Tuesday, Oct. 27th 2020

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Mass Readings


Recently I had the senior seminarians read a text on obedience and discuss it in small groups. The author was a Benedictine and wrote about the Benedictine nuance of so-called mutual obedience. Most of the men struggled with this concept. They thought of obedience as top-down but not horizontal. How could one obey a peer or even someone like a child? Maybe the dark secret that most of us do not want to admit about mutual obedience is this: unlike hierarchical obedience, there is little to be gained for us personally by fidelity to it.

Mutual obedience is good to keep in mind when approaching the notorious Ephesians 5. Here St. Paul states: “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of his wife just as Christ is the head of the Church.”

Frankly, I do not think any marriage where a man seeks to dominate his wife would last more than five minutes. To be head of the household means the responsibility for the success or failure of the house will fall on the husband. It is quite a daunting prospect to consider it from this viewpoint. However, Paul makes it explicit that there is in fact a mutual service in which each strives to care for, assist, and even – especially in the case of husbands following the example of Christ the head of the Church – to sacrifice for the sake of the other.

Mutual obedience is therefore a necessity of growth. Those who turn inward and self-seeking will burn out. Thus, priests who give off the impression that they teach, preach, and administrate but otherwise are about their own business will leave their flocks to stop seeking their care. To be mutually obedient is to give of one’s time when called. And in the case of married people, they not only seek to obey one another, but they do so out of love for Christ instead of out of a kind of secular vision of mutual altruism – a concept in which I make a momentary sacrifice trusting that later on, you will do the same for me. Indeed, just as the mustard seed is the tiniest but grows into the biggest tree for all kinds of birds, so too those in the vocation of matrimony must be impelled by Christ’s selfless love to make something bigger than even the two of them.

Reflection by Fr. Pachomius Meade, OSB

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