Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Ezekiel 19:59-63; Matthew 19:3-12)
The woman is no longer young. She has never married and, no doubt, wonders if she ever will. She asks for a book on sexual ethics to guide her. She says that most of what she sees pertains to married couples or to youth who one day will marry. She infers that the Church has abandoned people in her position. Even in the gospel today Jesus does not seem to address the possibility that one may not marry because there never was a decent opportunity to do so.
The apostle Paul does take up the issue in the First Letter to the Corinthians where he says that that “it is a good thing” that the unmarried and the widowed remain as they are if they can exercise control over their passions. He reasons that the unmarried may concern themselves exclusively with pleasing the Lord where the married have various interests competing for their attention.
But Jesus is actually not far from Paul as he advises that those who can accept what he teaches about forsaking marriage for the sake of the Kingdom – much akin to “pleasing the Lord” – should do so. Furthermore, those who lack opportunity to marry may be likened to those who are made incapable of marriage by others. They need not lament over their situation but consider it carefully. They should discern, as professed celibates readily acknowledge, that being unmarried offers manifold possibilities for service, friendship, and education.