Wellspring of Scripture


Year B: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Second Reading: Ephesians 5: 21-32

There are certain passages in St Paulís letters which have greatly rankled those seeking to promote womenís rights - and todayís Reading is probably one of them!


St Paul was a man of his time - and, at that time, a wife was just one possession among many. However, St Paul sees in the marriage-relationship something of the mystery of the relationship between Christ and the Church - and it is this that he seeks to explore.


In families of that time, the male head of the household had total power over what happened in his family. There were, no doubt, some who abused that power - but St Paul is not speaking of those - but of those who balanced their power with love for those in their charge. Where husbands loved their wives and were prepared to sacrifice their own lives to honour and protect them, then St Paul saw an echo of what Christ had done for the Church. The attitude of  obedience in wives born of knowing they were loved was the attitude that St Paul recognised should be that of the Church in her relationship with Christ.


We can only speculate how St Paul would have addressed this mystery in our time where men and women have greater mutuality in marriage. How do contemporary marriages reflect the mystery of the relationship between Christ and the Church?


Perhaps, in the new openness between husbands and wives and the desire to share responsibility, we gain new insights into how Christ and the Church are one.


Christ is no longer seen as a head of the Church  simply dictating how things should be - but stands - or sits alongside her - listening to her as she seeks to address the problems of the day - and constantly offering her the gifts of his Spirit. The Church in her turn listens to the Spirit and acts in love and obedience to its promptings.


In mutual listening and mutual love, Christ and the Church offer the world a message of hope and salvation for humanity. Families adopting this model for their own life may well do the same.


What does it mean for me?



How would you answer those who use this passage to say that the Scriptures are out of date?

How would you answer those who say it undermines womenís rights to equality?

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