Fr Matthew Ragbir put this question to an online conversation with men as the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission hosted a virtual forum June 19 for all males, fathers, and sons in celebration of Father’s Day (June 21).
The forum, part of the AFLC’s ‘Strengthening the domestic Church’ campaign, had as its theme, I will strengthen you! Isaiah 41:10.
Facilitator was Fr Ragbir, the AFLC’s Spiritual Director and Theological Adviser.
Referencing John 1:35–39 (Jesus calls the first two disciples), Fr Ragbir said the question ‘What do men really want?’ was a powerful one. “At the heart of the message of Jesus is a question to each and every one of us. As a man, what do you want?”
He said answering that question could result in a whole list of desires but “we should pray for God to lead us to what we truly desire”, simply because sometimes “we don’t know what’s good for us”.
In the scripture passage, Jesus asks the disciples “What are you looking for?” to which they answer “‘Rabbi, where are you staying?’ Jesus said, ‘Come and see.’ So, they went and saw where he stayed…”
From Jesus’ reply, “He wants to stay in our hearts,” explained Fr Ragbir.
Speaking earlier of male development, he said young males imagine everything to be “fine and perfect, with some naivety and innocence”. Through life experiences though, young males become wounded.
After inviting a few participants to share their personal experiences, he said young males either develop coping mechanisms, or live with “sadness, pain, and loss”. The way they overcome this, is “to do the work that needs to be done” to arrive at a level of consciousness. “When we search for integration and wholeness it opens our self-consciousness.”
Although men find it difficult to talk about their brokenness, when they “do the work” they can reach the second stage of reconciling with their broken experiences and “move to a place of learning on this journey”.
He noted there was “real woundedness” for children with regard to fatherhood in Caribbean society and in the world today. There is “a huge hunger in modern society about fatherhood” as many males “have not been fathered enough”.
Explaining that in male developmental work, the family is like a kingdom and “if men have not done work (to heal their brokenness) then everyone suffers— spouses, friends, children”.
Men in the Bible
During the forum, Fr Ragbir spoke of important men in the Bible, examining briefly the lives of David (Old Testament), and Peter (New Testament).
He said Bible passages with Peter showed the patience and love of Christ and “how much God is willing to empower and equip us to do His will”.
Peter was someone men could emulate. “Peter often puts his foot in his mouth, was impulsive, saying things out of time. But Peter doesn’t hide his humanity. There’s something about Peter, being himself, getting it wrong, but still coming back.”
In Peter, we see the tremendous message that Jesus accepts us as we are, and is willing to journey with us, said Fr Ragbir. “Peter gives us hope as men and shows us it’s okay to make mistakes. God works with us.”
God takes everything about us and uses it, he said, and Peter “is a powerful example to recognise the mercy of God”.
Fr Ragbir considered David as a “man for our times”. He looked at David’s calling saying, “God chooses the least; God sees the heart.”
Drawing a parallel, he said David and Peter came from lowly positions, David being a shepherd and Peter, a fisherman. Yet God called both to His service and “sometimes we need to pull ourselves up by the bootstrap and God is there saying to us, let me help you.”
Fr Ragbir said one of the woundedness that young people have to go through is to recognise that their parents are not perfect. The process to move this woundedness is a long one. “It’s like having a cut on your hand. It takes time to heal. You can’t force healing; people can only come to healing.”
He ended saying for men, Jesus is the model man, who all men are called to be. “We could miss it as men—unless we die to self.” —RS
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