Saturday, June 19, 2010
FROM BENEDICT XVI'S CONVERSATION WITH PRIESTS
Rome, Saint Peter's Square, June 10, 2010
Q: Holy Father, I am Fr. Karol Miklosko and I am from Europe, specifically from Slovakia, and I am a missionary in Russia. When I celebrate the holy Mass, I find myself and I understand that there I encounter my identity and the root and energy of my ministry. The sacrifice of the cross reveals to me the Good Shepherd who gives everything for his flock, for each sheep, and when I say: "This is my body, this is my blood" given and poured in sacrifice for you, then I understand the beauty of celibacy and of obedience, which I freely promised at the moment of ordination. In spite of the natural difficulties, celibacy seems obvious to me, looking at Christ, but I find myself disoriented in reading the many worldly criticisms of this gift. I humbly ask you, Holy Father, to enlighten us about the profundity and the authentic meaning of ecclesiastical celibacy.
Answer from the Holy Father:
Thank you for the two parts of your question. The first, where you show the permanent and vital foundation of our celibacy; the second, which shows all of the difficulties in which we find ourselves in our time.
The first part is important, that is: the center of our life must really be the daily celebration of the holy Eucharist; and here the words of consecration are central: "This is my body, this is my blood"; that is: we are speaking "in persona Christi." Christ permits us to use his "I," we speak in the "I" of Christ, Christ "pulls us into himself" and permits us to unite ourselves, unites us with his "I." And so, through this action, this fact that he "pulls" us into himself, in such a way that our "I" becomes united with his own, he realizes the permanence, the uniqueness of his priesthood; in this way he really is always the one priest, and nonetheless very much present in the world, because he "pulls" us into himself, and so makes present his priestly mission. This means that we are "pulled" into the God of Christ: it is this union with his "I" that is realized in the words of consecration.
Also in the "I absolve you" – because none of us can absolve from sins – it is the "I" of Christ, of God, who alone can absolve. This unification of his "I" with our own implies that we are also "pulled" into his reality as the Risen One, we advance toward the full life of the resurrection, of which Jesus speaks to the Sadducees in Matthew, Chapter 22: it is a "new" life, in which we are already beyond marriage (cf. Mt. 22:23 –32). It is important that we always let ourselves be penetrated again by this identification of the "I" of Christ with us, by this being "pulled out" toward the world of the resurrection.
In this sense, celibacy is an anticipation. We transcend this time and go forward, and so we "pull" ourselves and our time toward the world of the resurrection, toward the newness of Christ, toward the new and true life. So celibacy is an anticipation made possible by the grace of the Lord who "pulls" us to himself, toward the world of the resurrection; he invites us always anew to transcend ourselves, this present, toward the true present of the future, which becomes present today.
And here we are at a very important point. One big problem of Christianity in today's world is that God's future is no longer considered, and the now of this world alone seems sufficient. We want to have only this world, to live only in this world. So we close the doors to the true greatness of our existence. The meaning of celibacy as an anticipation of the future is precisely to open these doors, to make the world bigger, to show the reality of the future that must be lived by us as already present. To live, therefore, in a testimony of faith: we really believe that God exists, that God is part of my life, that I can base my life on Christ, on the future life.
And we know now the worldly criticisms of which you spoke. It is true that for the agnostic world, the world in which God has no place, celibacy is a great scandal, because it shows precisely that God is considered and lived as a reality. With the eschatological life of celibacy, the future world of God enters into the realities of our time. And this is supposed to disappear!
In a certain sense, this permanent criticism of celibacy can be surprising, at a time in which not getting married is becoming increasingly fashionable. But this not getting married is something totally, fundamentally different from celibacy, because not getting married is based on the desire to live only for oneself, not to accept any definitive bond, to have life at every moment in full autonomy, to decide at every moment what to do, what to take from life; and therefore a "no" to commitment, a "no" to definitiveness, a having life only for oneself. While celibacy is precisely the opposite: it is a definitive "yes," it is allowing ourselves to be taken in hand by God, giving ourselves into the hands of the Lord, into his "I," and therefore it is an act of fidelity and trust, an act that the fidelity of marriage also supposes; it is the exact opposite of this "no," of this autonomy that does not want to be obligated, that does not want to enter into a bond; it is precisely the definitive "yes" that supposes, that confirms the definitive "yes" of marriage. And this marriage is the biblical form, the natural form of being man and woman, the foundation of the great Christian culture, of the great cultures of the world. And if this disappears, the root of our culture will be destroyed.
For this reason, celibacy confirms the "yes" of marriage with its "yes" to the future world, and so we want to move forward and make present this scandal of a faith that bases all of existence upon God. We know that next to this great scandal, which the world does not want to see, there are also the secondary scandals of our insufficiencies, of our sins, which obscure the true and great scandal, and make people think: "But they don't really live on the foundation of God." But there is so much faithfulness! Celibacy, as the criticisms themselves show, is a great sign of faith, of the presence of God in the world. Let us pray to the Lord that he help us to free ourselves from the secondary scandals, that he make present the great scandal of our faith: the trust, the power of our lives, founded on God and on Christ Jesus!
Posted by padre seraphim at 19.6.10