A Great Mystery
In the Second Reading, Paul claims to be presenting a great mystery. For most of us, his words are a great mystery in a sense other than the one he meant. How could his words possibly be true?
Someone I knew lived his whole adult life as a violent alcoholic; he beat his children and his wife unmercifully. Does anyone feel like telling his wife that she needs to be subordinate to him?
We could simply reject Paul’s words here. But there is a cost to this move. What else shall we reject while we are at it? Anything that challenges us?
So here is another way to think about the Second Reading. If a wife is to be subordinate to her husband, what is a husband?
Well, a husband is someone who loves his wife as Christ loved the church: he gives himself for her; he lives in such a way as to enable his wife to be the very best she can be for the Lord.
If you make your wife worse than she would otherwise be, why think you are her husband?
If you are involved in an extramarital affair, so that she gradually becomes a jealous, suspicious, nagging person, what have you done to her? If you are always gone—on the golf course, in the ballgame on TV—so that she becomes lonelier and lonelier, what have you made of her? If you leave her all the housework and child care while you pursue your career, are you living self-sacrificially to enable her to be the best she can be for the Lord?
If you make her worse, less fruitful, less beautiful in soul, less joyful than she would be without you, why would you think you are her husband? You may be married to her; but the truth for her, like the truth for the Samaritan woman Christ met at the well (John 4:7-26), is that the person she is now living with is not her husband.
But then there is no command for her to be subordinate to you either. The command is to be subordinate to her husband, not to anybody who wants to claim the privilege of being her husband without any of the corresponding duties.
This thought doesn’t solve all the problems with the Second Reading, but it helps, doesn’t it?
**From Saint Louis University