Ephesians 5:21-33

Give way to one another in obedience to Christ. Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, since as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church submits to Christ, so should wives to their husbands, in everything. Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because it is the body - and we are its living parts. For this reason, a man must leave hi father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one body. This mystery has many implications; but I am saying it applies to Christ and the Church. To sum up; you too, each one of you, must love his wife as he loves himself; and let every wife respect her husband.

Luke 13:18-21

Jesus said, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.”

Another thing he said, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.”

When the Church places herself in sub-mission to Christ, what it is doing is that it is placing herself “under the mission” of Christ. What is Christ’s mission? Christ’s mission is to love his Church and to sacrifice himself for her to make her holy. In order to do so, Christ withheld nothing to carry out this mission for the Church, going all the way to give up his own life for her. Truly Christ’s love for the Church is freely given (free) in a total (total) way.

Whenever we go for Mass, we recall the Eucharistic prayer, which tells us, “This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant”. This is indicative of Christ’s faithfulness (faithful) to the Church, his marriage to the Church. What is this for? “It will be shed for you and for all, so that sins are forgiven.” That is to say, it is done to reap the fruits of forgiveness (fruitful). By removing sin, Jesus is in fact purifying his Church and reconciling it with himself.

These are the same four criteria - free, total, faithful, fruitful - that must be fulfilled to ensure that a marriage is valid and lawful in the Catholic Church. There are two parts to a Catholic marriage. The first is the taking of marital vows in the presence of a Catholic priest. But the marriage is not complete until the couple consummates their marriage by making love to each other. That is why a couple who has been married in church and have not consummated their marriage can have their marriage annulled.

This shows us the important role of sex in the Catholic Church, and why it is reserved for married couples only. Because every time a husband and wife makes love to each other, they are saying with their bodies that “My love for you is freely given in a total and exclusive way, to bear fruits of love in our marital relationship.” This is why marriage is a sacrament, because a husband’s love for his wife is a sign of Christ’s love for his Church. Conversely, a wife’s love for her husband and she placing herself under the mission of her husband is a sign of the Church’s love for Christ, and she placing herself under the mission of Christ.

Therefore, when a wife places herself in sub-mission to her husband, what she is doing is that she is placing herself “under the mission” of her husband. What is her husband’s mission? Her husband’s mission is to love his wife and to sacrifice himself for her to make her holy. In order to do so, a husband looks to Christ as his model of love, and he is to withhold nothing to carrying out this mission for his wife, going all the way, if necessary, to give up his own life for her. This is so that a husband’s love for his wife is freely given in a total way, and it is a love that is faithful to his wife. Therefore, when a husband makes love to his wife in a free, total, and faithful way, it is necessarily also fruitful, which means being open to life.

But what does this have to do with the gospel reading? Plenty. The basic cell of society is the family, and for there to be a family, there must first be a man and his wife. This basic cell which has existed for thousands of years seems to be breaking down in our society today. We have some countries changing terms on their birth certificates from “Mother” and “Father” to “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B” so as to allow them to have two fathers or two mothers. We have some countries allowing a child to have three legal parents.

All these seems to be way beyond our control, doesn’t it? But it isn’t necessarily so. As mentioned early, the basic cell of society is the family. If the family breaks down, society naturally breaks down as well. Similarly, if the family is strengthened, society is strengthened as well. Our duty to society as members of the human race is simply to ensure that our family is a model of love and that husband and wife sacrifice everything for the good of their marriage.

I’ve always wondered what is the best way to teach a child how to love, and I think I’ve found my answer. A child is best taught how to love by watching and imitating his or her own parents’ love for each other. Indeed children learn best by example. When a child grows up in a loving family where husband and wife indeed show their love to each other, the child grows up to be a part of society that knows how to give and receive love.

Contrary to what we believe, a marriage is not a private matter. It is not to be kept locked up in the bedroom. Otherwise, why would be hold big wedding dinners inviting all our friends and relatives? Why would we celebrate our wedding Masses in a church full of people? No, a marriage is very much a public affair, and with good reason too.

A Christian couple that loves like Christ and his Church loves will have an effect like a bit of yeast in a lot of flour. Just a bit of yeast can leaven a whole lot of flour. Similarly, just a bit of Christian love in society can leaven the whole society. And it all begins in the family, which is based on a married couple’s love for each other, which in turn is based on Christ’s love for his Church.

Dear Jesus, help all husbands to love their wives as you love your Church. Help all wives to love their husbands as the Church loves you. Help us all to realise that a couple’s love is never only for the bedroom, but is a sign of your love for the Church in the world. We also pray for all married Christian couples who are going through a difficult part in their marriage. Help them to realise that they are in together for better or for worse, and that divorce is not an option. We also pray for all children that they may be provided with loving parents who, through their love for each other, teach them how to love. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

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