Man & Woman

Christians are witnesses. And one aspect of our witness is that we point to the goodness of creation and of our place in it. We point out that creation is made up of many creatures and persons who are different from ourselves. We acknowledge how different they are, and that we rely on them to be different from ourselves. We do not attempt either to absorb them or to substitute for them. Individually we do not try to be everything. We do not try to replace all others and so do without them. We do not try to make them redundant, or make ourselves entirely autonomous. We do not cut them out of our lives and insist that we will not miss them. We acknowledge that we live in a world made up of many other persons whom we do not determine, and we affirm that they are good, just as they are. So we are witnesses to the independent existence of beings other than ourselves, and we affirm that it is good so.

God loves us.  And God loves those who are not us. We are witnesses to his love. We hope we can love whoever comes our way. We hope for great relationships of love, that over time will blossom out into further great relationships of love. Meanwhile we wait. We do not go to bed with the first man or woman who comes along, and then, bored or fearful, pack them off. We do not glue ourselves to one another only in order to tear ourselves away from one another again. We wait,  sometimes contentedly, sometimes impatiently. Nevertheless, we wait. We are witnesses to what we do not yet have. Hope is our thing.

So a man can wait for a woman. A woman can wait for a man. Perhaps that waiting will stretch out to the end of their lives and they will not meet the woman or man who can become their one and only partner and companion. But in this waiting, they are nonetheless witnesses to love, the love of God they do have and the love of one particular person that they don’t have.

And so it is with women and ministry. They can wait. They can do so because they are Christians. Christians serve and wait and look forward to what they do not yet have. They are witnesses to the future. Hope is our thing, and waiting and looking forward to what we do not yet possess is our distinctive way. If we cannot wait, we do not act as Christians and so are not good models of the Christian life, and the Church cannot choose us to be its ministers for other more particular purposes.  We must be content to watch many people go ahead of us.  We may not see why there should be a difference between them and us, but we can affirm that there always will be, and should be, differences between us. This waiting and pointing to what we do not yet possess is itself the ministry of every Christian. The Christian who does not grasp this, and attempt to be faithful in this way, is certainly not ready for any other ministry.

Men & Women

You are a man or you are woman. You are a witness to the particular charism of being either one or the other.  We are able to live together by giving to one another and by receiving from one another. We are able to receive from others because we do not already have everything. They have what we don’t.  We are able to receive from them whatever they have  and  are able to contribute, because we cannot provide it for ourselves. We need what only they can give us, and so we need them, and they need us. Given differences, of age and of experience and of sex orient us towards one another. Sexual difference brings us together, and make us look to other, appeal to them and wait for them to provide whatever we cannot provide for ourselves. Our need makes us receptive, prompting us to make them  welcome. What is more, we may not know what they have to contribute; they may surprise us, and thus we cannot control them, or insist that they make only the contribution that we demand and allow. What they bring may not be entirely determined by us, and this means that to some degree they are free of us. We are witnesses that differences, and sexual differences in particular, are not subject to our determination. We cannot entirely define and control them. Attempts to deny or reduce differences are untruthful, and in the long term fruitless. Attempts to  expunge sexual difference are futile and an assault on the truth.

God did not intend a unisex human. God does not make everything identical to everything else, for then there would only be one thing, and there would be no one to see it and marvel at it. God brings order, not confusion; God brings what is new, but what is new supplements what is given, it does sweep it aside as though it were all a mistake. God made man, male and female he made them.  God saw that they were good, both individually and together. Christian doctrine says that creation is good, our sexual differences and complementarity are good, and for the health of our society it is the job of Christians to say so.