Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?"
He said in reply, "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate." They said to him, "Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?" He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery."
His disciples said to him, "If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." He answered, "Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it."
Marriage. Celibacy. Words heavy with import for every listener. For what they mean touches on life's most resounding chords. Christ's teachings only add to that solemnity when he underlines the sacrality and the definitiveness of these states of life.
That might frighten us. How can a decision be that irrevocable? Jesus points out that our fear and insecurity are, ultimately, due to a hardness of heart. Hearts are made for love and, therefore, bear the laws of love within them. One of these laws is definitiveness -- others are selflessness, unconditionality, self giving, etc. Our hearts are made for love. And yet, these laws are often buried under stuff which we hord within us, disabling us to love as we are created and called to do.
In this light, Christ doesn't simply deal with marriage and celibacy as a determination of the state of life. Being called to something doesn't refer so much to a single moment, nor to a distinct period of discernment. A vocation, a state of life, goes on and on. Each vocation is a love story and love lives from the daily commitment, the renewal of the laws of love in our heart.
Thus, marital faithfulness or accepting celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, in as far as they require a daily decision, are true schools of love. What lies behind both the disciples' perplexity and our insecurity regarding the sacred and solemn character of definitiveness is the fear to love fully. Hardness of heart is how Jesus calls it, and we can all feel it sometimes. Love is brave, love is beautiful, but love is also quite sacrificial if we take it seriously.
Jesus, out of love I was created, with love you have redeemed me, to love you call me. Soften my heart so that your love can grow within me. Teach me the real laws of love and bless my poor efforts with the fruits of grace. Above all, I want to renew my love to you and ask for your Spirit to love in me.