Monday, March 17, 2014
Today is my mom’s birthday and were she alive we’d be having some sort of combined St. Patrick’s Day / birthday celebration. Since she has started the eternal chapter of her life, I’ll instead honor the day by offering some “theology of women” thoughts based upon witnessing her faith for over 40 years.
The Roman Catholic hierarchy seems to assert that Jesus’ sexual organs are his most important body parts. Why do I say this? The hierarchy asserts that a priest must “naturally” remind people of Jesus’ physical body and only other men can do this. The most differentiating physical attributes between a male and a female are sexual organs. So, it’s easy to surmise that the hierarchy believes Jesus’ most important physical attributes are his sexual organs if they are required to evoke recollection of the man.
This is curious in its own right because the hierarchy further asserts that Jesus never used his sexual organs for their natural intended purpose so why are they so all-fired important…but I digress. Regardless of the hierarchy’s generous willingness to tell me what my thoughts and feelings should be, I know what they are. The person who most reminds me of Jesus’ physical person is my mom.
No, I wasn’t raised by a “mom” who was really just a man dressing in drag. I wasn’t raised by a woman who later had a sex change operation either. I was raised by my natural mother who was female all her life. Yet, she reminded me physically of Jesus more than any other person I’ve encountered. You might ask, “Why?”
Even if you don’t ask, “why”, I will elaborate because that …and maybe a little jetlag following my return from Southeast Asia find me awake in the wee hours of her birthday.
Jesus fed his flock, not by knocking out 80 hour weeks and turning over his paycheck to his wife so she could buy groceries that she would later cook and serve as meals to the flock. Rather, he fed the world by offering himself, his own body. No man I know does this but mothers do it all the time.
My mother fed me and my numerous siblings from her very body. She fed us when we were in utero, where a mother’s body sacrifices nutrients to her child even to the detriment of her own body. After we were born, she continued to feed us from her body, nursing us each for several months post-partum.
Jesus also welcomes us to enter into his Body. Thus, we become part of the Body of Christ. I think maybe this is Jesus’ way of saying, “I love you so much that I will make myself vulnerable so you can enter my body…” This is a profoundly deep expression of love. Women as wives and mothers welcome others to enter their bodies also, through sexual intercourse or through pregnancy. My mother welcomed me into her body via her pregnancy carrying me. She made herself vulnerable to allow me to enter her body and be a part of her body, even when I was no longer a physical resident of her body.
Thus, I readily see Jesus, not only in my mother but in many mothers whose greatest joy comes from making themselves vulnerable to allow others to share their body so that they may have life.
People say Jesus is our “brother” but my brothers never permitted me nor did I ever want to enter their bodies. There’s nothing that poured forth from my brothers’ bodies that I found suitable for consumption or nourishment. There is no part of their flesh that fed me. Yet, there was from my mom as there is from Jesus.
Since the hierarchy asserts that physical recollection of Jesus is required of the person leading a Eucharistic celebration of the Mass lest we sacrifice sacramental validity, then it would seem that hierarchy would need to also assert that this person must be a mother. No other type of person has sacrificed their body to give life to others. No one else intimately knows what is involved in feeding others from their own flesh. How curious that only one man did what many women do, and how comical to say only ordained men understand and portray it. Donning effeminate garb does not fool me into thinking a male priest has the slightest clue about sacrificing his body to feed me like my mother did or Jesus does. It was not the superficiality of my mother’s clothes that fed me. It was the fiber of her physical being. When I became a mother myself, I better understood the profound life-giving, sacrificial, deep love my mother expressed. It became my inspiration to try to imitate her and Christ as best I could.
The experience of feeding another from one’s own body is beyond the experience of every man in history except Jesus. At best, other men can observe others literally feeding others from their own body, but they cannot do it themselves. Maybe because men are incapable of this primary life-giving experience, they suppress or discredit the expressions of those who do. Maybe this is why women’s voices are so often ignored in the church unless they echo the experiences of men.
The bottom line is that I didn’t live in the time of Jesus so didn’t see his physical body and thus, I have never seen his sexual organs. Believe it or not, even if I had met Jesus face-to-face in his time, I sincerely doubt his sexual organs would have been my focal point because it’s not my focal point when meeting men today. I just don’t say, “There’s a guy; he sure reminds me of Jesus because they have the same standard sexual equipment package.”
I can imagine that this fixation on a priest having the same sexual organs as Jesus might be especially offensive to survivors of clergy sexual abuse; it is to me and I was never sexually assaulted by a priest. If Jesus’ sexual organs are so important to remind us of Jesus, how dare they be used for sexual violence? How dare anyone tolerate that, enable that or minimize that? Quite frankly, this is a no-brainer: people who use their flesh to violate others or who minimize another’s use of flesh to violate others do not remind me of Jesus.
Conversely, it’s just a no-brainer that my mom’s or any mom’s holy, joyous sacrifice feeding her flock from her own flesh physically reminds me of Jesus. Active use of her body parts to feed others reminds me of Jesus far more than the male clergy's passive non-use of body parts.