March 14, 2017

TOB Tuesday: Virginity for the Sake of the Kingdom

Catholic sisters

Editor's note: On Tuesdays, we will feature posts discussing Saint John Paul the Great's Theology of the Body; his reflection on our nature and life as persons made in the image and likeness of God, conjugal love, the meaning of celibacy and the eternal beatitude to which every human being is called. 

In the Gospel of Matthew, it is written: “Not all men can receive the precept, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.” (Matthew 19:11-12) If the meaning of life consists in making a gift of one’s self to others and living in a communion of persons, should not all people marry? The answer is that all are called to “marriage,” but not necessarily in the physical sense. Some are called to marriage as we usually understand it; the union of a man and woman for life, of exclusive and mutual fidelity, for the procreation and education of children

Others are called to be the spouse of Christ (women religious) or the spouse of the Church (male religious) and to live a celibate life for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Men and women who live this commitment are a sign reminding us that we are made for union with God; the ultimate fulfillment of human persons. They remind us that we will all fully participate in this union in heaven. Their gift of self to the world bears spiritual fruit through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Earlier while discussing the “spousal meaning” of the body, we wrote: “To love the way God loves is to love completely, holding nothing back. Adam and Eve knew this immediately upon seeing each other for the first time. It is inscribed in our bodies; their very physicality speaks this truth. Sex is sacred. It should be protected and revered as a divine covenant between a husband and a wife.

The celibate is called to love by offering up their masculinity or femininity to God and by serving others. Nuns live a beautiful vocation by being spouses to Christ. This is not a sexual union but a profound spiritual union. Likewise, priests and religious brothers offer up their masculinity to God by loving and serving the Church. Their role model is Christ who offered up his life for God’s people…”

Moreover, Saint John Paul II observed that: "Virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God not only does not contradict the dignity of marriage but presupposes it and confirms it. Marriage and virginity or celibacy are two ways of expressing and living the one mystery of the covenant of God with his people." In heaven, we will live that covenant fully and see God face-to-face. This intimacy with God is something the celibate witnesses to in the here-and-now. Many religious testify to a love of God that is beyond words. It animates their lives, enabling them to persevere in love and act selflessly in imitation of Jesus Christ.

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