A good friend of mine, the pastor of the church that our children grew up in, use to have cute names for some of the “less famous” Sundays in the church calendar. There were the big ones, that already had names like Easter Sunday, and Trinity Sunday but he liked like to talk about, what he called, the lesser-known Sundays. Like “Arts and Craft Sunday”. This was what he would call Palm Sunday because, as he would explain, it was the one Sunday of the year where the catholic church would hand out craft supplies to keep the congregation busy during the service. Don’t tell me that you have never been guilty of taking your palm branches and folding them into a cross, or a star, or a green flamingo standing over a small fish.
The other lesser-known Sunday that he would talk about was “Nudge Sunday”. If this Sunday does not immediately come to mind, let me elaborate. “Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” It doesn’t come to mind yet, how about this, “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands”, nudge, nudge. Or what about, “Husbands, love your wives” nudge, nudge. I could go on, but you get my point. Wives should do this … nudge, nudge and husbands should … nudge.
While this reading is assigned to one of the Sundays in ordinary time it also happens to come up in today’s first reading. There is the assumption is that Paul is somehow imposing duties and responsibilities on one or the other. Or even worse, is favoring one over the other. And while this might be true it is probably not what you think.
There are so many times in the New Testament where we hear “throw array words”. You know, those phrases that we hear in the world today that, because of overuse or underemphasize, have little or no meaning to us anymore. Sometimes the word “love” falls into that category.
This is especially true when we hear the phrase, “love as God loves us”. When we hear that what is it that comes to mind? Hearts and Valentines? Candies and sentiment cards? What about a whip and a cross?
When we hear, “love as Christ loved” we should immediately be taken aback. It is so much more than anything that we could ever expect.
It would be as if we asked someone asked for a dollar so that we could get something from a vending machine and the person gave you a million dollars instead. Not only is it unexpected but it is so much more than anything even marginally expected that it cannot be understood.
In that context, the phrase, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved” should not suggest a nudge. It should suggest a total giving of oneself to another. Imaging if the verse read, Husbands give up your lives for your spouse. Or husbands allow yourselves to be humiliated, beaten and spat upon for you wives. My guess is that the nudging would stop. That kind of love and commitment probably deserves and taking of one another’s hands or even a hug or two.
The problem is that the devotion and dedication suggested in this reading is not something to be taken lightly. “For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it”. And why would that deserve a nudge.
The Gospel was very short but one rich with imagery. The whole concept of Yeast and flour amazes me. One thing that I love to make is pizza from scratch. I am not much of a bread maker, but pizza dough is one of my things. Leaving the ball of dough, in a bowl, under a kitchen towel, for 15 or 20 minutes … and to come back and see that it has doubled is magical. In the gospel, this is what Jesus says happens to our faith. Just take two cups of the Gospel, sprinkle a tablespoon of the Psalms, and a cup of warm water that has a tablespoon of the Holy Spirit and, “Again he said, “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”
“This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church. In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.”
EPH 5:21-33 10:1- 9
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.
In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself,
and the wife should respect her husband.
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