Wednesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
(I Corinthians 7:25-31; Luke 6:20-26)
A perennial question in the Church concerns priestly celibacy. Should married men be ordained to the priesthood? There are former Episcopalian priests with wives who are ordained Roman Catholic priests, but here we want to consider the rule and not the exception. Some believe that celibacy is the right option for those who believe they would be happier without a wife. St. Paul offers an interesting alternative to this position.
Paul admits that he is speaking on his own here; nevertheless, his words are authoritative. Believing that Jesus is to return soon, he recommends that all people not marry. Paul says that although married couples should not separate, the unmarried should not seek marriage. Rather, he believes that they are wise to keep the Lord constantly in mind. Paul is well aware of the human tendency to preoccupy itself with sex if that is at hand.
Most priest celibates experience some difficulty. Like most men they long for intimacy with a woman and to raise a family. However, married couples do not have life easy either. Marriage is necessary to continue the human enterprise, and celibacy testifies to the Lord’s eventual return. It is not likely that enough men would choose celibacy without a rule for this witness to be widespread. Therefore, it may be said that although it requires deeply felt sacrifice, priestly celibacy is valuable for preaching the full gospel.