Why Priests are Celibate

At all-hands meeting on Wednesday, I shared with a colleague that I had spent the Holiday weekend with a cold, lying on the floor watching movies. He himself had taken in “Lawnmower Man,” with it’s “gratuitous sex.”

Before remarking upon the similarities to “The Kids Are All Right,” I let slip: “As much as I remember about sex.”

I am single, but women make it obvious that I am attractive. It’s the sudden pause in their activity when I come around a corner, the frown and determination in their eyes when they look away, the staring when I dance.

It happened twice at the store on Christmas Eve: coming around the corner of an aisle to receive a woman’s astonished regard, frision all over my extremities focusing inwards as she fell into my heart.

As David Koresh did, I could make a real mess in the world. But I understand it this way: it’s not me. They are falling into the light that shines from me. They hunger for it because it promises surcease from the dirt that the world pours over them – the lust, the sloth, the greed. Freed from those burdens, they can manifest their most virtuous aspirations.

What I recognize, though, is that I can’t guarantee that to them. It is their right, but it is a right secured only in relationship with the Most High.

I am only a window that they can look through. They are responsible for securing the relationship.

And so I am single because I refuse to submit to their desire that I be responsible for that relationship.

He that Lives By the Gun, Dies By the Gun

The parable of the Good Samaritan is offered by Jesus in response to a challenge by a Hebrew lawyer, an expert on the law, who asks “Teacher, what must I do to attain eternal life?” Jesus responds with a question of his own, prompting the lawyer to summarize the law. Rather than listing the main categorizes and precepts, the lawyer says [NIV Luke 10:27]:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

To which Jesus affirms:

You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.

Obviously the focus is not this life on Earth, but the life of eternity lived with God. It is in this vein that we should also interpret his warning to the disciple in the Garden of Gethsemane [NIV Matt. 26:52]:

Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

This is not a prophesy of human retribution, but one of a piece with his testimony that eternal life can only be found through him. When we depend upon violence for our security, we sunder ourselves from the spirit of love that forgives all sins – the same spirit that thereby gains the power to heal the wounds in our souls.

So to those that both:

  • see gun ownership as a necessary antidote to governmental over-reaching, and
  • threaten those that see violence as the greatest wound to civil society:

You may be able to assert your power in this world, but you surrender participation in the world to come. You may assert your freedoms in this society, but unless you lay down your weapons of your own volition, you will be left behind when the Prince of Peace welcomes souls into his kingdom.

You see, love amplifies all things, and to allow into heaven those that believe in violence would be to allow violence into heaven, and amplify its presence. That would be to betray those that have invested and suffered  in peace for His promises. He will not bend to the ‘freedoms’ presumed by the NRA, even if they are enshrined in the US Constitution.

The Practice of Freedom: Speech vs. Abusive Speech

In response to this conversation:What is Abuse? I was inspired by the intellectual ping-pong across the U.S.-Canadian border.

I’ve been working through the issues relating to freedom out on my blog for the last two months, in ways sometimes veiled and sometimes overt. It’s been coming up in my conversations with friends, so it’s obviously a sticking point for me.

The exercise of freedom comes with responsibility. Abuse on the internet often reflects the decoupling between our actions (writing of strongly-worded statements) and their psychological consequences to the reader. In the worst case, some manage to create whirlpools of angst that they use to suck psychic energy out of others.

It is that pure spiritual experience – clicking on a link and feeling the energy drain out of me – that causes me to shy from the American celebration of “freedom of speech.” Speech is an action that generates a psychological context that creates a social dynamic. We need to ask ourselves “What kind of society are we generating with our speech?”

In all except a very few cases, Jesus did not attack the powerful. He built a community of disciples around him – the weak and dispossessed. When his teachings were contradicted by the religious authorities of the day, he would expose their hypocrisy, but always for the benefit of the understanding of his disciples. So I think that the it is necessary to focus first on trying to use our words to lift up those that have been beaten down, and only turn negative when deconstructing the conventions of thought that hold them down.

Into the Garden

On the weekend of my 45th birthday, I woke at 2 AM and drove from Livermore to Yosemite. The summer sight-seers were still in their beds when I parked at the Swinging Bridge. As I neared the far bank of the Merced River, I spied a circle of sunlight among the redwoods. A feeling of joy came to me, like unto an encounter with a long-lost friend. I stepped into the circle and raised my arms to the sky, and felt the whole valley singing with happiness.

I don’t know if I can ever convey what it is like to enter fully into Christ. In the official biography of Pope John Paul II, there’s a picture of him sitting on the stage in Manila, alone amidst a throng of tens of thousands. His forehead is pressed into his palm. When I saw the picture, I felt the weight of their sorrows pressing against him in that moment.

To be in Christ is to feel all the anguish of a world that suffers from our inattention. It is to shoulder the burdens shirked by those that have the power to make a difference. As Jesus says [NIV Matt. 11:28-30]:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

This is the paradox: those that seek power seek this same freedom – freedom from fear, freedom from weariness, freedom for sorrow. And yet they seek it in material things, when only Christ can grant them that freedom, and even then only when they accept the burdens that love lays upon them. So they are forced to choose between their desire for freedom and the love of Christ, and most choose freedom.

Fundamentally, it was this contradiction that brought Jesus to the cross.

When I thought on this last night, lying awake in the dark after Mystery had once again tried to corrupt me, I remembered that moment in Yosemite, and I thought of Gethsemane, were Jesus testified [NIV Mark 14:34]:

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Where did that sorrow come from? Well, from the Garden itself, acknowledging the man that brought words of peace and healing into its midst, celebrating the hope that maybe finally mankind would stop warring against Nature, and grieving the knowledge that the impending response was his destruction.

God, how I miss the gardens of the world – the trees and scrub, the birds, foxes and deer. I have walked the hills here in Southern California as they dry up and burn, and my heart can hardly bear it any longer. Please, God, send me someplace where the garden and I can delight again in one another.