May 01, 2008

pánta hósa échei ho patèr emá estin

A powerful masculine identity statement!
The Greek of John 16:15a— “ALL THAT THE FATHER HAS IS MINE.” [That’s one line from the Gospel reading for the Mass of Wednesday of the sixth week of Easter.]
When a child is born, whether male or female, the child is literally dependent on the body of a female, the mother, for life, for nourishment. Even if nourished with a manufactured feeding formula, the formula is a substitute for natural milk from the body of the mother.
However, if the infant is to grow into a healthy human person, he has to acquire a sense of personhood or personal identity that is independent of and distinct from the mother; and this is necessary for both male and female infants.
However, there is a difference.
A female infant can continue to hold onto identification with the mother and the mother’s body in terms of female gender.
While a female infant absolutely must acquire a sense of identity as person separate from the person of her mother, the female infant does not have to “break” with the gender identity of her mother— and it is best that she not do so.
A male infant must acquire BOTH a sense of personhood that is separated (“broken away”) from the personhood of his mother AND a sense of gender identity different from his mother’s; for this last separation, a male infant needs to “latch” onto, or identify with, gender-wise, a male, a father.
In terms of the body, in terms of roles to be played as a human being, in terms of emotionality, a male infant, a male child, needs to recognize, “All that my father has is mine.”
Jesus, in John 16:15a, “All that the Father has is mine,” is not expressing his sense of physical gender identity, so to speak.
Nonetheless, we cannot conclude from his words and his meaning that his identification with God his Father has NO relevance to his sense of human masculinity, maleness.
Jesus overtly uses specifically male titles for himself: Bridegroom; Son.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus is a male who is powerfully, absolutely sure of himself, his identity, his origin, his goals, his intentions, his wants, his expectations, his mission.
In John 16:12-15, Jesus powerfully affirms not only his sense of identity as Son of the Father, but also the way in which we can and must identify with Jesus, and thereby identify with the Father.
Unless we identify, as sons, with the Father, we cannot grow as men in Christ. [Women, too, need to identify and grow as daughters of the Father.]
However, while we can naturally identify with human persons, it is quite another thing to identify with God the Son and God the Father.
We cannot bear to do so, and Jesus alludes to that in this passage, revealing, nonetheless a supernatural power— the Spirit of truth— that enables us to be identified with Jesus and the Father.
I have yet many things to say to you,
When the Spirit of truth comes,
he will guide you into all the truth;
for he will not speak on his own authority,
but whatever he hears he will speak,
and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
He will glorify me,
therefore I said that he [the Spirit of truth] will take what is mine
and declare it to you.

Because of the Spirit we can bear to receive all that Jesus has as Son of the Father.
Jesus has all that the Father has.
It is the Spirit, then, that empowers us to be sons and daughters of the Father, even as Jesus is Son of God.
In Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, all that the Father has is mine, and I can bear it.
My (sinful) difficulty is that I am not daring enough, and so I settle for far less.


Anonymous gsk said...

Excellent reflection, Father. Key to the son breaking with the mother and identifying with the father is 1. the presence of the father; and 2. the mother's introduction and nudging. Many women (subtly or not so subtly) neglect this and confuse the sons. The mother can emasculate the father, undermine his authority, or express anger in various ways, and the child is then conflicted.

Thus, when I promote "woman as icon of the Church," I emphasise that Mary was the essential bridge to the Father, she entrusted her own Son to Joseph, and Holy Mother Church is now our sure path to God. This is the authentic collaboration on which families thrive. Without a healthy mother to be that bridge, everyone suffers.

Unhealthy mother? Find the wound, grieve, and forgive. There is peace therein and greater wisdom, and the Mystical Body of Christ will prosper.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

In more than one way, Israel, by command of God, ritualized the acknowledgment of a male child's maleness and the passing of sons to their fathers in more than one way.

First, the rites of the eighth day after birth, with the circumcision of the boy, and the giving of his name by the father, not the mother.

Then, the rites of the fortieth day, when the parents presented a first-born male son to God in the temple, and redeemed (literally "bought back") their son from God at the price of a yearling male lamb or, in the case of the poor, two birds.

9:56 AM  

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