The other day I wrote a post about some Catholic teachings that, though I follow the Catholic faith, I am still somewhat uncomfortable with. The first you can read here. The two topics are, I feel, mostly unrelated to each other, so I decided to separate them. This post is about the roles of spouses in a traditional, Catholic marriage. A rather old fashioned way of thinking about this is that men always have to be the bread winner, and women always have to be stay-at-home moms. This is not what the Church teaches. The priest at my church explained that men and women have different roles because we have different needs. Generally speaking, on a physiological, and psychological level, I think, to some extent, this is true. However, I wanted to stop him, and ask “What would you say to someone like me who, if we’ll permit a little stereotyping here, generally has stereotypically male interests?”
One of the reasons his homily was about this topic, though, was because one of the readings for last weekend was the dreaded Ephesians 5: 22-24, which says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Initially, this rubs just about every woman, myself included, the wrong way. God is the only person I will be submitting myself to, thank you very much. That is my initial, impulsive reaction. However, for a few reasons, live with my parents. The fifth commandment, which could not be spelled out more clearly says that one is to, “honor your father and mother,” so it would seam that I should, in some sense, submit to them, and this is what is pleasing to God. Likewise, God left us his Church, and both men and women are meant to submit to its teachings because really, they are his teachings.
Last weekend, our priest went on to explain that we often neglect Ephesians 5: 25-28, which says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” Remember that Jesus died for every individual person. What Saint Paul is saying here is that husbands are supposed to make these kinds of sacrifices for their wives. What is also implied here is that the Church is the body of Christ, in the same way as a husband and wife are meant to be one unified family.
Ultimately, husbands and wives, and actually people who love each other in general, are supposed to make sacrifices for each other. When reading these verses of Saint Paul, we have to keep a few things in mind. He was writing in a certain time period for a certain group of people. He was also writing for us. Love between people is not a mirror. I don’t love my dad in the same way he loves me, nor is it the same for me and my mom. The sacrifices they make for me are not the same sacrifices I make for them. Today, and particularly in the West, men and women are largely on equal footing in terms of the opportunities we have, especially for education and employment. We are to be given an equal level of respect, and when we are not given the same respect, we have problems. This does not change the fact that we are meant to make different sacrifices for different people at different times if we truly want to own that we are Christian.
Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!