Nov 3, 2018
The reading from Paul to the Ephesians (5: 21-32) on the relationship between husbands and wives read at Sunday Mass recently probably causes more argument and irritation than any other text in the lectionary.
I would argue, however, that the problem people have with this passage is a false one, for the reason that it is not actually saying what it appears to say at first hearing. In fact, its real message is almost the opposite to what we imagine it to be.
In the passage, Paul says: “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord." He continues: "As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything."
The problem is that we often hear only the first part of Paul's advice: “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands." We tend to interpret this admonition to mean that wives should do what they are told, that they should be subservient and childlike. So we hear the passage as an excuse for husbands to be bossy and generally rule the roost.
But this sort of thing is not at all what Paul intends. The word "subordinate” has to be interpreted in authentically Christological terms. What does it mean to say that the church is “subordinate” to Christ? It means that the church is open to all the love, grace, and mercy offered in Christ, and is willing to cooperate with Christ for the salvation of the world.