Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address during his weekly General Audience on 22 Apr in St Peter’s Square:
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.