Somewhere online this Sunday morning, I read about an old Saint who longed for an apple. His state in life, apparently, didn’t allow for apples. So he constantly thought about, and even sensed, the taste of an apple. He told people that, in this poverty, in this absence of what he most wanted, he met God.
I have been thinking along these lines for a while now. I am a celibate gay man and a Roman Catholic. As the latter, I feel that I have to be the former. Many gay people transcend this dichotomy and function joyfully as sexual gay beings who love God and are fully Roman Catholic. For what are probably very confused and unhealthy reasons, I have never been able to make the leap from celibacy to sexual activity while still maintaining my bona fides as a full member of the RC Church.
The story of the ancient apple-deprived Saint of the Church, then, has a lot to say to me.
In the USA, many fundamentalists seem to equate spiritual health and closeness to God with material wealth and general satisfaction. God’s favor is manifest to these believers by a life in which nothing is wanting, in which all good things are given by a God whose tastes and values match their own as 21st-century Americans. These believers may have a perfect understanding of God and God’s beneficence. . . but I don’t think so.
As I understand and have come to know the Jesus of the Gospel, I see Him, especially in the Beatitudes, as a God who seeks to comfort the poor – people whose lives are defined by what is lacking, not what is present. Jesus seems to define His Kingdom as a collection of people who are longing for something, not of people who have what they need and want.
So, in the past months, I have tried to make sense of the at-times palpable sense of lacking that I have felt all my life. I have wanted a man to share my life, to understand my deepest self, to know me body and soul. Such a man hasn’t been given to me. I have, instead, been given other magnificent spiritual and emotional gifts that have made me rich. While acknowledging the beauty of the life I have, I still see the void that the lack of a full sexual relationship has made in my life.
What I have come to sense lately is that I have someone – I always have had someone – who knows and accepts me emotionally and physically: God. I wonder if God has allowed me to wander into this emotional and sexual desert so that God alone can fill the void. I wonder if I would be as dependent on God’s love if I had lived my life as I have always wanted to live it. . . with another gay man. My sense is that I always would want God in my life, male lover or no male lover. But, with a human lover, I never would need God as I need God now – my principal Comforter, my constant Companion, my one life-long Love.
I also wonder if seeing God as my Other is just an old man’s attempt to rationalize a life not lived to the fullest, at least in the secular sense of a full life. Maybe I have invented this understanding so that the final stages of my life will be easier to take.
Then I read about the Saint who always wanted an apple, and I know what the Saint felt and I know how it is that it was in the lack of an apple that Saint met God.