The Two Become One: A Perfect Unity of Persons
Monday October 29, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ephesians 5:21-33) Gospel (St. Luke 13:18-21)
In the first reading today, we hear Saint Paul giving his teaching about the relationship between husband and wife, and how a wife is to be submissive to her husband and a husband is to love his wife. At the same time, as I pointed out many times, what he is really doing is simply asking each one of us, as male and female, to look at the natural weaknesses that are inherent in us because of Original Sin. As it is, men have very little difficulty being submissive to their wives – they just have difficulty loving them. Wives, on the other hand, have very little difficulty loving their husbands – they have difficulty being submissive to them.
But we have to recognize what Saint Paul said in verse 21: Be submissive to one another out of reverence for Christ. So he is not asking of one anything that he is not asking of the other. He is asking that each one of us would approach things differently because he is asking that we approach it from the point of view of our own personal strengths and weaknesses as male and female, and to be able to address our own weakness. Recall, this is not something that the husband and wife can hold over one another’s head. That is not the point that he is making here, but rather what he is trying to do is to address each one to be able to tell them to grow in holiness according to their own person.
So too in the Gospel reading, we can connect these two as Our Lord presents to us what the kingdom of God is like, one from a male perspective, and one from a female perspective. He says, “It is like a man who takes a mustard seed and plants it in the ground. And it is like a woman who takes some yeast and puts it into the dough.” What we see is that the two of them on the day they get married basically place themselves within one another; the two become one. Just as you can no longer separate the yeast from the dough when it is all mixed in together, so too with a marriage; you cannot separate the two, they have become one. Their souls are joined together. They literally are placed within one another and it is there that they must grow. On the day a couple gets married, it is planted, basically, in seminal form. But now as they grow together, that must develop and it must grow together so that the two not only are one in the most basic sense of that, but that the two are so intertwined together that you can barely tell the two apart because the two grow together. They mature together, they are united in all things, mind and heart and soul. In all things they have to be one.
That is the goal of what married life is all about, just as the Church and Christ are one. While we can make a clear distinction between Jesus as the Second Person of the Trinity and the Church as the Mystical Person of Christ, nonetheless, Christ and His Church are one. And so it is to be with married couples. Both are to be giving totally of themselves for one another, just as Christ gave Himself up for the Church and the Church, in turn, gives everything for Christ. That is exactly the way it is to be in marriage. Not looking at the other one and trying to measure up what the other is doing for me, but rather simply looking at the Lord and saying, “I vowed that I would love this other person and that is what I have to do. Regardless of what the other person is doing for me, I have to pour myself out for the sake of this other one.” That is what God is looking at, so we cannot be looking at the other. Remember, Saint Paul did not say, “Okay, husbands, here’s what you have to hold over your wives’ heads. And ladies, here’s what you have to hold over your husbands’ heads.” No, he said, “Husbands, you listen. You love your wives. Wives, now you listen. You be subordinate to your husbands.”
That is the point we need to look at: what God is asking of us. We need to help the other one to grow in holiness, absolutely. But it is not a matter of holding it over the other one’s head and trying to put the other one down. Rather, it is simply seeking to serve one another and to pour oneself out for the sake of someone else. That is what Christian life is all about. In married life, God has given us a microcosm of what we are preparing for in Heaven, where there are two who love one another so perfectly that they are going to reflect what the unity of the Mystical Body in Heaven is all about: loving Christ and loving one another in a perfect unity of persons.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.