There has only been one person ever who has been able to choose down to the last gene whom he wanted to be – and celibate was what the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity in a human body chose to be. Jesus Christ chose to be celibate when he chose to become man: the two are inseparable. It wasn’t by chance; it wasn’t because he had to: no, Jesus Christ deliberately decided to be celibate.
Moreover, since life and mission were one in Jesus Christ, since the redemptive mission of Jesus formed a monolithic unity with his existence, since in Jesus Christ there were no “neutral” thoughts, words, gestures and actions not oriented to the redemption of mankind, his sacred chastity had to have been chosen as an integral part of his mission.
It is imperative therefore for us to plunge deeply into these reasons why the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity chose to be celibate because in His reasons – and not in any abstract religious reasons of ours– rests the meaning of the priest’s celibacy since the priest’s mission is to perpetuate the mission of Jesus Christ.
Firstly, as man Jesus Christ remained the Only-Begotten Son of the Eternal Father, the “Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.3:17), “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father”( the Nicene Creed). Therefore the form of existence of the Son incarnate had to express his unique and quintessential relationship with his beloved Father: Jesus needed and ardently desired to continue expressing during his “exile” on earth his shoreless love for his Father, since, as he told the apostles, “I and the Father are one” (Jn.10:30). While on earth he intended to show through the glance of his eyes, the words on his lips, the gestures of his hands and every heartbeat that he lived the great truth that he taught: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt.22:37). But he also showed the Father’s love for humanity as a whole and for each and every individual and in a sublime and superior way for each Christian. For the Christian will be united to God in the depths of his lifeblood: “My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them” (Jn 14:23). This revelation by Christ of the Father occurred through his celibacy for it manifested, through the absence of a self-giving of his body (which symbolizes the giving of all one’s self) to one particular woman, his desire to love each and every individual.
Secondly, God became man “for us men and for our salvation” for “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”(1 Tim.2:4) This will of God for man’s salvation implies a staggering love which is universal and undaunted by ingratitude and the horrors of sin.
We sometimes make a tremendous error about God’s love for man, imagining it to be less intense than our experience of human love. But how wrong we are! As C.S. Lewis pointed out, God loves not as “a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, not the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes….” ( C.S.LEWIS, The Problem of Pain, chap 3, para. 13-14)
Such divine love in a human heart would only express it’s love in the most extreme and universal way imaginable.
Could there have been any more appropriate way for Jesus Christ to live out both his fathomless love for his Father and his poignant love for man than through sacred celibacy?
By the nature of the love inherent to celibacy he could belong in his human nature more fully to His Father with all of his powers of intelligence and love polarized without restriction towards him. At the same time his celibacy enabled him to be universally in an all-encompassing manner for all men and women, in a way simply not possible in marriage which necessarily and rightly focuses a man’s energies towards his spouse and children.