Men - Women's Reciprocal Enrichment

Fr. Jordi Rivero, 4-22-2015

God made both men and women in His image. In addition, Hiis image is also inscribed in the alliance between men and women. Pope Francis teaches:

The earth is filled with harmony and trust when the alliance between man and woman is lived well. And if man and woman seek it together between themselves and with God, without a doubt they will find it. Jesus encourages us explicitly to give witness to this beauty, which is the image of God." >>>

Men and women need each other to fully realize their potential as images of God. Each is called to give and receive from the other the riches of God who lives in them. In God's plan, the body is meant to communicate those inner riches. The physical is an instrument for the spiritual. Our smile, our gaze, our hands, our actions..., speak of our true beauty as images of God.  

But when the soul breaks away from God, it is invaded by the craving of the senses and is driven by lust to view the body as an end in itself, to be exploited for selfish pleasure. Sin blocks the spiritual from being revealed through the body. We end up thinking of the "spiritual life" and the "life in earth" as two different realities. The Son became flesh to overcome that division in Himself. He is God-Man. We too are spirit and flesh. Redemption gives us a new life in the Spirit which is expressed and lived out through our bodies. Our entire person, body and soul is redeemed to be one with Christ.

When Jesus gives His body for us to eat, He is teaching us the unity of body and spirit which He came to restore. Entering a relationship in the flesh cannot be separated from union with the entire person. Think of the way people related with Jesus and the implications for how men relate with women. As the people came after Jesus not looking for unity with Him but to satisfy their body's hunger for bread. Many man, in a similar manner, go after women not looking for her as a  person but to satisfy their sexual desires. Jesus tells them "you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves" (John 6:26).

 After performing the great miracle, Jesus is asking them to believe in Him. He takes them beyond their expectations and beyond any concept of religion they could imagine: He teaches them that eating Him they will be united with HIm and share in His life! They protest. How can they eat the flesh of a man? Many abandon Him. Jesus then again declares that we must eat His body but adds "It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail" (Jn 6:63). Why does He say this if He has insisted on the necesity of receiving His body? Jesus is saying that receiving His body would be of no avail if we do not allow Him to give us His life in the Spirit. For this to happen we must enter a profound union heart to heart with Him. Similarly, it is of no avail to seek a woman without seeking spiritual union with her person. In a  spiritual union both must die to self to enter into love, self-giving, faithfulness... 

As the powers of the world exploit sexuality and strip human relationships of their spiritual dimention, the complementarity which God intended between men and women is lost. C.S. Lewis in his famous Screwtape letters explains how the enemy works through the culture:

 The figures in the popular art are falsely drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender….than nature allows a full-grown woman to be. Yet at the same time, the modern world is taught to believe that it is being “frank” and “healthy” and getting back to nature. As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something which does not exist–making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast! (106-107)

He wrote in the 1940's and could not have imagined to what degree technology was going to turn women into merchandise. C.S. Lewis lamented: "Since this kind of beauty is even more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female’s chronic horror of growing old and render her less willing and less able to bear children."

Men obsessed with sexual fantacies pressure women, even their wives, to satisfy them at any cost. They demand this as if it were their right. Women become objects, a drug meant to produce an elusive pleasure. Women feel that they are never good enough because they can never compare to the man's fantasy. A popular gift for girls upon high school graduation is now plastic surgery. Then every so many years women feel they need even more surgery to keep up their appearance.

This culture of lust confuses love with sex. It kills true love. People live a profound loneliness. Many wives lament that their husbands do not know their hearts. This is a tragedy for both the husband and the wife because they can no longer share the riches that God has given them nor the ways that they are finding meaning in life. Often those riches are lost. The true desire of the soul, to know, to understand and to love each other, is frustrated.

Pope Francis observed:

Experience teaches it: to know himself well and to grow harmoniously, the human being is in need of reciprocity between man and woman. When this does not happen, the consequences are seen. We are made to listen to and to help one another. We can say that without the reciprocal enrichment in this relation – in thought and in action, in affections and in work, also in the faith – the two cannot understand in depth what it means to be a man and a woman. ...God has entrusted the earth to the alliance of man and of woman: its failure makes the world arid of affections and darkens the sky of hope. The signs are already worrying, and we see them. (Ibid)

These are a few signs: few are getting married or marry late in life, few want to have children and marriages are falling apart. But God waits for the prodigal son to return to his senses, to come home and enter the happiness that is only possible when we repent, renounce to selfishness and enter His love.

Pope Francis reminds us that our way back to the Father's house is through Jesus:

The way itself with which Jesus considered women –we read it in the Gospel, it is so! -- in a context less favorable than ours, because in those times women were in fact in second place ...We have not yet understood in depth what things the feminine genius can give us, which woman can give to society and also to us. Perhaps to see things with other eyes that complements the thoughts of men. It is a path to follow with more creativity and more audacity. (ibid)