Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday word, 15 Mar 17

Lenten Wednesday2 (15Mar2017)
 Homily of Rev. Paul Panaretos, S. J., 5-day directed retreat, Guelph, ON
Mrs. Zebedee—By One Who Knew Her Well

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—and things related to it: tranquility, 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 neighbourhood and excelled 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 she was strong and self-assured. Her family didn’t want her to marry the fisherman; they thought he wasn’t good enough for her. Never mind that he owned his 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 theirs!—to walk on water if he told them. Never mind that she would say, “We have to eat! I’m honoured to be married to a man who provides for everyone.” 

She was self-assured in their marriage, too. Don’t get me wrong: she wasn’t spoiled. After she introduced Zebedee to them, her parents stood their ground and never withheld their feelings. When their daughter became Mrs. Zebedee, they just as strongly stood by her and their new son.

As the Zebedees prospered, so did many. 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, and he never scolded her. Even in the face of their foibles, they were content—until their boys came along. Remember how she was never satisfied as a child? It all came back—it really had never gone; with the boys it flared.

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; a good mom who was driven. Others never noticed it for what it was. They thought she was self-assured, self-possessed: she always knew what she was asking. Until the day she realized she didn’t. 

Initially, she felt she had humiliated herself and her sons. They deserved particular thrones. But as she neared home, she felt her driven-burden vaporize. People noticed ever after her lovely face shone a more radiant beauty.

At home she told her husband each detail. Listening, he gazed at her as he did the day he first met her. With a wry smile she concluded, “Any rabbi understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire.”* Mr. Zebedee nodded, 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.”

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