“My soul takes pleasure in three things, and they are beautiful in the sight of the Lord and of men; agreement between brothers, friendship between neighbors, and a wife and a husband who live in harmony.” Sirach

I wonder what these words sound like to the young. I imagine they sound rather innocuous; I think they would have to me. Sure, of course those three things are great.

It is fascinating how life experience can open our eyes. To the challenge of what was presumed easy. To the rareness of what seemed common. To the gift of what was taken for granted.

To the reality that in comparison with good relationships everything else is so much chaff.

Many of us have learned that each of these precious relationships can founder, be wounded, or even killed. No wonder Ben Sira focuses on these three as things of transcendent beauty: siblings, neighbors/friends, and spouses.

Surely these three relationships can uniquely express and embody the fulness of life that is the point of it all. The order of the cosmos is always about the relationships of persons. We can imitate this in the order in our households and our whole lives.

Each of these three relationships is intimately tied to the household. Home is where each of us can begin, according to our own state in life, to prioritize and attend to these relationships, inside and outside our home.

Am I a sibling? Do I accept my relationship with this/these persons as something that will always be central in who I am?… even and perhaps especially later, each in our own households? Am I doing what I can here?
Am I a parent? Do I realize that how my children act as siblings to one another is deeply affected by how I act toward them… both when they are young, and in their adult years? This merits special consideration.
Am I married? Do I really put a priority on growing the spousal relationship …no matter what stage of our marriage?
Each of us is a neighbor. Do I act in a neighborly way to all my neighbors, and strive with perseverance to grow deeper in friendship with a few?

“Stand by your task and attend to it, and grow old in your work,” says Ben Sira. These relationships are my task, and in varying ways they will remain my task no matter my age. This is my real work, in which to remain faithful and vigilant. And perhaps I will be blessed to have a part in three astoundingly beautiful things, in my own life and the life of others.

This is the fourth and final (for now!) in a series Ruling Our Households Like the Cosmos.

Image: photo of twin brothers Heinrich (‘Henry’) and Ludwig (‘Louie’) Pieper from Esmond, South Dakota, who died together when their US Navy flat bottom ship hit a mine near Utah Beach, Normandy, 1944.

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