Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Matthew (19: 3-12) in which the Pharisees test Jesus by asking him “Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever?”.Fr Paul says Matthew’s version of Jesus’ upholding the laws on divorce is taken from Mark, but Matthew makes some slight adjustments. Matthew adds to this the alarmed reaction of the disciples and, he also adds Jesus’ further teaching on the voluntary acceptance of celibacy, ‘let anyone accept this who can’. Within Judaism celibacy would have been a surprisingly novel teaching because, as we hear in the Gospel, the references to the Creation Narrative contained in the book of Genesis where we hear of the companionship between man and woman, and the command from God to ‘be fruitful and multiply and fill the whole earth’. However, from the beginning of the monastic movement in the third century, celibacy has been seen in the Church as a symbol of total dedication to God. It has been seen as a preference for the joy of the values of the Kingdom of God over the joys of married life. It is also, of course, a way to imitate Jesus, who as far as we know, remained unmarried. For our reflection today, Fr Paul asks each of us, whether married, celibate or single, whatever state we might find ourselves, to consider ‘How can I best serve the Lord?
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