Friday of the First Week of Lent
(Ezekiel 18:21-28; Matthew 5:20-26)
Ten years ago a prominent priest in Florida had a dramatic fall from grace. Internationally known on radio and television, the priest was photographed on a beach necking. In short order he was chastised and sidelined for violating his vow of celibacy. The priest exemplified what the prophet Ezekiel proclaims in today’s first reading.
Ezekiel passes the judgment that when a good man commits a wicked deed, he will die. The prophet recognizes that this judgment will sound harsh. He tells his audience: “’You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!”’” It is important to remember that Ezekiel does not exclude the possibility of repentance. He only emphasizes that evil perpetrated by a good person is just as intolerable as evil done by a known sinner. Actually, it is worse because it causes scandal leading others to sin.
Religious celibacy is more critical today than ever. It serves as a sign of contradiction in a world that is closing itself to the presence of God. Celibacy allows its adherents to make a radical search for God. It short-circuits the pitfall of stagnating in the gratification of sexual desire. It also encourages those who do not take the vow to seek God in their lives.