First Reading: 1 Thessalonions 4:9-11
Brothers and sisters: On the subject of fraternal charity you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another. Indeed, you do this for all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Nevertheless we urge you, brothers and sisters, to progress even more, and to aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 98:1, 7-8, 9
The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice. Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds; His right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm. Let the sea and what fills it resound, the world and those who dwell in it; Let the rivers clap their hands, the mountains shout with them for joy. Before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to rule the earth; He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with equity.
Gospel: Mark 6:17-29
Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’ own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
We had an explosion in my house recently. Not the kind with fire and flying shrapnel, thank goodness, but the kind with hot tempers and hurt feelings. It’s on days like those—when life is anything but tranquil—that I am all too aware that our homes are where we all need to progress more and more towards living fraternal love.
Saint Paul says that we have no need for him to write to us on the topic because we are taught by God Himself. Then, he proceeds to write about it. I do that with the people I live with, too; just for good measure, because, you know, sometimes I think it’s good to say it out loud.
God taught us to love one another when the Father sent us His Son. It was a huge, demonstrative, magnanimous act of love. And He continues to teach us how to love by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If we listen, the Spirit whispers reminders of love all the time, but we aren’t the quickest studies.
Saint Paul’s image sounds so peaceful to me: a peaceful life where I mind my own affairs and work with my hands. I envision it perfectly as I sit here with my Bible open on my lap and my eyes closed in the early morning. Then I open my eyes and see all the people with whom I share space in this house of love. Suddenly, it’s messier, both literally and figuratively.
Each of us is charged to build a haven for the people with whom we live. In this place, we prepare for one another a sanctuary of peace and comfort to shelter in a world where the culture clashes and clangs against Christian values. Whether our house is a dorm room, a third floor walk-up in the city, or a sprawling suburban ranch with every bedroom filled with beds and children to sleep in them, we are homemakers.
By wisdom, we build the house. By understanding, we establish it. And by knowledge, we fill the rooms with all precious and pleasant riches. (Proverbs 24:3-4)
On those days when tempers flare and hot words explode, the house built of love will stand firm. Ultimately, tranquility prevails because the quiet work of a woman’s hands has made home so much more than a simple shelter where we eat, sleep, and study. Home is a snug refuge, made warm and beautiful by the woman who devotes herself to its care. This homemaking work? It matters.
With the quiet work of our hands, we go about our daily round, nurturing a tranquil life for ourselves and those with whom we live.
Elizabeth Foss is a wife, the mother of nine, and a grandmother. She finds the cacophony of big family imperfection to be the perfect place to learn to walk in the unforced rhythms of grace. You can learn more about her here.