Today’s First Reading at Mass comes from Ephesians 5:21-33:
Live in love, as Christ loved us.
Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the church
and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,
cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,
that he might present to himself the church in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
that she might be holy and without blemish.
So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
For no one hates his own flesh
but rather nourishes and cherishes it,
even as Christ does the church,
because we are members of his body.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.
A woman who I am greatly fond of once confessed to me how she felt about me and our new relationship. I admit that I still have some scar tissue over the wound that came about as a result of my former wife divorcing me while I was in prison. So, whenever a woman tells me that she loves me, a siren goes off in the back of my head that repeatedly screams, ‘YEAH RIGHT! You’ll love me until loving me is hard’.
Of all the things that I could have said in response to this woman’s confession, I ended up saying, “You think I caught you off the rebound?” To with she aptly replied, David, don’t you ever make what I say to you worth less than the worth that I put into it or I will never tell you how I feel again – and I mean that!” Right at that moment I felt a bit like Job, who, after God put Him in his place about questioning His providence, said, “Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth. Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again; though twice, I will do so no more” (Job 40:4-5)
Then, some weeks later, when I was at the post office about to place a package in the mail to this same woman, I realized that I would not be able to package it as precisely as her minor compulsion demanded. For a moment, I thought about mailing it anyway, but my mind drew back to my Job moment, and I knew that I could not give her less than what would make her truly happy. So I left the post office and suffered my gift being late rather than it being a minor disappointment.
What does it mean to Live in love, as Christ loved us? I believe that Saint Paul’s words here can be boiled down to what I experienced in the story above, or even more precisely to these words from Christ Jesus Himself: “Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread?” (Matthew7:9). That is to say, that to live in love with your spouse as Christ loved us means that you must never offer your spouse anything less than what they deserve. For, Christ as our spouse came and gave us all of Himself, even to the point of sacrificing His life on the Cross so that we might have the opportunity to experience the best of life In Him.
To give your spouse nothing less than what they deserve begins with giving them the first thing that they deserve; that is, God. We give God to our spouse by praying for and with them and by being Christ to them by living our life as a sacrifice for them. Indeed, to love our spouse as God demands means that we truly live in love; that is, live in Christ – for God is Love (Cf. 1 John4:16).
In more plain words, if you are always giving your spouse what Christ Jesus always gives you (e.g. unconditional love, an open ear, empathy, warmth, strength, trust, words and actions of encouragement, respect of person, a lifelong companion, nonreciprocating gifts, a trustworthy example, unashamed sacrifice, good friends, deep intimacy, your very life, and more) you will have simultaneously given them all of yourself and God, but by giving them less than this you will have made them worth less than the worth they truly are.
Eternal Father, I pray for all marriages in the world.
May all husbands love their wives as Christ loved the Church,
and may all wives love their husbands likewise.
I pray for an end to divorce of all lawful marriages,
and for healing and forgiveness for all spouses who are separated.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.