What You DO is What Really Counts

And the Wise Words of St. Paul on Marriage

What You DO

What you DO is what really counts, despite what many of us heard from our parents: “Do as I say; don’t do as I do.”

For insights into this truth, here is the August 22, 2021, homily of Deacon James Sinacore of St. John Vianney Parish in Northlake, Illinois. And… he explains the often controversial words of St. Paul on marriage.


When I was young, my father had an expression that I would often hear. He would say to me, “Do as I say; don’t do as I do.”

Those of you who are close to me in age probably heard something similar from your father or from someone else in the family.

This expression is an inter­esting one because it presents an incongruity. On the one hand, the person who says “Do as I say, don’t do as I do” is trying to direct someone to act rightly. Basically, the person is saying, “I recognize right from wrong and I want you to do what is right.”

But herein lies the incongruity. If the speaker knows right from wrong, why not just do what is right? If someone would simply do what is right, there would not be any inconsistency between his words and his actions. As a result, there would be no need for him to go around saying “Do as I say, don’t do as I do.”

Doing is the stuff of life. 

Our actions define the kind of people that we are. No matter what anyone hears us say, we are always judged by what we do. Our actions reveal to the world what we truly value and how we desire to live our lives and that is the point of our readings for today (August 22, 2021).

In our first reading we see that Joshua brings together all the tribes of Israel and basically says to them … “Ok, guys, what are you going to do?”

Why is he saying this? Well, following the death of Moses, Joshua has led the Israelites into the Promised Land.

We have to realize that coming into this land was not like walking into a garden paradise. Other peoples were living in that land and the Israelites had to fight for it. Under God’s providence, the Israelites prevailed.

At the time of this passage, the fight is over and Joshua is an old man and he is concerned that the Israelites are going to slap themselves on the back, taking credit for their success.

What are you going to do?

Joshua knows full well that it is God who is responsible for the Israelites’ victory. So he says to them, “Ok, guys; make a decision.  What are you going to do from this point forward?

“How are you going to conduct yourselves?

“Are you going to serve the false gods of the people whose land you have acquired … or are you going to serve the One, True God … the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?”

Notice that Joshua doesn’t say to them, “Do as I say, don’t do as I do.” On the contrary, he states, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

His decision for action is clear.

Letter to the Ephesians

Another teaching about life’s conduct is addressed in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. In the part of the letter that was read today, Paul is revealing how God is calling everyone to a life of humility, which is expressed in mutual subordination.

Paul then talks specifically about the relationship between husbands and wives. Notice how this is not about the relationship between men and women in general but about that of husbands and wives in particular.

If we are going to live our married lives according to the Will of God, how does God want us to act?  What does He want us to do?

The text is clear

Paul says: Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.  As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.

 Notice how Paul wastes no time in establishing a parallel between marriage in the natural order and the relationship of Christ to His Church. Unfortunately, people of today who have allowed themselves to be persuaded by pernicious feminist rhetoric are going to snap at this with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Such individuals are not going to listen to what follows in which Paul speaks to husbands about how they are to act.

If you take a good look at the text, you will see that Paul’s teaching to husbands is about three times longer than is his teaching to wives. Is this because husbands are more important than wives? Is this because husbands are to dominate their wives? No!

Paul needs more words in speaking to husbands because in God’s eyes,  husbands have the weightier role.

Paul first appeals to husbands from a theological perspective.  He says:  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, […] [so] that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, / that she might be holy and without blemish.

What is St. Paul saying here? He is saying that it is a husband’s job to literally lay down his life for his wife. Just as Christ emptied Himself of His glory and offered Himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of  mankind, so too must husbands be ready to offer their very lives for the benefit of their wives.

St. Paul is not saying that a man must die for his wife. He is saying that husbands must sacrifice for their wives, even to the point of death.

Years ago, this moral was more easily seen in everyday life when husbands went to work and their wives stayed at home. A husband was seen sacrificing for his wife when she was dependent upon his income and he went to work in order not to jeopardize her security.  Likewise, a husband was seen sacrificing for his wife when he identified her as a beneficiary on his life insurance or other similar documents in order that she may be cared for in light of his death or incapacitation.

In general, a loving husband intentionally worked at securing his wife’s welfare.

Although things have changed … and many women today have their own salaries and benefits … God’s command for husbands to sacrifice for their wives as Christ sacrificed Himself for the Church remains unchanged.

Arguments both theological and psychological

Now if Paul’s theological argument doesn’t get through … he appeals to husbands from a psychological perspective.

It’s as though he were saying, “Ok, guys, if you don’t understand what I just said, think of it this way.

“You have to love your wives as you love your own bodies.

“You don’t hate your own body, do you?

“No, you cherish it.  You do what’s best for it, right?

“OK, then cherish your wife in the very same way.”

Then Paul slips back to the theological.  He says: For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

For the longest time, I used to wonder what it meant when Paul says “For this reason.”

What is “This reason” referring to?

Well, when a man proposes to marry a woman, God wants him to realize from the outset that he enters a relationship in which his essential purpose is to sacrifice for her.

A man should not desire to marry a woman simply because she is beautiful. He should not desire to marry her simply because she arouses him and will make a tantalizing life partner.  A man should propose marriage to a woman because he loves her and recognizes in his heart that he desires to render his very self for her —  even to the point of death.

How should a woman respond to such a proposal? If she loves him and recognizes the Christlike nature of his action, she should want to follow him, just as we in the Church want to follow Christ.

If we refuse to be influenced by modern-day perverted rhetoric, we will recognize in our hearts that this rings true. Believe me, Paul’s teaching on marital relations is totally contrary to the distorted and twisted views of marriage that are promulgated by the media and the culture because Paul reveals to us how it is that God wants us to live as husbands and wives.

I say to you now as I have said many times in the past; if we can see beyond our faults and failings and will live our marriages as God wants, we will nurture an experience of heaven on earth.  And it is because married life is dignified and nourished by God that it is vigorously under attack by the evil one.

We all know too well how some husbands dominate their wives — physically and psychologically. The statistics about domestic violence and wife-beating in this country and in the world continue to horrify us. And if that isn’t bad enough, now we have to cope with a culture that has redefined marriage so that people with same-sex attraction can enter into a relationship that is viewed on par with that of husband and wife.

The two shall become one flesh

But let these words forever ring in your ears: a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

The one-flesh union is for husband and wife, one man and one woman. And why is it that such unity should be limited only to one man and one woman? Why can’t we do this with anyone we want at any time we want?

Why can’t physical intimacy parallel the song that Stephen Stills released in 1970 when he sang: “If you can’t be with the one you love … Honey … love the one you’re with”?

It’s because the one-flesh union is ordered to the begetting of new life. From this union comes children. And if children are to grow into psychologically mature and God-loving adults they need a stable home that is founded upon a committed relationship of mother and father.

In the one-flesh union of man and woman, we witness before our eyes the life-giving power of love.  And more than this, in the relationship of father, mother, and children we see a reflection of the Blessed Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Those of us who are married and have children know all too well the challenges of family life. But as hard as it may be to believe, in the relationship of husbands and wives who follow God’s way and in the family life that follows, God gives us a foretaste of heaven.

But the evil one is absolutely determined to rob us of our experience by leading some to behave sinfully in their marriages and to embrace a disordered understanding of marriage.

Well, as we have seen in today’s Gospel, Jesus spoke words of Spirit and life and yet we learn that many of His disciples left Him and returned to their former way of life.

In today’s collect at the opening of Mass, we heard Father call upon God and say:

“Grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found.”  (21st Sunday in OT 8/22/21)

My dear friends, the ball is in our court

God has told us how He wants husbands and wives to live with one another.

Does this shock you?  What are we going to do?

As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

And for those of us in the Church who are nourished by the sacraments, this should be as natural as rain.