The world will talk lot about marriage rights and marriage equality. By contrast the Church will emphasize marriage duties and marriage equity. What is the difference? In a country that desires to separate religion and state, how is it that secular society wants to capture the religious term of marriage for its purpose? The state already has civil unions as a contract between two people which promulgates equality between the two parties and their rights under terms of a contract. The church has marriage duties which Jesus has defined that God has made man, male and female where the two will become one flesh in a covenant relationship from time beginning.
What is the difference between a contract and covenant? Simply a contract is an agreement between two equals whereas a covenant is between humans and God. A contract is sealed with a signed document whereas a covenant is sealed with vows and an oath where the parties require a higher authority and grace to keep the agreement. We have oaths for political office and military duty where the parties require more help than a contract can provide.
So the Church promulgates a covenant relationship in marriage. Marriage is an equitable relationship which is a higher value than an equal relationship. How so? In the world today an equal relationship males may become females and females may become males but not so in an equitable relationship. When males can be totally male and females can be totally female physically and psychologically they exercise an equitable beautiful divine relationship endowed by God. It is a beautiful thing that St. Paul defines marriage where the man is to cherish his wife as his own flesh and likewise the woman cherish her husband. She is to be subject to the man. She readily surrenders her own self to the duties of a woman with love for her husband and her children. Our call to Christian duty is to surrender our free wills and abdicate our ego rights with our own personal love to the love of God. The man abdicates his leadership over his wife when he does not love and respect his wife as his own flesh. The man will have to report to the divine justice of God when he fails in his duties and responsibilities to his wife and children.
Some women take offense to St. Paul’s charge that the woman is to be subject to her husband. However who would not surrender their self-interest to having a husband like St. Joseph the paradigm for all fathers?
St. Joseph demonstrates how a man is to love in a masculine way. After all Joseph taught Jesus what it meant to be a man according to his human nature, so if God the Father considered him a good enough teacher and model for Jesus, then we can certainly consider him trustworthy as well. St. Joseph’s holy, masculine, virtuous life can be summarized under four titles: fatherhood, chaste love, obedience, and action. St. Joseph demonstrates to us characteristic elements of fatherhood.
He was a protector. He guarded Mary’s life and reputation against the possibility of death by stoning as a result of her having become pregnant outside of marriage. He protected Jesus and Mary from the government even at the cost of his job in Nazareth, guiding them on the difficult escape route into Egypt.
Joseph was a provider, which is the other main attribute of fatherhood. He passed on his trade to Jesus. Joseph had a strong reputation in his hometown for his work, such that Jesus was known by all as the “carpenter’s son” Mat. 13:55. But St. Joseph provided more than just food, clothing and shelter for the Holy Family. He also enabled, according to his means their spiritual nourishment, taking them to the Temple for the Jewish rites and feasts.
As both a provider and protector, he demonstrated how to be a man who puts others needs ahead of his own. This leads us to another characteristic. St. Joseph is a model of chaste love. His life shows us that the full gift of self toward another does not necessarily have to involve genital relations. Chastity is a virtue that helps a person to have self-mastery—to control one’s sexual impulses rather than be controlled by them—so that one can give to others in the way that is best for them. Chastity is what allows man to be a protector of women rather than a predator.
St. Joseph is a model of the virtue of obedience. Often I hear women would like their husbands to listen. Some in a humorous way on their wedding day may think of three things about their husband to be. “Aisle, altar, hymn.” I’ll alter him— Three times Joseph obeyed God’s command, taking Mary for his wife trusting that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, he woke to take the family and flee to Egypt and years later at God’s command he took them home with him to Nazareth. He obeyed these imperatives immediately even though it meant believing, beyond human understanding, in the virginal conception of the Lord; even though it meant an arduous and lengthy journey through a desert to a faraway land; even though it may have cost him his livelihood in Nazareth; even though he could have easily dismissed the commands, literally as “dreams” and protect his own self- interest, his own ego and reputation and conjugal rights of sexual intercourse with Mary.
St. Joseph never saw obeying God as incompatible with his own good, but rather as the foundation for his own good. God’s omnipotence was not seen as a threat to his manliness because St. Joseph didn’t equate manliness with being in control, but rather with being responsible and responsive to God and others. His obedience made him capable of sharing mysteriously in the fatherhood of God the Father.
So a woman to subject herself to her husband is to subject herself to God and would not take offense to being with her husband when he demonstrates that he is a man of God. And I think that is the rub of women who take offense to St. Paul’s charge. Women are looking for more than a husband but a man of God at the same time that they can be willing to build a home and life together.
Lastly, St. Joseph is a man of action. He never says a word in sacred Scripture and yet his actions are remembered to this day. He knew that the body language of his deeds was far more eloquent than his words. He was a “doer of the Word” and not just an “idle listener” to it. John 1:22. Like his foster son according to the law, he put his stock in “truth and action” more than in “word or speech” John 3:18.
Like St. Joseph, every man is called to be a protector and a provider, whether as a dad, a priest, a teacher, a coach, a diligent employee or a benevolent employer. Everyone of us is called toward the self-mastery of chastity so that our sexual desires always serve the good of those we love. Everyone of us is called to see the will of God as the greatest enable of our manhood. In obeying the will of God we become most like Christ, Who came, not to do His will, but the will of His Father, which is the sole path to having “life to the full” Luke 22:42; John 10:10 And every one of us is called to be a humble man of works and not just words.
“To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen