In Praise of Single Blessedness

15 January 2008 Tuesday of the 1st Week in Ordinary Time
Sam 1, 9-20 In Praise of the Single Blessedness

The Bible have stories of genuine women with very difficult problems where faith are tested. The widow of Zarephath was asked to share to a stranger (Elijah) the only food she had; Queen Esther had to defy the king to save her people; Deborah, Phoebe and Priscilla whose great service as leaders in the Old Testament and the New Testament highlights the roles women took. Today we hear of Hannah, a barren woman who prays for a child. She joins the ranks of Abraham’s Sarah and Zechariah’s Elizabeth. In the first reading, Hannah pours out her heart to God.

Isaiah (54,1; 56, 3-5) says about how God sees people who are barren and unmarried.

Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child;
Burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor;
Because more are the the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord…

Let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.”
For this is what the Lord says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant ---
To them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name
Better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.”

In a sexualized world, everything is connected with sex. Those who are deprived of it or of its fruits --- like single, unmarried or childless couples --- are seen to be less than whole persons. People who are unfulfilled. Like priests, nuns and spinsters.

Every Christian must know that his or her identity lies in Jesus Christ, not in the roles or the civil status that we play. These roles and status come and go. There are many single people who have brought up many sons and daughters to the Kingdom of God. My growing up years have been enriched by the unmarried librarians who aided my research. My life as a priest have been inspired by priests who lived a single and holy life. Some students of mine have been adopted by an aunt or an uncle who had no family of their own. It is not our status that defines us, but who we are.

The apostle Paul said that sometimes marriage complicates service to Christ because it divides allegiances to God and one’s spouse (1 Cor 7, 7-9, 32-25; 39-40). It can sidetrack Christians from serving God. Those who have families, for example, cannot spend their whole time in Church or to a cause. They have to take care of their families first. But those who are single, can spend all of her or his time with the people they serve. Mary Steward Van Leeuwen said that if we evaluate our roles in terms of the Kingdom of God, all are complementary: “a stable Christian family may have a missionary advantage in providing hospitality; but a single person, unencumbered by family duties, often has the missionary advantage of mobility. And both are vital in the spread of the Church.”

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