Some of you may remember the Newlywed Game on TV. They would invite newly married couples to compete for prizes, by answering questions that they think their spouse would say.
The host was Bob Eubanks, and he would ask questions to see how well the newly wed couple knew each other.
Bob would ask the wives to step out of the room, then ask the husbands a question like, “What would your wife say she likes to do on Saturday night?” The husband might say, “she likes to go out to dinner.”
Then Bob would have the wives come back and reveal the answers. The wife might say, “What? I like to stay in and watch a movie!” There would be lots of laughing, but the real messages was that these husbands had no clue what their wives liked and didn’t like.
I always wondered what their conversations would be like after the show.
Today, the roles of husband and wife are not as clear cut as they used to be. So what is a husband, exactly? You know how I like etymology, so I had to look it up!
Husband is from an Old English word “hūsbonda” meaning master of the house or a manager who uses the resources rightly, and by extension, a married man. The word ‘Master’ is abbreviated Mr. and is pronounced ‘Mister.’
The word Wife is from an Old English word for ‘woman’, and and the term ‘housewife’, means mistress of the house. Mistress is the feminine form of Master, and is abbreviated Mrs. and of course is pronounced Miss-es. These days the word ‘mistress’ has a different connotation!
Today, we regard the Mr. and the Mrs. as being on equal footing in the household. It would have been much different in the past, but today the word master has a negative connotation, since it invokes the memory of slavery, but remember, the husband is master of the house, not of his wife.
Marriage is taught in the Bible to be a covenant relationship of one man and one woman. This relationship is ordained by God as a physical and spiritual relationship. The man and wife bond to become one flesh, and thus become fruitful and multiply.
It started with the creation of Adam and Eve. There are two versions of the creation story in the book of Genesis:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
Male and female are the perfect complementary forms of creatures who multiply. The Lord commands his creation to be fruitful and multiply. This is only possible with a male and a female, so the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is only possible with one man and one woman.
In the reading from Jeremiah today, we heard this:
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt– a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.
The Lord regarded himself as their husband, which in this case means caretaker and protector. This covenant was first made with Abraham in Genesis chapter 15. It is basically where God says, I will be your God and care for you, and you will be my people. As Jeremiah wrote, “thus says the Lord, I will make a new covenant with house of Israel and the house of Judah.”
The New Covenant was made with the Blood of Jesus. This is recorded in Matthew 26:26-28:
26 Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
You might recognize these words, as we use them in our Eucharistic prayer which says, “this is my blood of the new covenant,” and so it fulfills the prophecy of a new covenant between God and us.
Every time we eat and drink of the Body and Blood of Christ we celebrate the New Covenant in his blood. This is why we say that we ‘celebrate’ the Holy Eucharist. It is indeed a celebration because it is about how Jesus established the New Covenant for forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.
And continuing with the use of the marital metaphors, Christ calls himself the bridegroom on a number of occasions. There are about 15 verses in the Bible that reflect this. One we have heard a few times is this from Mark 2:19
Now, Jesus is the husband of the new covenant. He is here to care for us, to provide for us, and with his Spirit, inspire us to do the works he has prepared for us.
To establish this New Covenant Jesus must shed his blood and die. He prophesies this in the Gospel reading we heard today:
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Jesus is the grain of wheat, and when he dies, he will produce much fruit, meaning the salvation of humankind from everlasting death, and promises to us everlasting life.
Christ Jesus is the husband of the Church, our caretaker, our master, and we, the Church, are his bride.
St. Mary, his mother, is the Mother of the Church, and Mother of all Priests.
If we will seek his will, and not our own, we will walk in love as Christ loved us, and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Amen.