Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
(Ephesians 5:21-33; Luke 13:18-21)
The Letter to the Ephesians seems to bless slavery. “Slaves,” it says, “obey your earthly masters….” Yet most biblical commentators today would not conclude that God thereby ordains the institution. On the contrary they see the verse as conditioned by the cultural condition of the first century. People then somewhat blindly accepted slavery; people today must not. There is less of a consensus about the phrase in today’s passage from Ephesians, “…wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.” Pope Francis, however, in his recent apostolic exhortation The Joy of Love places the admonition in the realm of culturally-conditioned advice.
Francis cites St. John Paul II in saying that the overarching principle regarding marital subordination in Ephesians is that it be mutual. This arrangement is found in the first verse of today’s text. It means that rather than a system where one spouse has the final say, the two arrive at a decision based on their love for one another. It is an ideal way, to be sure, but it can be approached if not attained completely.
Marriage is the most intimate of human relationships. We should look forward to it as a way of overcoming the same selfishness that keeps us from knowing God. Because spouses are always there, we cannot ignore them. Because we come to know well their goodness, we want to make every effort for their benefit.