The last lines of today’s gospel passage prompt me to offer some reflections that one does not often hear in church, yet need to be heard. I am referring to the Lord’s words: “...some because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven”. Through baptism we are ALL called to image on earth God’s love. But God’s love is so rich in dimensions, that no one can image all those dimensions by oneself.
The call to marriage is a call to image the depth, totality and uniqueness of God’s love. Married persons may not love someone else as deeply and totally as they love their spouses, and in this they image God’s unique and intimate love for each one of us. But they cannot image the universality of God’s love, who loves ALL totally in their uniqueness, and this leaves room for another way of imaging God’s love.
A complementary way of imaging God’s love consists precisely in renouncing marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven and we call that celibate living. As a celibate I may not say to anyone: “I cannot love you as much as I love this other one.” At least I cannot say that on principle. However loves requires knowledge, familiarity, and so I may NOT YET be able to love equally those I do not yet know. But it would not be because “you got here too late,” or because “there is no more room in my heart.” Celibacy is not about not loving, it is about not loving exclusively. In my younger years in religious life, more than once I could sense I was beginning to fall in love. But I knew I had to keep going alone in life, because my calling was —and is— not to love exclusively. I have been blessed with the gift of loving and being loved by many people —women and men— but loving exclusively is not to be a dimension of a way of loving that is called to image the universality of God’s love by being itself universal.
Both ways of imaging God’s love are necessary in the Church, so that the Church as a whole may be able better to image God’s multi-dimensional love. Both are blessed, but they are not the same.
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