On this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we do our best to contemplate the mystery of God’s inner-life as Three Divine Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Theologians speak of how this mystery is reflected in the human person—that one way of grasping the notion of the Holy Trinity is to consider the mystery of who we are: male and female, and even more, the life generating capacities that their complementary as male and female bears.
I recently started reading a book entitled The Anti-Mary Exposed, written by a woman named Carrie Gress, who has a doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. She speaks of the modern anti-Mary mentality and the rise of toxic femininity. To be clear, feminism can mean different things for different people. On one hand, I see the value in a feminism that sees the imperative value in equal treatment, for women to have opportunities like men, to have a voice, to not be regarded as a lesser-being. But then there’s what Dr. Gress calls Radical Feminism, which she says stems from what’s described as “a particular women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and ’70s that has Marxist roots”…adding that “Marxism and all the systems of government and economics that arise from it depend upon the belief that human nature can be changed, by force if necessary—as Dr. Gress says, seeking ‘equality and respect through the vices of Machiavelli: rage, intimidation” and such (http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/assailing-the-anti-mary).
Among the things that come out of the latter brand of feminism is a view that children are simply an obstacle to a woman’s true happiness and achievement, but further an anti-male mentality, that the author says is harmful, not only for men, but also for women.
We commonly see it in popular culture. In a review of the most recent Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, the reviewer pointed out that “almost without exception, the male characters are bumbling, incompetent, morally compromised. They don’t know what to do until they get proper female instruction”. On the other hand, “almost without exception, the women are brilliant, heroic, virtuous, etc., rolling their eyes” at the misguided men. This, the reviewer pointed out, is contrasted with the male-female complementarity, the twinning of Luke and Leia, from the original Star Wars movies (Bishop Robert Barron, YouTube).
Please understand, my point is not to denounce the empowerment of women, though I do believe we must be careful not to therefore undermine the value of a woman as mother or spouse. Yes, I say this as a man, but I also do so as having had strong female-figures in my life since childhood. My point is primarily that the empowerment of women shouldn’t come by means of male-bashing, as seems to be an increasing trend in our culture.
But perhaps too often, men have brought this on themselves—that too many men, fathers, husbands, brothers, perpetuate the stereotypes of all that’s embarrassing about male-ness: men who use their power over and against those who are weaker; who subject women to abuse or human-trafficking; who behave as though sex is a recreational sport that has no meaning or consequences for themselves or the other; who are driven by the pursuit of status, wealth and the things money buys; men whose bodily appetites are insatiably fed by the violent or sexual imagery they view; who think being shallow and dumb is somehow cool; who are preoccupied with self-preservation or think their power is shown in self-reliance; and so on.
My brothers, on this Father’s Day, may we consider, in contrast to all that, what God intended for men. As with any ways that humanity or other God-given institutions suffer the effects of our fallen nature, we do well always to consider what God originally intended. Though there are many ways to describe God’s high ideal for us, we see it beautifully personified in our patron, St. Joseph, who struggled, but nonetheless found a way to trust in the precarious plan that God had for him, even with its uncertainties and causes for fear—a courageous man, giving his life to defend what God had entrusted to him.
Men, fathers, husbands, sons, brothers: We were made for more than what we are too often inclined to settle for, and our sons learn it from us. On this Fathers’ Day, in whatever way male-ness needs to be redeemed, let us look ultimately to Jesus for how it’s done—Jesus, who lived in simplicity and humility, who was willing to make himself vulnerable, to be sacrificed for the good of those he loved…Jesus, who had a band of brothers. In all that was his great strength.
For all the ways that the Most Holy Trinity eludes our rational capacities, God wanted to be known by us and thus took on our flesh, lived among us, and taught us by word and example. It’s in this same Jesus that we ultimately will be able to reveal the depths of the beautiful mystery of man and woman, and through that, further discover the dumbfounding mystery of our Triune God.