Jesus often tells us a great deal in the space of a few lines. In Mark 3, he says "No one can make his way into a strong man’s house and steal from him unless he has bound the strong man first.” Who are the strong man and the thief? One commentator suggests that the strong man is any oppressive institution, civic or religious, that prevents individuals or communities from living with dignity – their human rights respected. The thief is the group or individual or movement that says no to the strong man, and finds ways to bind the strong man so that the people can go free.
When our service personnel go to far distant lands to bind the strong man, the intent is that that the people held in ideological bondage can be free. It is not easy and it doesn’t always work. The true gift is in the effort that our military make, sometimes even sacrificing their own lives.
This week, Americans honor with respect and thanks, the men and women who have served in the military. We call them veterans, a word that means experienced in service. Honor flights have become symbolic of the thanks of a nation, and a model for young children to learn and grow into in their civic lives. Early in their service, today’s veterans had bound themselves to protect and defend our nation.
The generous binding of veterans makes me think about all the ways we bind ourselves or are bound to someone, something, some cause, some value. Here’s the stretch from Veterans’ Day into our own lives, for veterans remind us to be faithful to those realities to which we are bound: wives and husbands, priests and members of religious orders, professionals in the face of the duties of their office, members of reform groups and resistance groups. Other groups, making their way to a goal bind themselves to each other, for example, mountain climbers are tethered to people above and below them. Pre-school children, shepherded by vigilant teachers, are bound together as they walk down the street.
Being bound is often but not always a good thing. Being bound to a destructive idea or practice can lead to our diminishment. Sometimes, we bind others by not forgiving them the wrongs – real or imagined- they have done. We freeze them into a moment of time when they did something mean or stupid or compromising and we’ve never let them forget it or grow beyond it. Sometimes we bind ourselves by not forgiving ourselves.
Binding and loosening from bonds are part of the stuff of human life . In themselves, veterans are to be honored. Thinking of their service leads us to think of the many bindings and loosenings of our own lives. An additional cause for offering veterans thanks this week!
~Sister Joan Sobala