21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Last month I had the privilege of presiding at the marriage of my niece and her fiance. At the wedding rehearsal, as we were going over the
vows which they were to exchange at the ceremony the following day, the young man got visibly emotional and had a hard time speaking the words. After giving him a moment to collect himself he apologized for breaking down and then said something that warmed my heart, “I couldn’t help it, the words are just so beautiful”.
One couldn’t ask for a more sincere response to the profound act of committing yourself in marriage to another human being. This is the commitment St. Paul is trying to summon in his letter to the Ephesians as he talks about the covenant relationship between a husband and wife. We might balk at the language Paul uses, “Wives be subject to your husbands.” but in fact he was reforming that very idea. Paul took the model of marriage of his day, a contractual model in which the male had the supreme authority and power, and transformed it by placing into the framework of a covenant based on the love of God for his people. This moved the emphasis from power and subjugation to that of love and respect not just between the married couple but in fact including the entire membership of the community. Husbands are called upon to love their wives as they love their own bodies. Wives are to be nourished with love and affection and the members of the community are entreated to be kind and forgiving of one another just as Christ loves the Church which he established as a sign of his body on earth .
Paul finishes he reflection by asking the community to remember the story of creation in Genesis. Man and woman are invited to continue God’s work of creation as the two individuals join themselves into a new creation “one flesh”. From this point of view a married couple must treat each other with the utmost of respect and care because what is good for one is good for the other. What is harmful for one also harms the other.
Be good to yourself, love your spouse and let them know you love them as Christ loves us all.