Men - Women Complementarity                                              Spanish
Fr. Jordi Rivero, june, 2018

The Father’s plan for relationships between men and women is that we abide in mutual love - a love that reflects His divine love. When we ponder the love of Christ for His Bride and then look at the state of men–women relationships today, we begin to realize how far we are from understanding, much less living this love. We must seek Christ’s power of love to restore us. We will only be restored as individuals in the image of God to the extent that we are restored in our own man-woman relationships. Pope Francis said:

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…

A second reflection concerns the topic of man and woman created in the image of God. I wonder if the crisis of collective trust in God, which does us so much harm, and makes us become sick with resignation, incredulity and cynicism, is not also connected to the crisis of the alliance between man and woman. In fact the biblical account, with the great symbolic fresco on the earthly paradise and original sin, tells us in fact that the communion with God is reflected in the communion of the human couple and the loss of trust in the celestial Father generates division and conflict between man and woman.

From here comes the great responsibility of the Church, of all believers, and first of all of believing families, to rediscover the beauty of the creative design that inscribes the image of God also in the alliance between man and woman. 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. (General audience of April 15, 2015)

The pope has also made clear that the man–woman complementarity is necessary not only in marriage but for all to reach their potential as images of God. A man is not a man until he is able to love and be loved by the women in his life. Likewise, women need men.

A man without a woman beside him - whether as a mother, as a sister, as a bride, as a working companion, as a friend - that man by himself is not the image of God... (Mass, Santa Marta, June 15, 2018).

But the love we need to give and receive is God’s love, Christ’s crucified love, not the love the world gives which is not love but selfishness that leads to ruin.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. Jn 15,9

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Jn 14,27

Men and women are called to give and receive from the other the riches of God who lives in them. The body is God’s creation intended to communicate the treasures of the soul. Our smile, our gaze, our hands, our actions..., speak of our true beauty as images of God.

No wonder the enemy seeks to destroy unity of men and women, of body and soul. In order to trap us he must take our eyes away from God so that we see each other no longer as His image. This means taking our eyes away from true love, from virtue, from self-giving. Then the body is seen as an end in itself and the result is lust. We lose touch of the truth of who men and women are. We end up thinking of the "spiritual life" and the "life on earth" as two different realities. C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape letters explains the wiles of the enemy to obsess men with sex:

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)

C.S Lewis wrote in the 1940's and could not have imagined to what degree technology was going to turn women into merchandise to push men to fantasize and trap them into pornography and lust.

Men obsessed with sexual fantasies pressure women, even their wives, to satisfy them at any cost. They demand this as if it were their right. Women become 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. They are afraid of being discarded and of growing old.

As the world exploits sexuality and strips human relationships of their spiritual dimension, the complementarity which God intended between men and women is lost. Some consequences: Few want to marry, few want to have children, marriages falling apart. People then live a profound loneliness. Many wives lament that their husbands do not know their hearts. This is a tragedy for both because they can no longer share the riches that God has given them. Often those riches are lost: The desire to know, to understand and to love each other.

Christ became flesh to overcome these evils and bring us back to the Father. As God-Man, He brought unity between spirit and flesh. The Christian’s new life in the Spirit is communicated with our entire person, body and soul, redeemed to be one with Christ.
When Jesus gives His body for us to eat, He wants us to participate be ONE with Him, one in body and spirit making Him visible. Think of the way Jesus related with women and the implications for how men should relate with women. But many people came after Jesus not looking for unity with Him but to satisfy their body's hunger for bread (Cf.John 6:26). Many man, in a similar manner, go after women not looking for her as a person but to satisfy their sexual desires.

After performing the great miracle with the loaves, Jesus asked 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 necessity 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, in a Christian relationship we must die to our selfishness to enter into love, self-giving, faithfulness.

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:

It is necessary that women not only be more listened to, but that her voice has real weight, a recognized authoritativeness in the society and in the Church. 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 women 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. (General audience of April 15, 2015)