By what standard?

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.

Straight to the point. I ought to start this by saying that today’s Epistle, as outlined in the Lectionary gives us two choices. We can read all of Paul’s admonitions in Colossians 3:12-21 or we can skip over the hard parts, things that make us uncomfortable.

We all know what God wants, right – to skip over the hard parts? 

We can certainly agree that God never wants us to skip over the hard parts of His instruction. Jesus told us: “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:33).

What disturbs us about Paul’s words is that we read them from a perspective that the godless world pushes on us. That perspective is one in which there is no analysis, there is no search for deeper understanding. We somehow believe that English is the anointed language by which all must be understood, and heaven forbid that anyone use the word subordinate. Obviously, I, me, comes first.

I, me first, is not of Christ.

In Genesis, God creates a model of family and as we heard in today’s gospel, His very Son, Jesus, lived within that model. But let’s not just stop at the outward appearance of that model, because the inward nature of the family model is brought to the fore by St. Paul in his writing to the Colossians.

Paul is discussing an inter-relationship among the faithful. We are first and foremost a community that practices mutual love and respect. We offer each other heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We bear with each other and forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven us (catch that – live as the Lord lived). Above all we put on love as our mutual bond of perfection. Is that hard?

Jesus was born into a family that lived all that, and one in which each person lived a sacrificial existence, where the good of the other came before their own good. That is what being subordinate is. That is what love and obedience are. That is what total giving is.  In family we must be willing to decrease so that our wives, husbands, and children may increase. That is love in mutuality. Is that hard?

Never mistake this direction as having to do with being a slave. A slave does not have a choice in the giving of self. We do. 

The bottom line – How are we to live together? What do we consider hard? For us the standard within family and community is God’s standard. A life of total self-giving should not be hard for Christians.

Bricks and
mortar.

Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience

On this Second Sunday after Christmas we reflect on and honor the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As I reflected on this Solemnity, I just kept coming back to the term “bricks.”

The Holy Family is of course the perfect model of family. It is built with a solid foundation and perfect bricks. It is a structure fully showing what God intends when He calls us into family. This is the way it is supposed to be: father, mother, child/children. God calls us to strive for that perfection and He provides ready grace to strengthen it and fulfill all its purposes – the mutual love and support of the couple which comes first and foremost, and if intended and appropriate, the blessing of children.

Jesus came into the world as a baby, and progressed through childhood, to point to the perfect and indeed the possible. Follow Me He said – and we make every effort to do so. But sometimes we have to work with broken bricks.

Scripture does not hide the fact that God has worked through and with a lot of broken bricks. He worked with families odd, sinful, and all-to-familiar.

Cain kills his brother, the fruit of parents who tried to escape responsibility for sin. Jacob lies to his father to steal his brother’s inheritance (with his mom’s help). Jacob’s uncle duped him and practically turned him into a slave. Joseph got sold into actual slavery by his brothers and they then lied to their father. David killed to take a wife. David’s children didn’t do any better. His son Amnom was a rapist, his son Absalom tried to take his dad’s job and slept with his wives, and his son Solomon simply married everyone he wanted to sleep with. The prophet Hosea marries a prostitute who keeps running back to prostitution, Jesus’ family tree contains two prostitutes. Lots of broken bricks.

In the early church and to this day we don’t just welcome the broken bricks – that’s arrogant. Rather, we look to the broken bricks among us as family. We see that way because we too are broken bricks.

Broken bricks make the family of Christ, the Church, beautiful. God builds and He knows that broken brick makes the structure stronger. He knows this because Jesus is the mortar holding us together and making us perfect in His Father’s eyes.