I have avoided preaching on St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians for years. But because of the great demand, “Msgr. When are you going to get up and tell the congregation about how, ‘Wives should be subordinate to their husbands…’?” Naturally the ones asking are the husbands.
We have a tendency to quote the parts of Holy Scripture that we like. The parts that challenge us to change, we avoid. If we consider that wives should be subordinate to their husbands we must also consider that husbands need to love their wives, like Christ loves His church. God is love and since we are supposed to look like God, remember the “image and likeness” part from Genesis, then we are also supposed to act like God. There can be no conditions like, “I’ll love you when you do what I say; when you look nice; if you never commit adultery.” Marriage is the reflection of the relationship of Christ with the Church. Christ is the Groom and the Church is the Bride. We know that Jesus does not give up on us, even when we misbehave. “What God has joined no one can divide.” That’s the question: “Did God want for us to get married or did we make a mistake?” Some people have made mistakes and were married for the wrong reasons—like money, to become citizens, because they were pregnant. Marriage is about two people who are willing to give themselves to each other until death. (The death is supposed to be natural, not intentional. Murder is not allowed.) Most proposals for marriage ask the question, “Will you marry me?” The question should be, “Will you stay married to me?” Usually the man proposes. High expectations are placed on the man, especially if he becomes a father.
St. Paul was socking it to the men by way of responsibility. “The husband is the head of his wife…” Everybody knows that. One little boy said, “When I grow up I want to be a “macho man like my father but I want to be the boss like my mother.” Who’s in charge? Who’s more important? Listen to how a 65 year anniversary couple solved the issue. “What’s your secret? How have you managed to look so happy after 65 years of marriage? The old man answered, “We agreed, when we got married that I would make all the major decisions and she would make all the other decisions. In 65 years of marriage there hasn’t been a single major decision!”
Working together, adjusting, putting up with one another is never easy. Takes patience, lots of forgiveness. First year challenges, five year problems, 50 year issues. Always new, because life is not a problem to be solved, but an adventure to be lived. We are all part of a mystery, even those who are married and think that they know each other. There’s always a page to turn. Try not to take each other for granted—big mistake. “No one hates his own flesh…” We take care of our bodies, we need to take care of each other. All weapons of our culture are aimed at the family. The idea is to remain free. In freedom people choose to be together; in freedom they need to choose to remain together. The moment we feel pressured then we are not free. Once we are convinced that God loves us for who we are—not what we hope to become—but for the person we are at this moment—then we are free to love someone. Then we can share unconditional love. God is the one who makes marriage or any life-long commitment possible.
Countless of people are hurting from broken marriages. Rather than being judgmental, let’s try to be agents of healing. We can all learn to be forgiving. We can learn to love each other as Christ loves His Bride, the Church.