Wednesday 28 October 2015

Salesian Consecrated Life in its two forms

I find this a useful way to stress the element of consecrated life in our salesian vocation.

There are many ways of following Jesus: married, diocesan priest, consecrated life.

The diocesan priest is not defined by celibacy. There are priests in the Catholic church who are married: priests of the Greek Melkite rite, the Maronite rite, and so on.

But the consecrated person is celibate by vocation. He feels called to follow Christ in the concrete choice that Christ made to live celibate. This is why Vita Consecrata says that consecrated life is a living memorial of Jesus, following Jesus even in his concrete choices, choices that are not obligatory for all followers of Jesus.

Now Jesus made a choice for celibacy within a culture and a religion where celibacy was not a value. This I find best illustrated by the tragic story of Jephthah's daughter: "Do to me as you have promised God, but allow me three months to mourn my virginity." (Judg 11,37) Virginity is not a value in Israel. It is not a blessing to die virgin. One mourns one's virginity if one is to die, like Jephthah's daughter. It is within such a religion and such a culture that Jesus chooses to be virgin and celibate.

That his choice was strange is illustrated by the accusation that he must be some kind of eunuch. Jesus' reply: There are those who are born eunuchs; there are those who are made eunuchs by men; there are those who choose to be eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Jesus chooses celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God.

More light is cast on his choice, on the mystery of his celibacy, by the story of the Sadducees who approach him with the case of the woman who was married serially to 7 men (Lk 20,27-40): "In the resurrection, whose wife will she be?" And Jesus: "In the resurrection there will be neither marrying nor giving in marriage, but you will all be like the angels in heaven." Like the angels - who see constantly the Face of the Father.

Jesus, already in his earthly life, lives the life of the resurrection. He lives constantly beholding the Face of the Father. He enjoys the Beatific Vision. He is eternally Son. He cannot be the husband of anyone. He cannot be the physical father of anyone. He is already what we are all called to be one day: filled with the fullness of the Father. Of that fullness, marriage is only a sign, an anticipation. In the resurrection there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage.

And we consecrated persons, we feel called to follow Jesus even in this choice of his, to not be married. We are trying, like him, to live already now the life of the resurrection. The escatological dimension of chastity. An exalted vocation. A gift given to those to whom it is given. Impossible - but with God, all things are possible.

Called to live this vocation with joy. Quite a call.

And in a pansexual context, in a context where young people are extremely sensitive to the issue of sexuality, the mystery of Christ and his choice of celibacy cannot but speak loudly. The witness of consecrated people who live their vocations with joy, with radiance, cannot but be meaningful.

Obviously, a vocation that cannot be lived without great love, without an intense passion. "Solitude is fatal to a soul that does not burn with great passion" - Kazantzakis.


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