Tuesday, July 25, 2006

25 July 2006, Tuesday word

St. James, Apostle (25 Jul 2006) 2Co 18. 18-.20; Mt 20. 20-28
Homily of Rev. Paul Panaretos, S. J.
As Usual--or, A Martyr's Mom

It was never easy to read her face and know her mind. She was an energetic girl, and she caught onto things quickly. But satisfaction—or what’s related to it: tranquillity, relief, fulfillment—never seemed to register on her bright face. Don't get me wrong: she wasn’t a problem-child. Her family was proud of her, and she was popular with other kids in the neighborhood and at her lessons. She was her own from the start.

As a young woman she excelled at her work. When she married Zebedee, she demonstrated how strong and how much her own she was. Her family didn’t want her to marry a fisherman. They thought he wasn't good enough for her. Never mind that he owned his own boat and had shares in a few others. Never mind that fishermen the sea 'round so respected him and his insight and wisdom that most would have stepped out of his boat—and their own!—to walk on water if he told them. Never mind that she would say, “We have to eat! I’m honored to be married to a man who provides for everyone.”

She was her own when it came to her marriage, too. Don't get me wrong: she wasn’t spoiled. Her parents stood their ground, never withholding their feelings; and when their daughter became Mrs. Zebedee, they just as strongly stood by her and their new son.

As the Zebedees prospered, so did everyone else. Mr. Z was generous: people never realized that much of their money for his fish maintained their synagogue. Mrs. Z told them. Don't get me wrong: she wasn’t a gossip. She was very hospitable. During her hospitality once, she mentioned it. Mr. Z wished she hadn't, but he never berated her. They both seemed content—until their boys came along. Remember how she was never satisfied as a child? It all came back—it really had never gone; rather, it all came out.

She wanted the best for her sons—who doesn't? Everyone admired her for that. Unknown to everyone, motherhood didn't fulfill her. Don't get me wrong: she was a good mom who was driven. She was driven. Others never noticed it for what it was. They thought she was self-possessed: she always knew what she was asking. Until the day she realized she didn't.

Initially, she felt she humiliated herself and her sons. They deserved particular thrones. But as she got closer to home, she felt her driven burden vaporize. People would notice ever after that her face reflected more radiant beauty. As her husband gazed at her like he met her for the very first time, she smiled and said, "Any rabbi understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire."*

Nodding affirmatively, Zebedee smiled and embraced her, saying, "My wife and mother of our sons, you're right as usual."

* Robertson Davies, The Manticore (New York: Viking Press, 1976), p. 101:
"Any theologian understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire."

Author's note: St. John Chrysostom preached a homily on this gospel selection, and he used the query of the mother of the two apostles to begin to consider what Christ did in response. Inspired by St. John Chrysostom, I chose to imagine what may have moved their mother to make her request.

1 comment:

T2Irish said...

ooh ooh! I get to be the first to comment! (wait, isn't there something on this blog about control, and freedom? ;-)) Seriously, nicely done P@ul! I look forward to making this blog one of my routine stops, thanks!