Back in September 2015, I was one of three Canadian women presenting at the International Women’s Ordination Conference in Philadelphia on the question: Theology of the Body – Friend or Foe of the Ordination Question? This is the fourth and final Part — Part I can be found here, Part II here, Part III here.
In one of his Lenten sermons seven years ago, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, urged all of us to offer our bodies and blood as a daily Eucharistic sacrifice and gift to the world, thereby transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary presence and action of God:
“Let us try to imagine what would happen if the laity, at the moment of the consecration, said silently: ‘Take, eat, this is my body. Take, drink, this is my blood.’ A mother of a family thus celebrates mass, and then she goes home and begins her day made up of a thousand little things. But what she does is not nothing: It is a Eucharist together with Jesus! A (religious) sister says in her heart at the moment of consecration: ‘Take, eat . . .’; then she goes to her daily work: children, the sick, the elderly. The Eucharist ‘invades’ her day and she becomes . . . Eucharist” (Zenit, March 12, 2010).
Every time we drink the cup of blessing that we bless, we share in the Blood of Christ, thus committing ourselves to be poured out in love for others. Every time we eat the Body of Christ, we are called to offer our own bodies, male and female, in sacrificial love for the healing of the world. Daily gifts of self to others redeem relationships between men and women, as well as with creation and with God, whether in the marriage bed, in school or workplace, at the recycling depot, in the dance recital or the communion procession. As Pope John Paul II states so eloquently, our bodies are integral expressions of our personhood, thus affirming creation as male and female in the divine image as “very good.” This sacramental reality is always present in each individual man and woman, arising from our original dignity as made in the image of God.
In John 16:12-13 Jesus said: “I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot hear them now. But when the spirit of truth comes, the spirit will guide you into the whole truth. The spirit will take what is mine and make it known to you, and in doing this, the spirit will glorify me.” The priest at Mass represents Christ the RISEN Christ who is Spirit. The priest does not represent the maleness of the human Jesus. Men indeed need to see the redeemed male resemblance to Christ in the priest, just as women need to see the redeemed female resemblance to Christ in the priest.
As increasing numbers of women (and men) are growing more deeply into their God-giving dignity and worth, and as Catholic women ground this dignity in Christ Jesus, the prohibition to ordain women makes less and less theological, historical, anthropological, spiritual or sacramental sense. The Spirit of Jesus is making herself known to us women and through us to the Church.
Ordaining women has nothing to do with equal human rights, but rather with God’s right to be manifested in the fullness of creation as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, who was the Word made Flesh in a human body.
Women’s hearts ache to be instruments of God’s mercy in the Church; yet it seems that we are to limit our generous offering to home and family, to works of charity and catechetics, while being warned sternly not to approach the altar with priestly intent. While the integrity and God-given dignity of our bodies is affirmed in JP II’s TOB as offering a vivid, mysterious and intimate connection to the God who creates, transforms and sustains life, ecclesiastical authorities somehow still do not regard these bodies as suitable vessels for the sacred mysteries of faith
In Pope Francis’ Encyclical The Joy of the Gospel, he wrote: God’s word is unpredictable in its power. The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking.(#22) Further on in the same Encyclical Francis speaks about the importance of reaping the gifts the Spirit has sown in others, which are also meant to be gifts for us. … Through an exchange of gifts, the Spirit can lead us ever more fully into truth and goodness.(246) Pope Francis
As women, we burst with desire to offer the gifts, insights and callings the Spirit of Jesus has sown in us, wishing (and we will) to take our place alongside our male partners in a spirit of “nuptial mutual surrender” as equals, called and gifted by God for the priesthood, thus glorifying God in our bodies as male and female.
Would that we will see that day in our beloved Catholic Church.
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