Catholic: a Calling to Sacrifice and Obedience

1 Oct

Catholic Marriage

Catholics have this funny thing about sacrifice, and Catholic marriage is no exception. I was the happy attendee at my brother’s wedding recently and they had chosen a beautiful and misunderstood passage from the New Testament as one of the readings: Ephesians 5. Yup, that’s the one about wives being subject to their husbands written by Saint Paul to the Christians in Ephesus. Controversial on the surface, this passage really says simply that marriage is about sacrifice and overcoming our self-centered inclinations to be bossy (women) and tuned out (men).

First, a moment on the sacrifice angle: husbands’ relationship with their wives mirrors what we Catholics talk about as Christ’s relationship to His Bride, the Church. That sounds a little weird if you haven’t had a catechism lesson, so here’s my quick explanation (without a degree in theology). God sends His Son down to Earth to bring redemption to a fallen people, Christ institutes a physical and spiritual thing “the Church” to act as His proxy in giving out graces and helping people, and He heads back up to Heaven after He dies. His relationship with the Church is like a bridegroom to a bride: He sacrificed His life for her, and she reciprocates by sharing life, love, and His grace (God’s life within us) to the world.

Second, the obedience angle: are women considered second-class citizens? Saint Paul writes that wives should be subject to their husbands, and husbands should love their wives as themselves and sacrifice their lives for them. This always rubbed my inner feminist wrong. What does “subject to” mean anyway? So women are supposed to be obedient and men just sacrificial? Come on! What are we, chattel?

Now that I’ve been married a few years, I see that these two instructions correlate to basic human nature and the psychological make-up of both sexes. It resonates that men need to feel respected and listened to by their women who, in general, are far more verbal and can run roughshod over their men at any given opportunity (um, me). And women need to feel totally cared for, monogamously devoted to, and the center of their husband’s worlds because, in general, men aren’t attuned to the constant affirmation we need (constant? Um, yes.).

Marriage is a special calling because it mirrors this relationship Christ has with His church. It also brings out the best of both gender’s strengths, and help work on their weaknesses, i.e., being self-centered. Sacrifice and respect are imperative ingredients to a healthy marriage, and all relationships. Thanks, Saint Paul, for pointing out the difficult and the obvious.

-Nell Alt

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2 Responses to “Catholic: a Calling to Sacrifice and Obedience”

  1. Kari October 2, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Love this! Love your angle and your wit. 🙂

  2. tnzk01 October 4, 2012 at 3:03 am #

    It’s great to hear =). I think a lot of people not only have a knee-jerk reaction to that comment, the resentment also stems from some ungainly pride accumulated over the 20th century.

    Obedience is a taboo word in this day and age. You can’t even tell your children to be obedient!

    Obedience makes people think of a slave/master relationship, where you have no say in conducting your daily life. But obedience is not that. It’s so much more. It’s honestly a way to liberation. The Blessed Virgin must be the single most obedient creature God ever created, and look what that netted her. She’s only the Queen of Heaven, Queen of Angels, the Most Powerful Intercessor… her merits are second-to-none!

    A true Catholic marriage should have a saintly wife and a sacrificial husband, because a saintly wife sacrifices her glory for her husband, and her sacrificial husband becomes sainted for his wife.

    It’s the same reciprocal love The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have for one another.

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