Sunday, November 4, 2012 by Fr Paul Chetcuti
Can homosexuals be a sign that gender and sexual relations are not the ultimate definition of who we are?
In November the Church invites us to look at the bigger picture – life as we know it on earth is only part of a journey leading us to life everlasting. Faith helps us read events and situations from a different perspective, thus helping us face thorny life issues with inner serenity.
One defining yet challenging area of our human existence is gender and sexuality. In the gospel Jesus is repeatedly asked about it by his opponents. When challenged with questions regarding sexuality he typically answered in the context of this ‘bigger picture’ – life eternal. When asked to whom, after death, will belong the wife who survived her seven successive husbands, Jesus answers: “Your mistake is… that you do not know the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven.” (Mt. 20:29)
In another major confrontation about divorce (Mt. 19:1-12) Jesus ends his defence of marriage by referring to those incapable of, or unwilling to marry and have sexual intercourse – the eunuchs.
I wish to propose some considerations inspired by these texts, well aware of the complexity of this issue. I offer them with respect and gratitude to homosexuals (and heterosexuals) seeking spiritual enlightenment on how they live their sexuality.
Accepting God in our lives does not mean escaping from or easing pain. It is freely accepting Him to lead us to a higher, more purposeful life. Jesus himself, aware of how hard were his words about eunuchs “for the sake of the Kingdom”, felt the need to add: “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given”. (Mt 19:12)
Seen from the wider perspective of our eternal destiny, our identity is destined to go well beyond our gender or sex. When our bodies are transformed in the Risen Christ, gender stops defining the human person, simply because our earthly body no longer retains its limiting and defining nature.
With death, marriage is superseded, even if the intimacy between husband and wife, without being abolished, finds its fullness in the open, universal intimacy of God with all His creatures. We shall be like the “angels in heaven”. Can we look at homosexuality from the same perspective? Can homosexual people be a sign for the rest of us that gender and sexual relations are not the ultimate definition of who we are as children of God?
In the above mentioned Ggospel passage Jesus mentions those who “made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake”. Jesus is saying that some are called to renounce sexual love and marriage to be prophetic pointers to our final human destiny – heaven – where sexuality, gender, bodily needs and restrictions no longer limit our soul and spirit.
These prophets are called to state by their celibacy that our human bodies, in their sexuality and gender, are not our ultimate identity. Our earthly bodies only introduce, accompany and help us reach the ultimate beauty and meaning of our existence – the Kingdom of Heaven.
This is the prophetic vocation that priests, nuns and consecrated people live in their freely embraced vow of celibacy. When the Church invites homosexuals to refrain from being sexually active, is it not inviting them, in practice, to live a chaste and celibate kind of love too?
Could homosexuals also, eager and free to follow Christ and live the gospel, find new depths to their identity and sexual orientation by choosing to join Christ in his renunciation to sexuality and marriage “for the sake of the Kingdom”? Seen this way the Church’s stance would perhaps look more as an invitation rather than a flat prohibition.
Those who choose to live this way will discover that their sexual identity is neither simply acquired nor need it be frustratingly endured. They can see themselves as precious gifts freely and joyfully received and offered because of the ultimate meaningfulness of who they are.
This holds not only for homosexuals but for all men and women. Struggling for our human dignity to be fully acknowledged is a virtue, but fighting back who we actually are is the opposite of liberation.
Loving who we are in the eyes of God makes our lives not only meaningful but truly fertile and life-giving. Each person, whatever his or her orientation or gender, is called by God to live his or her sexuality in such a way as to be a living witness of the fact that we humans, all humans, have been created for greater things.
Jesus calls these greater things “the Kingdom of Heaven”, our ultimate home. But to reach it we need to anchor our deepest human desires in the person of Jesus, who anchored himself in our human condition. With him, our suffering and death is no longer the end, but the fulfillment of who we really are.