Brothers and sisters: 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. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.
We heard this reading at Mass this past Sunday. I know this is an often-misunderstood passage when interpreted literally, but coupled with the Gospel reading (John 6:60-69) where Jesus has just told his disciples "Whoever eats my bread and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (John 6:57) and goes on to say "This saying is hard, who can accept it?" (John 6:61), it makes more sense. After all, as our priest reminded us in the homily, Jesus took the Church as his bride. He went on to say that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was like the consummation of this marriage, where the two became one.
This gives a different meaning to the idea of becoming subordinate to one's husband as a wife, doesn't it? Jesus gave himself in this marriage by dying for the sins of the world, so of course we as the Church are subordinate to Christ. But how does this translate into an everyday marriage?
There are two really important things that I took away from this reading, in the context of the Gospel of John. The first is that husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, and wives are called to be subordinate to their husbands just as to God. "Subordinate" is the word here that is hard to accept, just as Jesus says about the Eucharistic mystery. But if you look at the first line, we are all called to be subordinate to each other out of reverence for Christ, not just wives to their husbands. Every time we receive the Eucharist, Christ is present in us; therefore, being subordinate to Christ's presence in one another makes sense. Perhaps the word "subordinate" is where the problem lies. Subordinate doesn't mean inferior, after all. Subordinate just means lower in the order. Since God should be first, no matter what, subordination to His presence in each other and in ourselves makes perfect sense. We, as wives, are called to recognize the presence of Christ in our husbands and be subordinate to this presence. Our husbands, in turn, are called to love us completely, as completely as Jesus loved the Church. I don't know about you, but this sounds like a very complete marriage to me!
The second thing I took away came from the Gospel reading, where Jesus said to his disciples "This saying is hard, who can accept it?" (John 6:61). He was speaking, of course, of the Eucharistic mystery - when we receive Christ's body and blood, He lives within us. Going back to marriage, it's easy to accept the idea of becoming completely one with your husband (or wife) - until suddenly, it isn't. We disagree. We argue. We resent one another. We begin to relate to each other as mere humans, forgetting that Christ is present in all of us. I don't know about you, but I certainly wouldn't snap "put the laundry in the dryer!" if Jesus were standing before me while I nursed one of my babies. But earlier this evening, I did just that, and forgot all about Christ's presence in Dan. How many times a week do I do that? I'm ashamed to start counting. I really need to work on this.
These two readings mesh beautifully. This is why I'm so glad I'm Catholic. Over the course of 3 years, we hear the entire Bible in the Mass readings, but we aren't called to figure it out ourselves. The readings are selected to best help us hear and apply the word of the Lord to our lives. They complement each other. During the Liturgy of the Word, we hear a reading from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a reading from the New Testament, and a reading from one of the four Gospels. The priest then discusses these in his homily. So the next time you hear someone say Catholics don't read the Bible, you will know they are mistaken!
Now that I tend to spend Mass rocking back and forth with one of our baby girls in the baby sling, I really have to concentrate to hear the readings since I'm not following along in the Missal. The beautiful thing is this means every word soaks in rather than me reading in my head at ten times the pace the lector is reading aloud. Then the homily can be extra meaningful. I do think I will make an effort to read the readings in advance, just like for a college lecture - it's best to come prepared for a discussion, especially knowing that it can be so difficult to really hear and accept the word of God. And the next time I want the laundry moved from washer to dryer, I'll remember to ask as nicely as I would if Jesus were standing in front of me - because He will be. p> I love sharing my Catholic faith with you! If you have questions, please leave a comment below. If I don't know the answer, I will gladly find it for you. Thanks for reading!