ColumnsNaming Grace

Binding and loosing

Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time

Growing up, we were blessed with next-door neighbors who remained lifelong friends. When our family recently attended Mrs. Rosen’s funeral at the synagogue, my brother commented fondly about his memory of attending their sons’ bar mitzvahs. Through the years, my mother was never reluctant to enter the synagogue and always spoke in the most positive way of these dear friends and their Jewish faith: “They are so faithful. They practice their faith so beautifully. They believe so deeply in God.” Her words were binding me to respect and loosening me from prejudice.

During the AIDS crisis, community members debated vigorously whether to build a hospice home for AIDS victims whose families rejected their dying children. My father’s one, simple comment remains to this day, “What parent would refuse a son or daughter’s request to come home to die—no matter the reason?” His words were binding me to mercy and loosening me from judgment.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Peter is given the keys to the kingdom of heaven and commanded: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” As leader of the church, the Holy Father is granted authority to interpret Scripture as a way of forming the faithful—binding and loosing us to fully follow Jesus.

As leaders of their own domestic churches, parents are given the keys to the kingdom of their children’s hearts. Through our words and actions, we choose to bind or loose our children according to the teachings of God. Like Peter, our task is to bind our children to Jesus and loosen them from the world. We bind them to Jesus by praying with them, teaching them God’s commands, guiding them in decision-making and by showing forgiveness in the home. We name grace, God’s merciful presence in the world, each time—out of love—we bind or loose our children.

We bind our children to inclusion each time we invite a classmate of a different race or who has special needs to play.

We bind our children to the poor each time we choose to volunteer in a homeless shelter.

We bind our children to justice each time we stand up for what is right in the face of opposition.

Our actions can also bind children in another direction:

We bind our children to bigotry with each racist joke or off-handed remark about an immigrant.

We bind our children to consumerism by purchasing products for status.

We bind our children to violence each time they witness us bullying at the football game or with harsh words in the home.

Over the course of the past few weeks, we have witnessed radical terrorists and white supremacists, whose hearts have been bound to fear, hatred and violence. Individuals have free will, and sadly these adults have chosen not to be bound to God and released from fear and prejudice.

Binding our children to Jesus, binds them to love. Love releases their fear, freeing them to live fully as beloved children of God. When we take up our sacred task of rightfully binding and loosing our children, we gain a place of respect for generations. As the prophet Isaiah spoke of those who bind and loose: “I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family.” Now, that’s good news!

How will you more intentionally bind your child to Jesus?

What is one specific way you will loose your child from fear?