Does Jesus have boundaries?

Pat Vine, Spiritual Director

Job 38:1-7, [34-41] – Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b – Hebrews 5:1-10 – Mark 10:35-45

Homily for Liturgy of the Word, October 17, 2021 (Pat Vine)

          May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, my Lord and my Redeemer. 

          In today’s gospel, I am struck by the response of Jesus to James and John’s request to sit on either side of Jesus when He comes into His glory.  Jesus’ response to them is “to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant.”  What occurs to me in his response is that Jesus knows his boundaries.  The decision of where James and John will sit is someone else’s responsibility, not that of Jesus.

          And in today’s reading from Job, God is speaking about boundaries when God says, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth and determined its measurements?”  God made specific measurements in laying earth’s foundation:  The inner core, the outer core, the mantle and crust.  Each has its own boundary so that one layer doesn’t cross into the other.

          So we learn from today’s readings that God is a Boundary Setter!

The Living Bible opens with these words “the earth was a shapeless, chaotic mass….”  How do you bring order into a chaotic situation? You establish boundaries!  The first boundary God established was on darkness. God divided the light from the darkness, calling the light Day, and the darkness Night.” Then we see God setting another boundary, this time on the waters, separating the waters so that we have the firmament and dry land in the earth rather than the oceans flooding over everywhere.

God set boundaries on reproduction so that seed produces after its own kind, establishing seasons and boundaries on the weather. Then God creates man: male and female with boundaries on human sexuality, placing Adam and Eve in a specific place called “The Garden of Eden” which also had boundaries.  Now follow with me as we read the specific boundary God communicates to them.  “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

Do you notice that the violation of that boundary had a built-in consequence? It’s not a threat. God didn’t say “If you step over that boundary I will kill you!”  God simply let them know that the boundary was a protection from something detrimental, and to overstep it would expose them to something called “death.” So in creation we see God bringing order where there was chaos and God does it by setting boundaries.

During the pandemic, I began to do interlocking puzzles on the card table in our basement and I’m working on a beautiful floral picture puzzle now.  I have a question for you:  What is the easiest way to start a puzzle?  Response:  Connect all of the outer pieces first.  Right!  And what would you consider the outer pieces?  A boundary!  I noticed that as I gazed at the puzzle pieces from a distance, I could see where they began to connect to each other, one by one.  What began as the chaos of separate pieces are coming together to form the beauty of the floral picture.

I want to suggest that if there is chaos in an area of your life, establishing a boundary may be a key to bringing order, productivity, and fruitfulness in that area.  Establishing a boundary would be an avenue for the fruit of the Holy Spirit to flourish in your life.

          Webster’s Dictionary tells us the meaning of the word “boundary:”  something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent.

I set boundaries on what is acceptable to me and I decide what I will do based on that.  I don’t solve the problem by trying to control another person’s behavior. I solve the problem by deciding what I will do.  The key principle is this: I have authority to make decisions about what I will do and I will make those decisions of my own free will.  I will not try to control or manipulate you; I may reason with you and try to find mutually acceptable terms of our relationship. But I will not try to control you and I will not allow you to control me.

Maintaining healthy boundaries begins with self-respect and our core identity in Christ.  Out of that flows the ability to set boundaries on ourselves by the grace of God. Then we are positioned to establish healthy boundaries in our relationships.

                (In one of my past homilies, I offered a list of who we are in Christ.  I will make copies available next Sunday for your use.)

So the stronger my core sense of identity and self-respect, the easier it will be to establish healthy boundaries in relationships. And as I establish healthy, respectful boundaries my sense of self-worth will be nurtured and strengthened

Healthy boundary setting begins with the grace of God and your revelation of who you are in Christ. Paul said “…by the grace of God I am what I am….” “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God….”

If you are prone to negative thinking, set a boundary on that thinking and begin to think on good things as Paul tells us in one of his epistles.

          Where are you and I when it comes to knowing our own boundaries?  To find out for yourselves, ask Jesus to show you during your prayer time.  God brings order out of chaos.  As we come to know who we are in Christ, we will grow into knowing and establishing healthy boundaries in our lives and the peace that surpasses all understanding will be ours in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

          Portions of this homily are from Richard Tow’s “Maintaining Healthy Boundaries,”