FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Zechariah 9:9-10 | Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14 | Romans 8:9, 11-13 | Matthew 11:25-30
The liturgy of the word on this Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time gives instructions on how we can find and experience God’s peace in the midst of a troubled world.
To help Dolly, her grieving daughter, cope with the sudden loss of her husband, Delia volunteered to make funeral arrangements for her son-in-law. She had provided an epitaph for the grave of Dolly's husband. On it she had inscribed two sentences: "Rest in Peace" ... "Until We Meet Again." Individually those are two good statements, but together they don't come out quite right. That is the problem with our using the word "peace" in the limited sense that we do so often. We say "peace," meaning the cessation of hostilities (until we meet again, perhaps).
In the First Reading, the prophet Zechariah speaks to people who have experienced exile and oppression by foreign rulers. His portrayal of the Messianic king in today’s first reading does not square well with popular notions of political leadership. This ruler enters the city not like a military conqueror on horseback, but rather as a humble bringer of peace astride a domestic animal. But the peace this king brings is not just the absence of discord. It is the presence of harmony and wholeness. The future messianic king in Zechariah’s vision will have no need for chariots, bows, and other implements of warfare. He will be the king of peace. He will conquer, not by the power of the sword, but by the power of love. He will put us at peace with God, at peace with ourselves, at peace with one another and at peace with the world.
A man and his son went to market with their carabao. As they were walking a countryman passed and said, “You fools, what is a carabao good for but riding?” So the man put the boy on the carabao. Soon they passed a group of men and one said, “See that lazy boy, he lets his father walk while he rides.” So the man ordered his boy to get off, and got on himself. Then they passed two women, one of whom said to the other, “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son march along.” The man didn’t know what to do, so he placed his boy up before him on the carabao. By this time they had come to the town, and passers-by jeered and pointed at them. The man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor carabao with you and your large son?” The man and boy got down and didn’t know what to do. They thought and thought, until they cut down a pole, tied the carabao’s feet to it, and raised the pole with the carabao to their shoulders. They went on in the middle of the laughter of everyone who met them until they came to market bridge, when the carabao, wiggling and moving around, caused the boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the carabao fell over the bridge into the water and drowned. “That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them, “Please all, and you will please none!”
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul is contrasting life in the flesh and life in the Spirit. The goal of life, as Paul describes it here, is to please God, but if one is "in the flesh," one's focus in on the self: the ego and gratification. We are spending more and more of our time nowadays in digital spaces. We put ourselves out there online for anyone to see. We want the world to think we are cool. Likes, follows, friends, retweets— they're the social currency of this generation, Generation Like. We can't wait to find out whether people like us or not, so we need likes and stuff like that, instant gratification. The more likes we have, the better we feel. Craving human praise is a cistern that cannot hold water. Only Jesus can fill our emptiness or longing. Only when we crave for God and his approval will our bondage for the craving of mere human approval be broken. Christians are called to live "in the Spirit", the new source of vitality that comes from God. Considering these, it becomes abundantly clear that a person in whom the Spirit dwells is at peace with God. There is no Christianity without the Spirit. If we live by the Spirit, we will care more about pleasing God than winning the approval of others.
During children's catechesis, Fr. Joel, a Vincentian missionary, read the text, "My yoke is easy." Turning to the children he asked, "Who can tell me what a yoke is?" A little girl said, "Something they put on the necks of animals." Then he inquired, "What is the meaning of God's yoke?" All were silent for a moment, when the hand of a four-year-old child went up and she said, "God putting his arms around us." What could be more comforting than that?
In our Gospel, Jesus utilizes the image of a yoke and addressing those “who labor and are burdened,” he comments about the difficulties attached to the strict observance of the Mosaic Law. In fact, in the very next chapter, the narrative continues with Jesus calling out observing Laws that are onerous, burdensome and oppressive. The yoke was an instrument of labor which was intended to keep two beasts of labor in unison to till the ground. The value of a yoke is that it halves the load. Without a yoke, one cow’s got to pull that entire load by itself. But if you yoke up the cow with another cow, then the two animals pull the load together, and the load is half as heavy. Seeing the people beset with difficulties of social roles, norms, and scripts, Jesus sympathetically offers them respite. The concept of being yoked with Jesus speaks of a close relationship. Jesus knows all too well the heaviness of heart that comes with frustration, failure and punishment for not living up to the the expectations of the world. He invites you to be joined with him and take some of the pressure off you. What a beautiful invitation from Jesus! When times get rough and tough, it is very tempting to say: “I’ll do it alone,” “Leave me alone,” “I don’t need you,” “I can take care of myself.” Let Him enter into whatever it is that burdens you. Let Him carry the yoke that you carry and give you, instead, the gentle yoke he has prepared for you. The cross you bear may not go away, but it will be transformed and made light in his grace.
O good Jesus, I can only find peace in trusting you who controls all things. Fill me with your Spirit so I will seek to please only you at all times. I surrender my life and all that I am to you. I accept your invitation to come to you. Thank you for your unfailing compassion and concern for me. Jesus, I trust in You. <enrique,ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum