Two Sundays ago I preached about the Resurrection of the Body/Dead, an element of the after-life that we profess belief in as Catholics every time we come together for Sunday Mass. You may remember that I also drew connections between our gospel passage from Luke and the Catholic teaching on the topics of Marriage and Celibacy. Given the importance of authentic Christian Marriage in today’s world, I also said at the end of Mass that I would be following up on the Church’s teaching, so, here we go!
When looked at through the lens of the modern world, the words of St. Paul in Ephesians 5 are cringe-worthy. Writing to wives AND husbands, he said: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.”
Now, the world hears ‘subordinate’ and immediately thinks of a boss-to-employee/master-to-slave kind of relationship—and the Church agrees that any marriage that looks like that is disordered. But the Church also is very much against proof texting/taking quotes out of context—basically, pulling a passage out of scripture, not looking at any of the surrounding verses for context and saying: “see! I knew the Church was (*insert any number of unfounded complaints)! How dare it tell people to do this/that/whatever!”
What would be helpful for us to do is to look at another way subordination is translated in this passage: submission. Right there I realize some people might get triggered even more because of the negative connotations of that word as well. But, hang with me.
If we break ‘submission’ down it carries with it a beautiful commentary on what St. Paul and Our Lord are getting at in this teaching on Marriage. Submission comes from two Latin words: sub (under) + missio (mission). So for a wife to be submissive to her husband, St. Paul is literally saying then that she should be “under the mission” of her husband. Following this line of reasoning, what is the mission of the husband? Eternal salvation of his wife and family.
And St. Paul writes that this mission is intrinsically connected to how husbands are to love their wives. So, what is this to look like? How did St. Paul say that husbands should love their wives?
“As Christ loved the Church” (Eph 5:25). And as I said on Sunday, He loved the Church by dying for her, by giving Himself up for her.
As a priest friend in seminary once told me, it’s easy to fall in love with someone (i.e. Our Lord) and—this is my addition—follow their lead if they’re willing to die for me. I would like to think it’d be pretty easy for any wife to get behind her husband if this was his mission and if he loved her and the family in this way.
So, gentlemen, this is what your love is to look like. Will it be easy? No. Will you be perfect at it? Absolutely not. Should you strive to be? Absolutely, yes—but not by sheer will-power. GREAT Graces of God are available to you in the Sacrament you share with your wife, and in the Sacraments of Confession and Communion. So, between those Graces, and your wife being your biggest cheerleader in this effort, you’ve got this!
Ladies, as the heart and center of affection in your relationship with your husbands and families, encourage your husbands as only you can, and help them to be the husbands and fathers you know Our Lord created them to be. Your own desire for Sainthood and virtue, along with the encouragement you give your husband as you live out your feminine-genius will help catapult him and your family to Our Lord—and Our Blessed Mother is the example par excellence for you to follow in this.
So, husbands and wives, take this to prayer, TOGETHER. I look forward to the great things Our Lord wants to do for you and for the Church through your example. Peace!