I came across this piece of advice by St. John Chrysostom for husbands, and was so taken with it I thought I’d share it here. It reminds me of the spiritual counsel a Missionary of Charity gave me once when I voiced to her my difficulty dealing with a verbally abusive patient: “The difficult people in your life are the voice of God shouting to you: love like Jesus!” How could her words not call to mind C.S. Lewis’ memorable words? “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains.”
In his homilies on Ephesians 5:21-33, Chrysostom variously applies his prudential wisdom to the details of marriage and family life, bringing to bear the logic of St. Paul’s interpretive re-imagining of marriage in light of Christ’s death and resurrection. For Paul, as for the authors of the whole New Testament, every jot and tittle of the Old Testament, every aspect of human life, every dimension of the whole cosmos — and even hell itself! — must be re-thought in the light of Christ. Nothing has been left unchanged by the significance of what we will celebrate in tomorrow’s great feast, or what we will celebrate in next week’s Feast of Feasts. How awesome it is to be Catholic.
Even though you undergo all [these sacrifices for your wife], you will never have done anything equal to what Christ has done. You are sacrificing yourself for someone to whom you are already joined, but He offered Himself up for one who turned her back on Him and hated Him. In the same way, then, as He honored her by putting at His feet one who turned her back on Him, who hated, rejected, and disdained Him; as He accomplished this not with threats, or violence, or terror, or anything else like that, but through His untiring love; so also you should behave toward your wife. Even if you see her belittling you, or despising and mocking you, still you will be able to return her to yourself through affection, kindness, and your great regard for her. There is no influence more powerful than the bond of love, especially for husband and wife. Husbands should love their wives…”as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” [Eph. 5:25-27]…”For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband” [1 Cor. 7:14].