Sunday, August 26, 2012

Real men love their wives as much as Christ loves His Church: A Reflection on Ephesians 5:21-33

Ephesians 5:21-33 is one of my favourite passages of scripture. For me it models and clears the way - like a lighthouse guiding in the ships to port - about how a husband is to love his wife. When this passage of scripture is read out at Mass at this time on the liturgical calendar, however, I am always amused by the looks on some of the faces of some of the women sitting in Mass. Let me tap the part of the passage that irks them:

"Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands." - Ephesians 5:22-24

Basically the "modern woman" will interpret that portion of the passage this way:

"The husband is the boss; you are subservient to him; you are second to him; blah-de-blah-de-blah-de-blah!"

I'm not kidding! Quite a few Christian women I know (Catholic and non-Catholic alike) have deemed St. Paul a misogynist based on this particular letter alone, but there are some very important details that are glossed over in the kind of marriage St. Paul is describing, and let's not forget verse 21:

"Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ." - Ephesians 5:21

It doesn't get any clearer than that, but let's break down verse 22. "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord." is not a statement or instruction of coercion or submission; "... be subject... as to the Lord" is the same as saying, "put your trust in your husband" or "have faith in your husband". St. Paul goes on to note in verses 23 and 24 that the role of the husband is modelled on the headship of Jesus Christ over the Church. As Christ made a new covenant promise with His people, the Church, so too the husband and wife make a sacred covenant promise to each other in marriage, a promise that is built on trust and faith, (i.e. fidelity) and the kicker is what we read in the following verses about the husband's duties to his wife:

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. " - Ephesians 5:25-33

How much does Christ love the Church? How much does the Lord love us? How did the Lord demonstrate this love for us? Get back to Sunday school if you don't know the answer to this question, but I'll give you the cliff notes: Christ died for us for the sake of our salvation (John 3:16)! This gift, called "grace", is the gift that was and is freely given that we did nothing to be granted. Husbands are thus expected to sacrifice themselves for their wives and love her as the Lord loves us: unconditionally and selflessly, and as we read in verses 26 and 27, the husband must work to make his wife "holy and without blemish".

What a calling! What a responsibility! Which of us that are married men can honestly say that we work this way, even in part, to uplift and uphold our wives in such a way that they may appear sanctified before the Lord? Listening to this Second Reading this morning at Mass challenged me and made me contemplate the ways through which I love my wife. I can be a slob, a buffoon, a dolt, a fool, a dope, a twit, and a jerk, and I especially need to learn to love my wife in ways that emulate the love Christ has for the Church. The more I realise this as a Christian-Catholic allows me to concede, not by any sense of defeat, but so as not to allow pride to enter my heart, that in order to love my wife the way Christ loves the Church I need more of Christ in my heart and centred in my marriage.

In short, St. Paul is writing about a marriage between husband and wife that is built faith and trust in each other, and a selfless love to work in mutuality; to love, to honour, and to serve without counting the cost.

In the two, husband and wife, in marriage becoming "one flesh", they are no longer two persons but unified equals working together in the greatest of pairings conceived by the Lord God. It is for this reason St. Paul draws the parallel between the marriage of a husband to his wife to the relationship Christ has with the Church; the Church is the bride and Christ the bridegroom. It is the love and sacrifice of Christ that allows the Church to grow and nourish its children spiritually, and it is the faith we, the Church, place in Christ that enables Him to work through us transforming us into new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). The old becomes gone.

Real men love their wives as much as Christ loves His Church. Are you man enough to love your wife this way?


Friday, August 17, 2012

More about that Geelong parish and parish priest...

I've received a bit more information from Jack and Jill, and this time it concerns some attitudes by some immersed in the parish's liberal/leftist culture that has unfortunately been allowed to take root over the last couple of decades.

These were the claims in summary:

- the Tridentine Mass (i.e. the Extraordinary Form of the Mass) was a clerical model that attempted to put priests above the rest of humanity;
- Vatican II was a council that sought to "revolutionise" and make the Church more "relevant" in our world today; and
- younger clergy (i.e. priests coming out of the seminary in more recent years) are causing division, divide, negative growth in the Church and a negative view of it with their militant orthodoxy

The claims are of course laughable and I have responded to Jack and Jill about them this way:

1.) Never ever was the Tridentine MAss a "clerical model that attempted to put the priests above the rest of humanity". The priest in the Mass (even in the Novus Ordo Missae) acts as "in persona di Cristo" i.e. "the person of Christ" in the consecration of the bread and the wine to become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, imitating Christ in the Last Supper. There are, however, individual priests both now and back then who adopted this manner of thinking (i.e. clericalism) and this is largely due to personal arrogance, but it was never and is never a directive of the Church nor was it encouraged on a personal or pastoral level. Ironically, by your parish priest changing the Mass to suit himself and refusing to implement the new Roman Missal, he has embraced clericalism and lofted himself above the authority of the Holy See. In spirit, he is a Protestant.

2.) Vatican II was never about revolutionising the Church to make it more relevant. It really irks me when liberals/modernists speak about the "spirit of Vatican II". If anything, the key documents of Vatican II, i.e. Lumen Gentium, define and outline clearly the role of the laity, religious, and clergy. I would challenge anyone to cite me a Vatican II document that indicates that Vatican II was about "change" or "revolution". Vatican II examined the place of the Church in the world today and exhorted Catholics - be they lay people, religious or clergy - to witness and bring others to Christ.

3.) Younger clergy causing division and divide because of their orthodoxy? You've got to be kidding, right? These younger clergy aren't causing division because of their orthodoxy, no; the orthodoxy of these young priests is making you feel uncomfortable because you liberal twits are beginning to realise how wrong and how far you've fallen from grace. You wilted liberals lacking militant orthodoxy and backbone are a dying breed and for only a little bit longer will you infect our Church. You are stunting growth in the Church because you are preaching a false gospel. 

The most ironic thing about this is this: to have backbone and to embrace orthodoxy is PRECISELY what the "spirit of Vatican II" is. Vatican II exhorts Catholics to be engaged with the world, rejecting dissent and disobedience, and unifying with the Body of Christ and the Bishop of Rome.

So folks, as you can see things are pretty bad at this parish and I would invite you to join me in prayers for this parish and its parishioners.

Please pray that due attention is given to this parish and that the Lord may truly work in this situation.


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Some wisdom from an ex-girlfriend...

Tonight I came almost face-to-face with an individual who some time ago left a venomous message on the blog. The reason I say "almost face-to-face" is because while the message was left anonymously, I knew very well who the sender was (thanks to the wonder of Internet technology) and tonight - by chance - they were present at the same function I was tonight. They avoided all eye contact with me and while I don't completely understand this behaviour, I hold no ill thought of this person and nor do I bear any grudges because, as Christ taught, I am to forgive as often as our Heavenly Father is prepared to forgive us for our transgressions (Matthew 18:21-22) and since I have forgiven this person I see no need to call them out or confront them on the matter.

To cut a long story short: the message that was left on the blog a while back made some outrageous accusations about what I teach and believe as a Catholic. The person who left the message had never personally been taught by me and therefore could not know first hand what I taught and believe as a Catholic. The claims were so way off the mark that if this person was an Olympic archer, the spectators would have been in danger of being pierced by a stray arrow. The message reminded me of some wisdom an ex-girlfriend shared with me a long, long time ago:

"Assumption is the mother of all mistakes."

Now while this logic may be flawed due to recognising that some good may come of making assumptions, in this particular instance it reigned true.

Here's the thing: I know that there are going to be people who either passively or aggressively disagree with my faith and in what I teach and believe as a Catholic. I'm more than happy for others to disagree with me because that is, my friends, an opportunity to allow the truth to do its work and I'm more that happy to have an open dialogue as long as it is civil and conducted in an adult-like manner. As we read in St. John's Gospel:

"You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." - John 8:32

All I desire in my life as a Catholic is truth and to share that truth with others. I fully acknowledge that this will not always be welcome, but if you are going to disagree with me, then please do the following:

1.) Disagree with me on what I actually believe;
2.) Do not disagree with me on what you think I believe.

The Venerable Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, "There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church."

Yes there are sinners in the Church and the Church's members are not perfect. Individuals in the Church have done some vile and horrendous things and things that I would of course not condone. I pray daily that these people truly turn to Christ and repent for their wrongdoings and if they have violated the dignity and sanctity of the life of another, then it is my hope the justice is done. We are great sinners but Christ is a great saviour. 

I am a Catholic-Christian because I am spiritually poor and I need a minutely dose of Jesus Christ in my existence. With Him I can do nothing. This is the truth that I know and the truth I put my faith in completely and whole-heartedly. No compromise. No appeasements. I live to follow the Lord and do His will; I stand with Christ.