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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A - Jul 6, 2014

Gospel MT 11:25-30

At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”


Reflecting & Living God’s Words

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A - Jul 6, 2014
Gospel MT 11:25-30


Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A - Jul 6, 2014

(Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30)

I start the days in sadness as I listen to the news from Iraq on National Public Radio. Suni extremists have taken over half the country. Shiites are fleeing Mosul. Soldiers’ bodies line the streets and there is news of executions. Civilians caught in the crossfire are victims of a conflict not of their doing. I feel sadness as I try to imagine what those parents are doing as they try to flee to safety with their children. In addition, the news gets more personal as we Dominicans receive distressing emails about our sisters and brothers, along with parishioners, barricaded in our churches in Mosul, fearing for their lives. All because old enemies, unrestrained, are going at it – and the innocent are caught in the crossfire.

In Genesis we are told that God had the best intentions when God made us. We are made in God’s image. After God created our first parents God blessed them. Has the blessing worn off? It seemed to expire with the second generation, when Cain’s jealousy and resentment led him to kill his brother Cain. Brother kills brother, so soon after the first blessing. Sunis against Shiites; Christians and Muslims in conflict – it doesn’t seem like much has changed. The Bible has it right: violence has been with us since the beginning. But so has God’s blessing. Which will carry the day, the violence or the blessing? Some days it is hard to tell.

On the Bill Moyers’ program a while back there was a discussion which included Mary Gordon, the theologian and a rabbi (sorry, I forget his name). They talked about the Cain and Abel story. Moyers asked, "Why didn’t God kill Cain for his crime?" The rabbi answered, "Because God wanted to stop the cycle of violence." We are created in God’s image and likeness and from our beginnings God has wanted us to reflect the divine image and "stop the cycle of violence." Which sets up today’s scripture passages.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up some morning and turn on the radio to hear only good news? These days that’s not going to happen, not through any form of media. But we people of faith tune to another source of news –the Scriptures – and they always have good news for us. They sustain us in hope and good works, even as we watch the evening news and tears of sadness well up in our eyes over the misery we see in so many parts of our world and country.

Zechariah spoke good news and hope to his contemporaries, possibly 100 years after their return from exile. They had hoped to restore Judah to the glory it had known under King David. But they were not successful. So, the people’s hopes shifted to an "end time," an eschatological restoration, when the Messiah would come. The prophet sustains the people’s hope that God would send a king and savior. But Zechariah envisioned a different kind of king than the one people hoped for; one who would not promote violence, but end it and establish a realm of peace. This gentle leader will cast off all weapons of violence, announce a peace that will last forever. Sounds impossible doesn’t it?

Jesus’ contemporaries saw him as the fulfillment of Zechariah’s vision. But he was not to be a solitary icon of the virtues the prophet espoused. Can we hear the dual invitation Jesus holds out to us? "Come to me." He not only offers relief to those overburdened, but also invites us to take up his "yoke" – his way of living and serving.

Being "meek and humble of heart" doesn’t seem to work in our world. The gentle get taken advantage of and are pushed aside by the "movers and shakers." Jesus is speaking to those disciples who have their strength from him and, with that strength, choose to forgo violence in his name. These same disciples must face and resist powerful forces that trample the poor and defenseless. We are to be "meek and humble of heart" and still resist evil by taking the side of those in need of a voice and protection. We might even have worldly power at our disposal, but as followers of our "meek and humble of heart" messiah, we choose not to use it against any person or group.

Learning meekness and gentleness is a lifetime project. Daily we are confronted with the temptation to use force and influence to get our way – even when that way is for the good. We must constantly practice meekness in our relations with others immediately around us in our families, as well as those we encounter at work, school, recreation and social situations. Such daily practice is a training ground for those bigger moments when we will need to be strong and meek to counter the large and vocal forces of injustice and hate.

Practicing Jesus’ gentle way may seem like a losing endeavor and a heavy burden at times. When we are moved by impatience to resort to the world’s usual ways to accomplish our goals, we will need to look towards Jesus who says again and again, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light."

Jesus is the incarnation of God’s wisdom, a counter-sign to the world’s wisdom, which puts self first and encourages us to act to our own advantage. Jesus offers another way, which God has "hidden from the wise." Why would God do that, doesn’t God want the well-being of all humans? Yes, but the wisdom Jesus offers cannot be gotten by human effort, but only through the gift God offers. Some of Jesus’ contemporaries were convinced they had all they needed in the law and prophets. Jesus’ teaching was too much for them and so was "hidden" from their eyes.

Jesus says, "All things have been handed over to me by my Father." He is talking about the knowledge, the revelation of God, which is given to those who accept him. We come to know God by knowing Jesus. This revelation frees us from the burdensome yoke of trying to put ourselves right with God by our own efforts.

Instead, Jesus offers us his yoke – an invitation to accept the message of God he offers and the forgiveness and new life that comes with that message. It is a yoke of submission and obedience and will require our total lives in service. But in accepting Jesus’ yoke we come to meet God and find the rest Jesus promises.

Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP