What Exactly DOES A Christ-Centered Relationship Look Like? (Homily 21st Week Ordinary Time)

In examining the Gospel passages of the last several weeks, Scripture scholar and Jesuit Priest, Father John Foley writes that, “Jesus is roving and curing people. An odd thing happens in each case. He tells them, “Your faith has saved you.” Quite obviously Jesus does the healing, or they wouldn’t be asking for cures. Why didn’t he just say “Go in peace, I have healed you?” Why does he say their faith did it?

In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus say, “Simon, how great is your faith,” Jesus replies. “Whatever you open with this faith will stay open. Whatever your faith shuts will remain shut, not only here but in heaven.” A high compliment to Peter’s tottering belief status. Last week I talked about Jesus and the Canaanite woman. She wasn’t a friend or family member of Jesus. She wasn’t Jewish, she was basically a pagan. So how come the Canaanite woman received what she wanted from Jesus, to have her daughter cured? Because she had faith in Jesus. There was a connection of belief; the seeds of a relationship with Christ that pulled the grace of Christ out of him.

I had a few parishioners say that they found this challenging. They understand and can follow the concrete stuff: If you get something, give it away. Be the answer to someone’s prayers, not the cause of them. Be a “blessing to a person, rather than a lesson.” (Said by Mother Theresa) but what is this “relationship” thing? What does it look like? What does it feel like? How do you “do it?” Where do you start?

Begin with looking at human relationships. How do you “start” them? What is it about the other person that you find attractive? How do you open the dialogue? What kind of statements do you make – or avoid? What kinds of questions do you ask – or not? What are the characteristics of a relationship that grows, matures and deepens?

Foley continues:

“Over the past several weeks, Jesus is always seeking a two-way relationship between himself and other people, not just one-way. Certainly Jesus is a charismatic leader to some and a good friend to others.” On a human level, he is very attractive.

But Jesus is more and wants to be more to us. “He wants us to relate to the fullness of who he is so that we can be fully what he has called us to be. He is the very reality of God’s love, present in the world, wide open to have people love Him so that He can transform them, their lives, their families, their jobs. He wants a mutual love-relationship, in which you open up your heart and let the Godly lover in.

The name of that openness to God’s love has a name, and that name is “faith.”

In my bulletin post this week, I introduce Steve Bollman. Steve was an energy derivatives trader living in Houston, Texas with his wife and daughters. Around the time of the new millennium, Steve was deeply affected by Pope John Paul II and experienced a personal call to found a ministry dedicated to the renewal of marriage and family life. In 2002, he set aside his professional interests to found Paradisus Dei, an organization of lay Catholics dedicated to discovering the superabundance of God within the home. Steve’s formidable business background allowed him to profoundly understand the essential role of the family in society and achieving a vision of “The Kingdom” in modern times. His professional experience allowed him to put together something that would present the tremendous mysteries of the Catholic church in an engaging and highly accessible manner to men.

Let me briefly go back to the First Reading and relate that to Steve’s experience. Two people are referenced in the First Reading, Shebna and Eliakim. Shebna was “treasurer over the house,” meaning that he was the comptroller or governor of the palace during the reign of King Hezekiah. Because of his pride he was ejected from his office and replaced by Eliakim as recorded in today’s First Reading (Isaiah 22:15-25). Why did this happen? Hezekiah is one of the most prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and is one of the kings mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. Hezekiah enacted sweeping religious reforms, including a strict mandate for the sole worship of God and a prohibition on venerating other deities within the Temple in Jerusalem. The prophets Isaiah and Micah were active during his reign. A crook like Shebna would not be tolerated in King Hezekiah’s palace.

Eliakim is different. Matthew Henry was a well-known English clergyman who lived between 1662 and 1714. He is famous for his six-volume Exposition of the Old and New Testaments which provides an exhaustive verse by verse study of the Bible. In writing about Eliakim, Henry “compares him to a nail in a sure place; all his family are said to depend upon him. In eastern houses, rows of large spikes were built up in the walls. Upon these, moveable objects and utensils were hung.

Now, back to Steve Bollman. If you know anything about derivative trading, you know that this is a highly volatile industry. Nothing is firm. Nothing is sure. In the midst of this highly changing life, Steve has found that Jesus is the nail in a sure place. That soul cannot perish, nor that concern fall to the ground, which is hung by faith upon Christ.”

Things happen. People are changed. Situations are transfigured or meaning is found in the midst of suffering that has a transformative effect in people’s lives when they even begin to develop that relationship with Christ.

Father Foley states that, “The people whom Jesus cured had at least a beginning relationship with him. His cures are love being given, but love given must also be love being received.”


Audio version of the homily is here:

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