Two of the great Solemnities of the Lord during Ordinary Time are celebrated this month: the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Corpus Christi. During this year’s Sunday Liturgical Cycle “B” we read from St. Mark’s account of the “Institution” narrative. Any of the “Institution” narratives should speak right to our hearts, but especially the heart of priests. It is the priest of the Sacred Order who confects the Holy Eucharist in the person of Jesus Christ, a gift we can’t possibly comprehend this side of heaven. While it is true we celebrate “our” priesthood on the day of our Sacred Ordination and Holy Thursday, but shouldn’t the Solemnity of Corpus Christi speak specifically to our celibate hearts?
St. Mark states in verse 22 of chapter 14: “take it; this is my body.” Other evangelists will add, “which is given for you.” My brothers, that is not only Jesus Pure Body, offered, but our bodies, as well! I am sure all of you have naturally noticed we do not say “take this and eat for this is Jesus’ Body given for you.” While it is very true it is Jesus’s Body-His Real Presence, which we celebrate today with beautiful solemnity and procession, but it is also our broken, sinful bodies offered in sacrifice as priest/victim for the salvation of human persons. We give up a wife and children, not because they are bad, but because they are very good and make ourselves “eunuch’s for the kingdom.”
March 10, 1982 to July 21, 1982 Pope St. John Paul II delivered 14 general audiences at the Vatican discussing the beauty of authentic celibacy for the Kingdom of Heaven as part of the teaching called Theology of the Body. St. John Paul quotes the Gospel of St. Matthew 19:21 and expounds on the gift of celibacy to the priest from God and from the priest to the Church. He states that we are freely foregoing the beauty of earthly marriage and sexual relations as a sign of that state in which men and women “neither marry or are given in marriage.” We “passover” the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in anticipation of the “Marriage of the Lamb.” We celibates are truly married – a marriage of communion of Christ and His Church. We are given the great gift of “original solitude,” which preceded “original unity” in the Garden of Eden, but, at times, many times, the ache of original solitude will subjectively feel lonely or a burden. Objectively, the ache is a gift – our hearts need to be purified to see it as such. Just like so many hearts need to be purified of skepticism, doubt and cynicism to see Jesus Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. This is when we shouldn’t turn to sin or self-pity, but to the words of Institution-take my body given up for you. We can pray this to the Father, for the Church, ourselves, for the priesthood, which needs sacrificial purification and intercession from us priests, as well as the laity. Have you sacrificed, fasted, prayed and given alms for struggling brothers lately or yourself?
The Church is our spouse, beautiful and without blemish on one hand, broken, sinful, battered and bruised on the other. What a gift She is to us! So many brothers have left Her only seeing Her bruises, but not seeing Her beauty and dignity. Is She the body of Christ or isn’t She? Which is it? She definitely is. She needs our love, our healing, our embraces, our protection, our reverence and respect, our sacrifices and she needs our priesthood and victimhood. The Church doesn’t need our constant gripping, complaining and backbiting. She needs our humility and our poverty as Christ gave Himself for Her. We brothers are celebrating that Heaven is real and Jesus has risen and our celibacy is a sign of that reality. How we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should reflect our spousal union (love) with Christ and His Church. The Sacraments should be offered with great love and reverence, not hastily or robotically. As a husband offering himself to his wife, she shouldn’t be rushed or taken for granted, as well. Which is more important to us – the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church or the incessant meetings, and administrative duties to which we have to attend? Celibacy, lived properly, takes Divine transformation, not just human formation. We must be able to live this freely and this takes healing and deliverance from our sinful bondage. The remedy for this Christ gave us is prayer and fasting. Obstacles to real transformation and authentic living of celibacy are: unconfessed sins, unhealed wounds and unforgiveness of offenses we have received from others and ourselves. We are so dignified; we should and need to be merciful to ourselves and allow ourselves time everyday in front of the healing Presence of our Eucharistic Lord.
Corpus Christi is indeed about Jesus Real Presence and should be celebrated as such, but also, we priests, battered and bruised, need to celebrate the authentic beauty of the priesthood, because it is us, with the Descent of the Holy Spirit, who make Jesus Truly Present in the Most Holy Eucharist – Corpus Christi! This is My Body given for you!
Father Tom DeSimone was ordained a priest on May 13, 2006, the Feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. He most recently served as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in White Plains, NY. He joins the staff of the Theology of the Body Institute on a three year leave from the Archdiocese of New York, to become the Institute’s first full time spiritual advisor and Director of Clergy Development.