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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Priestly Celibacy: Martyrdom

Martyrdom is an important religious theme and one that is associated with Christian celibacy. The meaning here is heavily dependent upon the witness of Christ. His death sets the parameters for understanding a whole host of topics. First, we do not die in vain. Christ’s death has saving value. He dies that we might live. While marriage is a sacrament open to the transmission of new human life; priestly celibacy is a form of loving that facilitates the life of grace and mercy in those who are served. The sacrifice of celibacy is not made in vain. Our Lord responds to Peter, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last, and [the] last will be first” (Mark 10: 29-31). Surrendering such things now will merit compensation many times over in the kingdom. Second, Jesus dies on the Cross and he asks us to take up our crosses and follow him. We must die to self and practice sacrifice— both in worship and in our practical discipleship. Celibacy is a cross or genuine sacrifice on many levels: the abstention from sexual congress and marital intimacy, the lack of children that one might call his own, and the sublimation of corporeal passion and drive under mind and will. Third, Jesus grants us mercy in his saving death. It is here that Christian martyrdom is unique and radically distinguished from other types of martyrs. Christian martyrdom is not simply a sacrifice for a cause. A militant Islamic terrorist who blows himself up killing his enemies is judged by his handlers as a martyr. However, we would judge him as a murderer and as one who is likely damned for his terrible deed. The Christian martyr must die loving and forgiving his murderers. Similarly, the celibate priest surrenders sexual expression and romantic love out of a greater love for God that finds expression in his service. He is a minister of reconciliation. There should be no resentment over his sacrifice. He dies to self so that he might live for others. He cannot love his celibacy at the expense of closing himself to God, to the needs of others and/or by hating marriage.

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