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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Priesthood & a Devotion to the Manhood of Christ

OBJECTION

Just as there is no devotion or spirituality focused upon the masculinity of the Lord, we should not make gender demands for candidates to Holy Orders. Other than the pattern of selecting only men for priestly ministry, the Church’s focus is errantly placed upon a physical affinity to Jesus as a man. Instead, our center of attention should be upon Christ in his general humanity as redeemer and savior.  

RESPONSE

There is no devotion overtly centered on the maleness of Christ; however, neither would we dissect this element from our Lord’s identity. I am mindful of every masculine pronoun referencing the mystery of the incarnation of Christ as a male human being.  Note the prayer associated with the Sacred Heart devotion:

“I give myself and consecrate to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, my person and my life, my actions, pains and sufferings, so that I may be unwilling to make use of any part of my being other than to honor, love and glorify the Sacred Heart. This is my unchanging purpose, namely, to be all HIS, and to do all things for the love of HIM, at the same time renouncing with all my heart whatever is displeasing to HIM. I therefore take you, O Sacred Heart, to be the only object of my love, the guardian of my life, my assurance of salvation, the remedy of my weakness and inconstancy, the atonement for all the faults of my life and my sure refuge at the hour of death. / Be then, O Heart of goodness, my justification before God the FATHER, and turn away from me the strokes of HIS righteous anger. O Heart of love, I put all my confidence in you, for I fear everything from my own wickedness and frailty, but I hope for all things from your goodness and bounty. / Remove from me all that can displease you or resist your holy will; let your pure love imprint your image so deeply upon my heart, that I shall never be able to forget you or to be separated from you. / May I obtain from all your loving kindness the grace of having my name written in your heart, for in you I desire to place all my happiness and glory, living and dying in bondage to you” (Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque).

I bet there are very few radical feminists who have a devotion to the Sacred Heart and say this prayer! The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a male heart that beats in the chest of the God-Man. The loving heart of God is made human and vulnerable so that it might be pierced by a crown of thorns, the sins of all humanity. 

I have subscribed to the view that the problem is not that we have stressed manhood too much but rather that we have done so too little. Men must not surrender their identity in the face of aggressive women who judge all males as addicts to sex and aggression. I suspect that just as women are wrongly stereotyped as weak and needy, men also often excuse or idolize the ruffians in their brotherhood who lack sensitivity and compassion. We allow ourselves to be defined by the worst among us while we should find our model in the best.  When it comes to Christians, we can find no better exemplars in our tradition than Joseph the dutiful foster father of our Lord and Jesus, himself.  The priest, in particular, should reflect these witnesses of manhood.  

Jesus does not cower but faces head on what he sees as wrong. Too many shepherds are worried about their purses at the money tables unlike Jesus who overturns them.  When many turn their eyes away from the poor and the hurting, Jesus is hands on in reaching out to sinners and the sick.  Jesus breaks our crude stereotypes of manhood to show us the truth of what it means to be a man.  A real man is not a beast and he is not quick to violence.  He is strong and yet compassionate.  He is no one’s fool but he does not run away from a fight that must be fought.  He stands up to power and is a voice for the voiceless.  He looks upon women as co-workers in the vineyard of the kingdom. The roles are different, as he calls men alone to be his apostles and future priests. But women are among the many disciples and are also regarded as prophets of the Good News.  He defends women from the exploitation of divorce and forgives a sinner woman from the stoning of self-righteous voyeurs.  If the first Adam is a wimp, Jesus is the new Adam who stands up to the devil’s temptations, endures his passion and carries his Cross to Calvary. 

The devotion to the Divine Mercy focuses upon his humility and gentleness. Yes, he is Divine Justice as well, but it is mercy that is center stage. Like the great apostle to the Gentiles, men must imitate Christ. “Now I myself, Paul, urge you through the gentleness and clemency of Christ, I who am humble when face to face with you, but brave toward you when absent . . . .” Looking to heroes from Westerns, a true man is not necessarily a hard and distant John Wayne and neither is he a more vulgar and exploitive Clint Eastwood— Jesus is more like Gary Cooper’s lawman in High Noon.  He is a man of peace but he will not shirk from a fight even if he is abandoned.  Jesus is a man who is meek and humble or lowly of heart. 

Christian manhood and womanhood for that matter find its demarcation in 1 Peter 2:21-24: 

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

Our priests must be men of truth and willing to pay a price for proclaiming the Gospel.  Unlike what we are seeing in politics and even in some Church circles, we should not be insulting one another but judging right from wrong and admonishing holiness instead of shouting curses.

Jesus would sometimes display righteous indignation, as before the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and outside the tomb of Lazarus at the prospect of our mortality. He urges the leaders to repent, to believe and to imitate his outreach to the outcasts and poor.  He weeps at the death of Lazarus, not only at the cost of sin which is death but because his show of power requires that he bring his friend back into this veil of tears.

Another trait of his manhood is patience, especially in regard to Peter and the apostles. Along with his sacrificial love, he would have us draw into our faith something of his courage.  The saintly affection between Christ and the apostles is a guide for men in their relations with one another— neither to be disoriented in a sinful effeminacy nor to be distorted by a distant and cruel masculinity. 

When it comes to the priest he must come across as a strong and yet kind spiritual father.  He must love the Church as Christ loves his bride.  Just as a husband is the head of a home and his wife is its heart, the priest must shepherd his flock by loving and protecting his own. Any form of sinful effeminacy in how he lives or projects himself is poison to the priesthood.  Further, if he becomes merely a cynical and angry old bachelor, he also fails in his charge as a man and as a priest. He is married to the Church.  He must have a spousal love for her.  Anything less is the start of a spiritual adultery.

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