Husbands, Wives and The Ephesians
At the front of the text of the Spiritual Exercises, in section 22, to be exact, Ignatius has placed a “Presupposition”: that we should be more ready to give a favourable interpretation to another’s statement than we are to condemn it as false. These words apply not only to our conversations with one another but also to our listening to the reading of Scripture. In Ephesians, we find the verse, “Wives, be subject to your husbands” (5:22). How do we hear these words? How ready are we to put a good interpretation on them?
If we happen to be husbands, well, no worries, mate! We probably won’t object to these words too strenuously. If we happen to be wives, however, we may encounter more difficulty with them. Have we been able even to hear the preceding verse—“Brothers and sisters, be subject to one another”? “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ”? Christ dwells in each and every Christian, christed, christened in baptism. How are we to show reverence for Christ in one another?
Paul is here addressing a Christian household, as is clear when we move on to the next few verses, 6:1-9. He is speaking to wives and husbands, to children and slaves or servants. He seems to have set up a kind of hierarchy. In any case, he places wives at the top of his list, which strikes me as significant. The plan of God is to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:10). Christ is in all things, and all things are in Christ. And so we are called to revere Christ in one another, to revere the risen Christ in every created thing.
The Gospel draws our attention to what is small (the mustard seed) and to what is hidden (the cells of yeast, at work, fermenting, and transforming matter in powerful ways). I think it was the Incas who had the saying, “The seed can split the mountain.” They would pour tiny seeds into cracks in rocks in order to split them; then they would water the seeds and let them grow until eventually a rock would burst asunder. This takes patience, of course.
The most powerful, most hidden force at work in the world is the force of love—God’s love, hidden in our hearts. It is a force that can break open the stoniest of hearts, that can transform whatever in us that is hardened, cold, frozen. This takes patience, of course. Brothers and sisters, let us be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.