As a “modern man,” I always made sure to assume the appropriate posture each and every time the readings at Mass included Ephesians Chapter 5.
I would fold my arms across my chest and smugly look over at those from my generation, giving a sarcastic nod and wink of disapproval over the idea that “wives should be subordinate to their husbands.” Of all the readings shared at Mass, this was clearly the most out of touch with actual modern day reality.
I was happy to chuckle along each and every time a priest would begin his homily that day with something along the lines of, “I’m going to make sure to be careful to avoid talking about today’s second reading.”
That quip, so often heard from the pulpit in my personal experience, only went along to validate my feelings of superiority to St. Paul in this area.
About 5 years into my marriage, my wife and I were encouraged to become Marriage Preparation instructors, which seemed pretty odd, given we were so new to the game; but after some pretty persistent badgering, we gave in and began attending classes in preparation of taking on the task of letting engaged couples know exactly what they were getting themselves into.
On the drive home from each and every class, my wife and I had amazing and fruitful discussions about some new insight we learned in regards to the purpose of marriage, the relationship between husbands and wives, and the reality of God’s love being reflected by the love of a married couple and their children.
One of the topics brought up during these classes was the idea that the husband was meant to be the “head of the household.” The presenting couple talked about their struggle to allow the husband to take this role on, but also shared about the great blessings that came about because of their efforts.
After hearing their story, and exploring the idea and its ramifications in greater depth, my wife and I started to slowly try it out.
It was at this point that I realized that deep down, the reason I was so smug in my opposition to the teaching contained in the fifth chapter of Ephesians, was because I was terrified.
I was terrified because I didn’t feel equipped to take on this daunting role.
Heck, I could barely help my wife decide what we should have for dinner, how was I going to take the lead in making the bigger decisions in our family’s life?
It would be easy to place the blame on our culture. Obviously, we live in a culture that places the idea of male leadership in marriage and the family alongside a long list of negative “isms” that we have all agreed are terrible.
However, I think it’s more accurate to place the blame squarely on myself.
I never took the time to delve into the leadership role, and more specifically what that role means as defined by our Catholic faith and the example given to us by Jesus.
Because if we really look at it, being the head of the household has very little to do with making day-to-day decisions like the boss of some kind of budding startup company, and even less to do with being some sort of master over one’s wife and children.
Instead, being the head of the household has everything to do with what we see when we take a moment to gaze upon the Crucifix or take a brief minute to reflect upon the story of Jesus washing the feet of His apostles.
It’s less about being a controlling supervisor and more about being a self-sacrificial servant.
And, to be honest, that’s a calling that is a whole lot more terrifying.
So what are we to do?
While us men aspiring to be the head of our little households are bombarded with slogan Catholicism calling us to “man up,” “be real men,” or “take control over our domestic church,” I would like to suggest that if we want to truly know how to be a “real man,” we would do best to grow closer to “the woman.”
Growing into a deeper relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary may be exactly what we need to better understand our role as head of the household. She understood what it meant to be a servant of the Lord, to humbly accept what God put on her plate, and to be meek while at the same time having total confidence in God and His Will.
By turning to her, we grow closer to Him.
And by growing closer to Him, we will be better equipped to live out that difficult to hear teaching from Ephesians in a way that makes total sense.
And, who knows? Maybe the culture will start to take notice.
Copyright 2016 Thomas Tighe