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 readings for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time provide guidance on discovering and encountering God's peace within a troubled world.
To support Dolly, her grieving daughter in coping with the unexpected loss of her husband, Delia took the initiative to handle the funeral arrangements for her son-in-law. Delia prepared an epitaph for Dolly's husband, consisting of two sentences: "Rest in Peace" and "Until We Meet Again." While each statement holds its own meaning, they don't quite align when combined. This predicament highlights the issue with our frequent use of the word "peace" in a narrow context. Often, we refer to "peace" as the mere absence of conflict, perhaps until a future reunion.
In the First Reading, the prophet Zechariah addresses a community that has endured exile and oppression under foreign rulers. Zechariah's description of the Messianic king in today's reading contradicts popular beliefs about political leadership. Instead of a triumphant military conqueror on a horse, this ruler enters the city humbly, riding a domestic animal, symbolizing peace. However, the peace brought by this king surpasses mere absence of conflict; it encompasses harmony and completeness. In Zechariah's vision, the future Messianic king will not rely on chariots, bows, or other tools of warfare. He will be a king of peace, conquering through love rather than the sword. His reign will establish peace with God, ourselves, one another, and the entire world.
A man and his son took their carabao to the market. Along the way, they encountered different people who criticized their actions. First, a countryman mocked them for walking instead of riding the carabao. So the man put his son on the carabao. Then they passed some men who criticized the boy for riding while his father walked. In response, the man got on the carabao himself. Next, two women shamed the man for making his small son walk. Confused, the man placed his son in front of him on the carabao. As they reached the town, people ridiculed them for overloading the carabao. Feeling embarrassed, the man and boy got off and pondered a solution. Eventually, they tied the carabao's feet to a pole and carried it on their shoulders. Amidst laughter, they reached the market bridge, where the carabao struggled, causing the boy to drop his end. Sadly, the carabao fell into the water and drowned. An old man, who had followed them, remarked, "Please all, and you will please none!"
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul draws a comparison between living according to worldly desires and living in alignment with the guidance of the Spirit. Paul emphasizes that the ultimate aim of life is to seek God's favor, but if one is consumed by worldly desires, their focus remains on the self, seeking personal gratification and validation. In today's digital age, we increasingly invest our time and energy in virtual spaces, presenting ourselves for public scrutiny. We yearn for social validation through likes, follows, and retweets, as they have become the currency of popularity. However, this craving for human approval is a temporary and unsatisfying pursuit. Only Jesus can truly fulfill our emptiness and longing. When we prioritize our desire for God's approval over human praise, we break free from the bondage of seeking validation from others. As Christians, we are called to live in harmony with the Spirit, the divine source of vitality. It is through the indwelling of the Spirit that we find peace with God. Christianity cannot exist without the presence of the Spirit. When we live in accordance with the Spirit, our primary concern becomes pleasing God rather than seeking the approval of others.
In a session of children's catechesis, Fr. Joel, a Vincentian missionary, shared the verse "My yoke is easy." To engage the children, he asked them to explain the concept of a yoke. A young girl responded by describing it as something placed on the necks of animals. Curious about the significance of God's yoke, Fr. Joel awaited a response. After a brief silence, a four-year-old child raised her hand and confidently declared, "God putting his arms around us." The simplicity and profundity of her answer resonated with everyone present, as nothing could be more comforting than experiencing God's embrace.
In the Gospel, Jesus uses the metaphor of a yoke to address those who are laboring and burdened. He acknowledges the difficulties that arise from the strict adherence to the Mosaic Law. In the following chapters, Jesus criticizes the oppressive and burdensome aspects of observing certain laws. A yoke was traditionally used in labor to unite two animals and lighten the load they pull together. Jesus recognizes the challenges people face in their societal roles, norms, and expectations, and offers them relief. Being yoked with Jesus signifies a close relationship. Jesus understands the weight of heartache that comes from frustration, failure, and societal pressures. He invites individuals to join him and share their burdens, providing respite. It is a beautiful invitation from Jesus. During tough times, the inclination may be to handle everything alone and reject assistance. However, allowing Jesus to enter into one's burdens and carry the yoke brings a transformation and lightness through his grace. The burdens may not disappear completely, but they are changed and made more manageable with his support.
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.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum