Pope Francis & Today’s Families: Man, Woman, & MarriageBy: Pope Francis Vatican City
Man and woman created by God
Vatican City, April 22, 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.
In the previous catechesis on the family, I reflected on the first passage of the creation of the human being, in the first chapter of Genesis, where it is written: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Today I would like to complete the reflection with the second passage, which we find in the second chapter. Here we read that the Lord, after having created heaven and earth, “formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” He is the pinnacle of creation. Then God put man in a most beautiful garden so that he would till and keep it.
The Holy Spirit, who has inspired the whole Bible, suggests for a moment the image of man alone, and that he is lacking something without woman. And he suggests God’s thought, almost God’s sentiment, who looks at him, who sees Adam alone in the garden: he is free, he is lord … but he is alone. And God sees that this “is not good,” it is as though communion is lacking, plenitude is lacking. “It is not good”—God says—and adds: “I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Then God presents all the animals to man; man gives each one of them its name—and this is another image of man’s lordship over creation—however, he does not find in any animal one that is like him. Thus, man continues alone.
When, finally, God presents woman to him, exulting man recognizes that creature, and only that one, which is part of him: “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Finally, there is a reflection of himself, a reciprocity.
And when a person—it is an example to understand this well—wants to shake hands with another, he must have another before him: if one puts out one’s hand and has nothing, the hand is there, but reciprocity is lacking. So was man, he was lacking something to reach his plenitude, he was lacking reciprocity.
Woman is not a “replica” of man; she comes directly from the creative gesture of God. The image of the “rib” does not express inferiority or subordination but, on the contrary, that man and woman are of the same substance and are complementary. And the fact that—still in the parable—God molded woman while man slept, stresses in fact that she is in no way creature of man, but of God. And it also suggests something else: To find woman, and we can say to find love in woman, to find woman, man must first dream about her and then he finds her.
God’s trust in man and woman, to whom he entrusts the earth, is generous, direct and full. However, it is here where the Evil One introduces in his mind suspicion, incredulity, mistrust, and finally disobedience to the commandment that protected them. They fall into that delirium of omnipotence that contaminates everything and destroys harmony. We also feel it within ourselves, so many times, all of us.
Sin generates mistrust and division between man and woman. Their relationship is threatened by thousands of ways of prevarication and submission, of deceitful seduction and humiliating arrogance, even the most dramatic and violent. History bears the imprints. Let us think, for instance, of the negative excesses of patriarchal cultures. Let us think of the many forms of machismo, where woman is considered to be second class. Let us think of the instrumentalization and merchandising of the feminine body in the present media culture. However, let us also think of the recent epidemic of mistrust, skepticism and even hostility that is spreading in our culture—in particular beginning with a comprehensible mistrust of women—in relation to an alliance between man and woman that is capable at the same time of refining the intimacy of communion and of guarding the dignity of the difference.
If we do not find a wave of sympathy for this alliance, capable of establishing the new generations to repair the mistrust and the indifference, children will come into the world ever more uprooted from the maternal womb. The social devaluation of the stable and generative alliance of man and woman is certainly a loss for all. We must reassess marriage and the family! And the Bible says a beautiful thing: man finds woman, they find one another, and man must leave something to find her fully. And for this, man will leave his father and his mother to go with her. It is beautiful! This means to begin a journey. Man is all for woman and woman is all for man.
The care of this alliance of man and woman—also if they are sinners and are wounded, confused or humiliated, mistrustful, and uncertain—is therefore for us believers a demanding and exciting vocation, in the present condition. The same passage of creation and of sin, at the end, gives us a most beautiful icon: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.” It is an image of tenderness to that sinful couple that leaves us with our mouth open: the tenderness of God for man and for woman. It is an image of paternal custody of the human couple. God himself takes care of and protects his masterpiece.
Man and woman in the Gospel—marriage
Vatican City, April 29, 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
After having considered the two accounts of the book of Genesis, our reflection on God’s original design on the man-woman couple is now addressed directly to Jesus.
At the beginning of his Gospel, the Evangelist John recounts the episode of the Wedding at Cana, in which the Virgin Mary and Jesus, with his first disciples, were present (Cf. John 2:1-11). Not only did Jesus participate in that marriage, but he “saved the celebration” with his miracle of the wine! Therefore, the first of his prodigious signs, with which he revealed his glory, he carried out in the context of a marriage, and it was a lovely gesture for that nascent family, solicited by Mary’s maternal concern. This makes us recall the Book of Genesis, when God finishes the work of creation and makes his masterpiece; the masterpiece is man and woman. And here, in fact, with this masterpiece is where Jesus begins his miracles, in a marriage, in a wedding feast: a man and a woman. Thus Jesus teaches us that the masterpiece of society is the family: man and woman who love one another! This is the masterpiece!
Since the time of the Wedding at Cana, so many things have changed, but that “sign” of Jesus contains a message that is always valid.
Today it does not seem easy to speak of marriage as a celebration that is renewed in time, in the different stages of the whole life of the spouses. It is a fact that persons who marry are always fewer; this is a fact: young people do not want to get married. Instead, in many countries the number of separations increases, while the number of children decreases. The difficulty to remain together—be it as a couple, be it as a family—leads to breaking the bonds with ever greater frequency and rapidity, and, in fact, it is the children that are the first to bear the consequences. But let us think that the first victims, the most important victims, the victims that suffer most in a separation are the children. If you experience from the time you are little that marriage is a bond for “a determined time,” it will be so for you unconsciously. In fact, many young people are led to renounce the project itself of an irrevocable bond and of a lasting family. I think we have to reflect very seriously on why so many young people “don’t feel like” getting married. There is this culture of the provisional … everything is provisional, it seems there is nothing definitive.
This fact of young people not wanting to marry is one of the concerns that emerges today: why don’t young people marry? Why do they often prefer to live together and, so often, with “limited responsibility”? Why do many—also among the baptized—have little trust in marriage and the family? It is important to try to understand, if we want young people to be able to find the right way to follow. Why don’t they have confidence in the family?
The difficulties are not only of an economic character, although these are truly serious. Many hold that the change that has happened in these last decades has to do with the emancipation of woman. However, this argument is not valid either; it is a falsehood, it’s not true! It is a form of machismo that always wants to dominate woman. We make the bad figure that Adam made when God said to him: “Why have you eaten the fruit of the tree?” and he <answered>: “The woman gave it to me.” And the fault is the woman’s. Poor woman! We must defend women! In reality, almost all men and women would like affective stability, a solid marriage and a happy family. The family is at the top of all the indexes of satisfaction among young people; however, out of fear of making a mistake, many do not even want to think about it; although they are Christians, they do not think of sacramental marriage, unique and unrepeatable sign of the alliance, which becomes a testimony of faith. In fact, perhaps this fear of failing is the greatest obstacle to receiving the word of Christ, who promises his grace to the conjugal union and to the family. The most persuasive testimony of the blessing of Christian marriage is the good life of Christian spouses and of the family. There is no better way to describe the beauty of the Sacrament! Marriage consecrated by God to safeguard that bond between man and woman that God has blessed since the creation of the world; and it is source of peace and of goodness for the whole of conjugal and family life. For instance, in the early times of Christianity, this great dignity of the bond between man and woman overcame an abuse held then to be altogether normal, that is, the right of husbands to repudiate their wives, even with the most pretentious and humiliating motives. The Gospel of the family, the Gospel that in fact announces this Sacrament has overcome this culture of habitual repudiation.
The Christian seed of the radical equality between spouses must bear new fruits today. The testimony of the social dignity of marriage will become persuasive in fact this way, the way of witness that attracts, the way of reciprocity between them, of the complementarity between them.
Therefore, as Christians, we must become more exacting in this regard. For instance: to support with determination the right of equal compensation for equal work, why is it taken for granted that women must earn less than men? No! They have the same rights. The disparity is a pure scandal! At the same time, to recognize the maternity of women and the paternity of men as an always valid richness, for the benefit especially of children. Likewise, the virtue of hospitality of Christian families is of crucial importance today, especially in situations of poverty, degradation and family violence.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are not afraid to invite Jesus to the marriage feast, to invite him to our home, so that he is with us and watches over the family. And we are not afraid to invite his Mother Mary also! When Christians marry “in the Lord,” they are transformed into an effective sign of the love of God. Christians do not marry only for themselves: they marry in the Lord in favor of the whole community, of the entire society.
These excerpts are taken from a series of catecheses on the family that Pope Francis presented at his Wednesday audiences, in association with the Pontifical Council for the Family.