Homily: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Readings of the Day

They were a couple of guys climbing a mountain. That wasn’t remarkable on itself, but the air was full of sulphur, smoke and grit, they were surrounded by a desert: they were climbing a volcano. Why would they do that? To get rid of something, the great Ring, source of Evil in the world. At one point, Frodo reached the end of his strength and collapsed in sheer exhaustion, unable to go any farther. His companion Sam, knowing how important the mission was said that he knew he couldn’t carry the Ring, but he could carry his friend, and taking Frodo on his back brought him the rest of the way up the mountain.

Whatever you might say about Frodo and Sam, that they relationship wasn’t an equal relationship, that Sam was only the gardener, it’s important to realize without Sam, the mission wouldn’t succeed. Even Frodo knew that, knew how important his friend was even though he wasn’t his social equal. Sam looked after Frodo, and when Frodo was in his right mind, he looked after Sam.

When we look at today’s second reading, most people only look at half the story. We see the verse “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord” without any context, you girls have to do what we guys tell you to. Right? That part would have made sense to the people of the time, because women were considered property, marriage was a business deal between a man and a woman’s father. But do we see the other half? “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her” This isn’t the Holy Thursday foot washing, although that would be a good question for a husband, “When was the last time you washed her feet?” This love for the other is about Good Friday, the Passion Story of Jesus pouring Himself out completely for the sake of the world. This part wouldn’t have made sense to the people of Paul’s day. They saw loving your wife as a bonus, but not essential, and giving everything for a wife didn’t make sense: if you lost your wife or she didn’t work out, you could always do a deal for another one. The men who heard this would have been scratching their heads.

These verses aren’t really about who gets to wield authority over who, it’s about what we should be willing to give to someone who’s returning that level of commitment. It’s about two way commitments; Christianity is about two way commitments, and it goes all the way back to Mount Sinai when God told Moses “You will be my people and I will be your God.” God just doesn’t sit there and wait for us to bring a cup of coffee or a beer during a football game, God doesn’t gripe about what we aren’t doing for Him, everything starts with God’s action: He brings us through everything.

Making care for some isn’t about obeying their will in spite of everything, it’s about making their welfare more important than your own. Paul seems to be saying that has to work in concert, two people have to be willing to love each other completely. That was Sam and Frodo on the way to Mount Doom.

That level of commitment isn’t something that’s casual and it’s not about having fun. It’s not just about two people, this kind of commitment: every positive healthy human relationship has its roots in Christ, every positive healthy has Christ’s relationship with us as its model. Every friendship, every teaching relationship, every working relationship, every business relationship, and every family relationship uses Jesus as its model, and we look to Jesus to give us the model of how we have to be. It doesn’t mean the other person can walk all over us, or we shouldn’t say anything when a gross injustice happens, Jesus spoke out against injustice when the time called for it, when he drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. But when it comes to the center of who we are as a people together, we are all called to be ready to give everything.

Christ gives us the model of giving everything in the Eucharist. If we owe Jesus everything, it’s because he’s given everything for us. As we look to the most important relationships of our lives, we should settle for nothing less.

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