“Be subordinate to one another”

Homily on the readings for Oct. 26, Tuesday of the XXX Week in OT, year II

“Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” What a beautiful way to describe marriage! Sometimes the way that St Paul explains the woman’s relationship to the husband as a kind of subordination can offend our modern sensibilities, but we have to go beyond the form of expression, which can be somewhat culturally conditioned, to the essence: as the phrase just cited shows, he is talking about mutual support. Husbands and wives have different roles, but are equal in dignity. Just as the woman should give herself to her husband, the man is supposed to give his life for his wife, be willing to die for her, as Christ died for us.

The concrete way that this mutual subordination plays out in any given marriage depends on the particular strengths and weaknesses of the husband and wife. Certainly, men and women are different by nature, and have different needs. For marriage to work, there has to be mutual understanding and acceptance of this diversity. There’s no divine mandate about particular marriages – if it should be the husband or the wife who balances the checkbook, or cooks dinner, or brings the kids to school. What matters is that both the husband and the wife give themselves lovingly and completely to their spouse, at the same time as they accept, respect and honor with gratitude what their spouse gives to them.

As St Paul describes, marriage reaches its fullness in Christianity where it is suffused with God’s grace and becomes an image of the love between God and his people. Marriage in our country and in much of the world is in something of a crisis, at least in part because this sense of marriage as a sacrament of mutual self-giving has been lost, even among many Christians. But we should not lose hope: by our prayers and example, we can be the mustard seed and the leaven in the dough that Christ describes in his parables today, a small cause that through God’s grace transforms society.


About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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1 Response to “Be subordinate to one another”

  1. Deacon Larry Kawula says:

    Thanks, Fr. Matt. A great explanation of why we need to respect each other. It takes work, perseverance, persistence and setting aside time for prayer. My wife Evelyn and I are going on 40 years married. Each day we thank God for our blessings. Each day we try to respect each other. It can & does work with God’s grace.

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