Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaders, their judges and their officers. When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people: "If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."
But the people answered, "Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods. For it was the Lord, our God, who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery. He performed those great miracles before our very eyes and protected us along our entire journey and among the peoples through whom we passed. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God."(P) The word of the Lord.
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth. Let my soul glory in the Lord; the lowly will hear me and be glad. (R)
The Lord has eyes for the just, and ears for their cry. The Lord confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. (R)
When the just cry out, the Lord hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. (R)
Many are the troubles of the just one, but out of them all the Lord delivers him; he watches over all his bones; not one of them shall be broken. (R)
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.(P) The word of the Lord.
Many of Jesus' disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father."
As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve. "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
One day two Christian friends were talking about their married life. One of them said, "The Bible says that wives should obey their husbands. But my wife never obeys me. How about your wife?" The other one said, "I do not understand what the Bible says but my wife and I have an agreement on obedience which has left us happily married for fifty years. That is, we have agreed that I always get the chance to say the last word." The first one said, "Oh! That is fantastic. How did you manage to get your wife to agree to such a wonderful rule? Please tell me so that I can apply it to my life as well. The friend said, "It is very simple but I am not sure whether you will like it. Fifty years ago we agreed that I would always get the chance to say the last word so long as the words are: "Yes! Dear!"
This is the fifth and the last week we read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians. The passages have been taken from the 4th and 5th chapter of the letter. Let me just recap what Paul has told us so far. While in prison in Rome, Paul heard of the differences between the Jewish and the Gentile converts in the Ephesian church and wrote the letter to encourage the believers. Its message and its application apply as directly to us as it did to its first recipients.
Paul began his exhortation by urging us, believers, to live a life worthy of the calling we have received, and to make every effort to imitate characteristics of God's own nature which includes humility, patience, gentleness, compassion, forgiveness and love. Then he encouraged us to preserve these qualities because of the gifts we share in common. That is, we have all become part of the same body of Christ; we have all been marked by the same Spirit; we have all heard the good news of the same Lord, we have all received the same gift of faith in Jesus; we have all been forgiven by the same baptism; and we all have become the adopted children of the same God, the Father. And then he asked us not to live like the non-believers do, setting our mind on vain temporary matters, but rather focus on heavenly and godly things, and avoid all kinds of behavior that are contrary to our Christian faith.
He instructed us to put away the thoughts, desires and actions of our old sinful self, and put on the new self which is in the likeness of God. He further gave a very specific list of things that we believers ought to avoid. He said that we ought to avoid grieving or causing pain to ourselves, others and the Spirit of God, by removing all bitterness, anger, hatred, slander and malice from us and replace them with kindness, compassion, forgiveness and love, just as the Lord Jesus gave his life for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Lastly Paul called on us to live our lives wisely and not to continue in ignorance but understand the will of God through the scriptures, and when confronted by evil not to turn to alcohol, smoking, gambling, drugs, sex and power that would lead to greater evils but to seek the Lord and His Spirit so that we may be able to even put to good use the evil around us.
Today Paul seems to point out to us that our own home is the first and the best place where we can manifest our Christian call to holiness, especially one with married couples in it. I believe it is more difficult to be Christ's witness among people with whom we have a developed and committed relationship than among strangers and non-believers. Because the pressures and challenges from people close to us, and the familiarity with their weaknesses could make it difficult for us to live our faith. No doubt, we know how difficult it is to make a lifelong commitment to another person, such as in married life. Some couples just don't make it.
I remember, three years ago, I officiated a wedding ceremony for a couple who had known each other for eight years, but was sad to hear that after three months, they separated. Some have fights and hurt each other at times, but their concern for their children, their job and future sometimes pulls them through. But many people, especially Christians, attribute the success of their marriage to their faith in God and in each other and in the love they have for each other.
Today's text can be one of the very difficult texts in the Bible to understand and to accept because of the use of the term such as "subordinate" or "submit". Paul says, "Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord", Verses (21-22). "Subordinate" means a person under the authority or control of another person. Therefore, it has been misunderstood and distorted by many people, including many sincere Christians. Many interpret it as being very negative, whereas for the apostle Paul this word does not evoke such meaning.
In his writing Paul uses the Greek word "hupotasso", which means a voluntary submission or yielding of oneself, out of love, to the other. Therefore, two things are important here:
It is very important for us to know that Paul exhorts husbands and wives on the assumption that both are married in the name of Christ, and have pledged their love and care for each other in the spirit of Christ. Because both belong to the one Body of Christ, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and one Hope, they are to submit themselves to each other. As a matter of fact, Paul calls on everyone in the family to be subordinate to one another. Paul exhorts in the next chapter of the same letter, "Children, be obedient to your parents in the Lord that is what uprightness demands. Honour your father and your mother, and the promise, so that you may have long life and prosper in the land", Ephesians (6:1-3). But today we read only the instructions to husbands and wives.
He compares the relationship of husbands and wives to that of between Christ and the Church. He asks wives to be subordinate or submit to their husbands, as the church submits to Christ as her head. He then asks husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Both spouses have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage. Even though Paul urges wives to be subordinate to husbands, which many wives certainly would most hate to do, husbands seem to have an even greater responsibility because he is pictured as Christ Himself. Paul states that husbands must love their wives as they love themselves, and as Christ loved the church and gave His life for the church.
In today's gospel speaking of Christ's love for his church John says, "Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him", John (6:60-69). Yes. Christ's love for the church was such that he loved even those who did not believe him, betrayed him and deserted him. So going by what Paul says, I believe submission to each other is not a weakness but a virtue and an ideal means to have a harmonious, secure, mature and loving relationship between husbands and wives in married life.
The motivation for submission to each other in married life is "out of reverence" for Christ. A husband and wife's submission to each other is an expression of their faith in and love for Jesus Christ in whose name they are united. That's to say, they do not just love each other, but they love Jesus most of all and obey Him. In the end, the husband and wife's relationship is characterized by God's nature of humility, patience, kindness, respect, compassion, forgiveness and love which give glory and honour to God.
As we reflect upon Paul's exhortation to us, regarding married life that can contribute to the holiness and virtues of husbands and wives, we also need to pray in faith and confidence for those called to marriage. There is no day better than today for us to pray for such an intention:
God Bless You!