The second reading today often offends modern sensibilities when Saint Paul writes that the “husband is head of his wife” and that “[w]ives should be subordinate to their husbands” (Ephesians 5:22-23). Indeed, when one bride mistakenly selected this passage for her wedding, I remember the bridesmaid reading it aloud during the ceremony while at the same time rolling her eyes many times in an exaggerated fashion to make her disapproval clearly known.
As I pointed out in my homily, however, an often missed point is that Saint Paul actually wrote that both husbands and wives should be “subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). While his instruction to women perhaps too uncritically accepted conventional standards, the essence of the passage actually is directed to husbands. In fact, what Paul had to say to men was nothing short of groundbreaking and radical.
At the time Paul was writing, husbands had complete dominion over their wives. They were considered little more than property with which the husband could do as he saw fit. Wives were often abused and mistreated as a result. Paul’s radical message is that the basis of Christian marriage is love, not authority. Moreover, the husband is to imitate Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and “hand himself over for” his bride (Ephesians 5:25), because the very definition of love is self-donation and subordination to the one who is loved.
Indeed, any form of authentic love is marked by the mutual submission of one to the other, including Christian discipleship. As followers of Christ, we are called to die to ourselves out of love for our neighbor. Stewardship expresses this call to discipleship through various forms of service using our God-given time, talents, and treasure. In seeking to serve and not be served, we follow the command to love others and imitate Christ in the process.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
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