Readings for Today
Look at the alternate reading from Ephesians today and you will see that the part about wives being submissive to their husbands can (and probably will) be omitted. As the omitted verses are not long, it appears to have been removed from the scripture to avoid offending women. Ironically, the gospel reading begins with "many of Jesus’disciples who were listening said,'This saying is hard; who can accept it?'” There is a serious concern when the readings are censored to avoid offense, and even more serious when a group in the Church is exempted from hearing a hard saying of Paul's.
But is submission a bad thing, and what does it mean? Paul was not redefining marriage, but showing us what it was intended to be all along: a Sacrament, a sign of Christ's love for the Church. The fullest meaning of marriage only became evident after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, which is why it is a Sacrament and why a priest or deacon presides. Recently, we had to attend a class given by the bishop's representative, and when she talked about marriage we were asked "what is the outward sign of the sacrament of matrimony?" Of course, the answer came back "the married life, lived in unity and love." And the sister teaching the class said, "No, it is the rings and candles." This is entirely wrong, but it shows the level of confusion in the Church.
Paul reminds us, or would if we would let him, that the wife is submissive to show what our attitude to Christ should be. C.S. Lewis likens marriage to a play about God and His people, and Hosea did the same. Submission is not saying the wife is less than the husband, but that she contributes to the sacrament by playing the role of the Church, and the husband plays the role of Christ. For modern people, who have long since rejected the idea of being submissive to Christ, uxorial submission is a silly, outdated notion. Marriage is seen as a contractual arrangement, not really necessary, a piece of paper, but also a way to legitimize sex. Dorothy L. Sayers said that marriage used to support the State by ensuring the smooth transition of capital, and this is true. She also said that when the State no longer required it, the support would vanish, and she has been proven right. Perhaps the leaders of the Church are no longer interested in supporting marriage, and so they teach it is all about rings and candles, and not about being living sacraments.
The concerns about bad marriages where the husband is domineering and abusive are valid, but that is the opposite of what Paul writes. When a perfectly submissive wife is coupled with a perfectly loving husband, the acts of submission are few or zero, and perhaps this is the greatest lesson of all: that when we are perfectly submissive to Christ, we are not downtrodden or abused, but get everything we really want and more. The real irony is that the more we unite ourselves to the will of God, the more or own will is strengthened and the more we get what we really want.
It is too bad that lesson will be kept from the Catholics at Mass today where the alternate reading is used.