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  • Writer's pictureImmersed in Christ

"In the Name of..."

by Fr. David M. Knight

May 26, 2024

Trinity Sunday

Lectionary 165

Dt 4:32-34, 39-40/Rom 8:14-17/Mt 28:16-20


We baptize in the name of "Father, Son and Spirit." Many people are asking today whether the masculine images of God are too restrictive. Should we now begin to speak of God as "Father and Mother, Son and Daughter, and Spirit"?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that it is good to remember that the being of God is beyond human sexual distinctions. God is neither man nor woman, but God, and transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, even while being the origin and measure of both (#370).

In Scripture God is described sometimes, although rarely, in feminine terms. In Isaiah God says, "Can a woman forget her nursing child, / or show no compassion for the child of her womb?/ Even these may forget,/ yet I will not forget you"; and "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you." And Jesus says of himself, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!"

For us who are alerted to the restrictiveness of thinking of God in any one gender, it can be helpful to reflect on the feminine characteristics of God. Psychologists tell us it is good for all of us to get in touch with that opposite side of our nature: our animus or anima. But by inspiring Saint Paul to describe the Church's relationship to Jesus as that of bride to bridegroom, God gave men a special reason for doing this. Theologically, every one of us who is baptized into the Church, the Bride of Christ, is a "bride in the Bride." Our gender usage gives women the advantage in relating to Jesus as spouse, because the correspondence of the language to their own sexuality makes it natural for them. On the levels of mystical union, if we judge from even male writers like Saint John of the Cross, for example, it is almost impossible not to put oneself in the bride's role with relationship to God. That would seem to put men at a disadvantage.

If we go beyond ("transcend”) language, however, and look at God's self – revelation, even in and through the masculine human nature of Jesus, there are ways in which God takes on characteristics that are not only feminine, but more specifically, those of Bride, and to which even men can relate.

The way God chose to save the world through Jesus was not the way of authority and force which we often associate with maleness. It was through chosen powerlessness, vulnerability and surrender. Jesus came to "bear witness to the truth" in love. He came that we might "have life and have it to the full." He came to teach, to heal and to nourish, to nurture us: "The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." At the climax of his redemptive mission on earth he hung naked and vulnerable on the cross, his heart open for all time to all who would come to him.

In the Hebrew Scriptures God is present but hidden behind a "cloud" which "protects the glory of God against impure looks." Once a year the high priest could penetrate the temple veil which closed off access to the Holy of Holies. But now the temple veil is torn, and Jesus has given us all access to deepest intimacy with God by "opening up a way through the veil of his own flesh." God invites us with passionate love to total knowledge and union.

God chose to be revealed as "Father" and "Son." We would be foolish to reject that imagery. But we need not restrict ourselves to it.

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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