Holy Mother Church offers us a shorter version of that Second Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. The shorter version skips the first part that says twice: “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands…” Many preachers don’t want to touch that with a ten-foot pole. Perhaps they think it seems old-fashioned or out of touch. However, when we take the time to unpack it, we see how beautiful it is. In fact, if it is properly unpacked, every young woman preparing for marriage would insist on using this reading at her wedding.
The problem is, there have been guys over the centuries who have quoted: “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands…” And then they follow it up with something like: “See, you have to obey me.” Or “You have to serve me.” When we take a closer look at the reading we see who is actually supposed to be serving whom. These men have to read on to the next sentence.
“Husbands love your wives, even as Christ loved the church…” How did Christ love the Church? The crucifix is our reminder. Jesus is not pleasing himself but rather spending himself for the good of his bride, the Church. If this is how men are called to love their wives, in imitation of Christ, men must forgo pleasing themselves and spend themselves for the good of their wives. Christ lays down his life for his bride, the Church. Men are likewise to lay down their lives for their brides.
“Husbands love your wives, even as Christ loved the church…” The word “love” has lost its true meaning in our culture. We have to recognize that the highest and purest form of love is not an emotional feeling, but rather a decision of the intellect to do the good of the other. So if a guy decides to love his wife, by making decisions with his intellect, that result in her good, what does this look like?
St. Paul tells us in the reading as he continues explaining how Christ loved the Church. And remember, this is how husbands are to imitate him in loving their wives. St. Paul says Jesus handed himself over for her to sanctify her…” He continues with a few more descriptors: cleansing her, in splendor, without spot or wrinkle, holy, without blemish.
So the loving husband is going to lay down his life for his bride, serving her instead of himself, making her holy and whisking her off to the joy of Heaven for eternity. What woman would not want to be subordinate to a man with this as his life’s agenda?