This homily was given at Saint Thomas Apostle, Woodley Park, Washington, D.C., on the feast of the Holy Family.
Meeting to prepare a wedding with a young couple, it is rather easy for a priest to get a cheap laugh – at least from the groom – if he simply suggests having today’s reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians at the wedding. ‘Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord’, says the apostle. What often (and equally swiftly) wipes the smile from the young man’s face – if his bride-to-be hasn’t done so herself – is the next line: ‘Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them’. The groom has his responsibilities too. He is to be a strong, characterful, moral family leader, and he is to accept the great and serious burden of protecting and caring for his wife, whatever that might bring on him. Just as in the old English wedding vows where the bride promises to love, honour, and obey, her husband, ‘be subordinate to your husbands’ is not a call to a master-servant relationship, but one of mutuality. We might say, in fact, that the bride is permitting herself to be looked after and cared for, above the husband’s own concerns and well-being.