Monday, June 29, 2009

Peter versus Mary


Does the Church believe that men are better than women? Why can't women be priests? When is the Vatican going to break free of this outdated patriarchal system of "government" and get with the times?

Hmmm. On this feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul, the rocks on which the Church was built, I wonder if in certain circles, these questions aren't stirred up again with new ardor.

The mystics tell us that there are two dimensions to life, two movements of the heart, two approaches to reality and spirituality. They are as big and as cosmic as Earth and Sky, Sun and Moon, Masculine and Feminine. They are the Petrine Way and the Marian Way.

Many of us tend to plod along in our faith journey following the Petrine Way; named after St. Peter, impetuous, lovable, "open mouth insert foot" Peter. It is active, leaps ahead, goes, grabs, speaks with passion and is a very productive way, no doubt. Generally speaking, it has masculine characteristics. To get closer to God, I'm going to "do" this or that.... get involved in a group, knock on doors, do the stations every day, read the entire Bible in a year, etc. It springs forth from us, from our initiative.
There's nothing wrong with it. It's the active branch of the Active/Contemplative paradigm that makes up the Christian Way of life. In the Martha and Mary gospel story, this is Martha.

But it is not the only way to live in the Spirit that God has poured into our hearts. In fact, the primordial way, the first way, the fundamental posture for those who thirst for the Holy Spirit is the Marian Way, modelled after Mary, the Mother of Jesus. This in fact, is the "better part" that Martha's sister chose, and Jesus said it shall not be taken from her. This Way is receptive, it waits, receives, is still. It listens to Words and contemplates the Word. By no means, incidentally, is it to be confused with passivity. This is (paradoxically) an active listening, and eager expectation that the Gift of God should be done unto me, should be given unto me! This Way leads to our being filled with God.

Mother Teresa knew this well. She said only the heart that is empty can be filled. The receptive heart is empty of agendas, aggressive opining, over analyzing. It is essentially feminine. And the saints and mystics say that in relation to God we are all of us feminine...

Guys, this is NOT an affront to our manhood. It simply means that God is Creator, we are creature. It means God (Who is neither male or female) is essentially "masculine" - He initiates, He gives, He impregnates, and we respond, we receive, we are filled with the seed of His Divine Life.
So who's "better" - man or woman? Well, no answer really. Both are creatures equal in dignity, called to respond, receive, conceive the Divine Life. But at the same time, Peter's shining moments did come to him when he was essentially "receptive" - when he stopped talking and started taking in what God was saying to him.
Jesus said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
It seems clear that in that moment, Peter "looked up" - he opened his mind and heart and received that Word from the Father. This was Peter's Marian moment. Perhaps this is why Pope John Paul II called Mary the icon of all humanity, and called for a rediscovery of the "feminine genius" in our times.... our overly productive, aggressively masculine times. Why he called woman God's masterpiece.
Just some thoughts to shed light on more questions. We need both ways, but the foundation lies in the feminine. Let's ponder this one some more today. Am I first a receiver of God's gifts? Or do always make the first move, on my own, from my own strength, my own agenda?
"Only those who have learned to remain with Jesus, are ready to be sent by Him to evangelize."
- Pope John Paul II
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