no redemption.
What prayer is most pleasing to God? Jesus tells the story about the prayers of two individuals in the temple. (Lk. 18:10-14) One is a publican or tax collector the other a religious leader, a Pharisee. Tax collectors were considered sinful and despised because they collected the Roman taxes and pocketed a little for themselves. The publican, prayed for mercy. His prayer is seeking to be close to God. He could not ever be holy without the grace of God. The other man’s prayer was filled with his own self-righteousness. Jesus says that the publican’s prayer was justified while the Pharisee’s prayer was not.
The grace of God can come to a depraved soul through an epiphany from the good counsel and good example of another. Many times I have said that the only bible others may have read in their lifetime is each of us who are believers by our good example. One of the spiritual works of mercy is to counsel the doubtful. We who are baptized are called to perform such work. The part that is difficult is the starting point or approach one would take in counsel. We fear our counsel could be viewed as judgmental. We really do not know where another is in their mind. Is their mind open or is it closed to such counseling. None of us really can know. However when we rely on the Holy Spirit in our own prayer life then the right moment and situation will be realized. When that moment arrives the Holy Spirit will guide us through the process.
We must prepare though with study and prayer so that the Holy Spirit can use us to do His work. This is no different than when we take First Aid classes. We do not know the time when our new First Aid skills will be needed but there comes a time when it can come and we who have been preparing will be ready.
When Jesus started his conversations with another he never started with their particular sin. He always started with the root issues behind the sin. In John 4 Jesus meets a woman at the well. She is a serial adulterer. She has had five husbands and the man she is living with is now is not her husband. He just doesn’t say stop it! He shows the woman that her addictive behavior is driven by thirst and the water she craved did not come from the arms of romance but in knowing his everlasting love. His was the love she has always craved and been seeking.
Our sins are such that we desire to be known and loved. We are in a dilemma. If you are loved and not known it is sentimentality. The musical Sunset Boulevard was such a story about a silent movie star who was loved but no longer remembered. She tries desperately to recapture her glory days. But there was no longer an audience available for her in silent films. To be known and not loved is rejection. We want to be fully known and fully loved but we know that when people really know us there is a sense that when they see into our souls with our full nakedness exposed, they may reject us.
Pride can put up walls to save any of us from rejection. We beckon someone to enter while at the same time we push them away. When Jesus was getting too close to the woman at the well, about her sin, she changed the subject about herself to the subject about societal issues of the time. We too can create a cocoon around us with like-minded people, and institutions to really cover up what is dwelling in the depths of our souls. GK Chesterton said that the non-religious have replaced religion with something else. For some it can be a cause for another an institutional association. In a sense this is their new religion.
Jesus gave the woman in John 4, perfect love. He knew everything about her life and loved her entirely. This is the water of life that can deliver her from the captivity of her sin. Jesus says to the woman caught in adultery, in John 8, “Is there no one to condemn you. Neither will I. Go therefore and sin no more.” It’s interesting at the order Jesus puts his counsel towards a sinner. We would tend to reverse the order– If you go and sin no more then I will not condemn you.
Jesus puts acceptance before change because he knew that she would never have the power to change until she had felt the weight of his acceptance. God’s acceptance is the power that will liberate us from sin not the reward for having liberated ourselves.
That means that we do not counsel others about the dangers of their actions, whether they be stealing and the likely hood of going to jail, or sexual sins and consequences of unwanted pregnancies or venereal disease, drug and alcohol addiction which can destroy a home life. Instead we tell them there is a God who cares so much about them that he pursues each and every one of us and loved us and takes upon our struggle to walk with us on our pilgrimage of life with his love and grace.
We have a real Father that loves us better than our addiction to sin in our search to be known and to be loved for who we are. God loves us more than the arms of another in sexual sin. God loves us more than the comfort of a bottle. God loves us more than the numbing effects of drug addiction. God loves us more than the material possessions we can steal. God loves us more than the cover up we do in lies with others to protect our identity, God loves us more than the love we seek with pornography. God fulfills all our thirsts because He is the true water we really crave.
When we seek the true love of God first, then we can answer any questions about bringing an earthly marriage with another into our lives. Then the Holy Spirit will guide us on the appropriateness of our marriage quest.
Our counsel is not to stop your sin. Our message is behold your God who really loves you. It is God’s love that fulfills us from all the lesser attractions.
Some men show the way by carrying torches, others by making torches of themselves!
God Love You——