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Fourteenth Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: Zec 9:9-10; Rom 8:9, 11-13; Mt 11:25-30.
1/ Reading I: RSV Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
2/ Reading II: RSV Romans 8:9 But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — 13 for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; 26 yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. 27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I. THEME: Live gently and humbly like Christ.
When we compare the heavenly standards with those of the world, we recognize that they are used to be opposite with each other. What the world considers as important, such as: money, power, fame, pleasure of the flesh, are regarded as unimportant according to the heavenly standard.
Today readings show us some reasons of these differences. In the first reading, the prophet Zechariah (about 6 BC) prophesied that the Messiah shall enter the Jerusalem city, not with the glorious chariots like a victorious king, but “on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.” In the second reading, St. Paul advised the Romans not to be slaves for the selfishness of their flesh; otherwise, they shall die because of it. The faithful were liberated by Christ from this slavery to live according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance; if they live according to his guidance, they shall live and live abundantly. In the Gospel, Jesus revealed the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom, not for the wise and the understanding, but for the lowly and the humble of heart. Christ invites all those who are feeling heavy burden, tired and weary to come to him. He will console and teach them two important virtues of humility and meekness; they shall find peace in their mind.
1/ Reading I: “His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
1.1/ The Messiah shall come to people gently and humbly: Today passage is classified by the scholars as belonging to the Second Zechariah. This second part paid less attention to the rebuilding of the Temple Jerusalem after the exile as in the First Zechariah, but more on the announcement of the coming of the Messiah’s reign. In the twelve Minor Prophets, Zechariah is the prophet who revealed many important details about the Messiah’s life.
Today passage is a typical example. He let us foresee the day when the Messiah solemnly enter the Jerusalem city. This is the sign for people to recognize the Messiah, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.”
St. Matthew and St. John reported Christ’s solemn entrance to Jerusalem city exactly according to Zechariah’s prophecy.
– According to Matthew, “When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If any one says anything to you, you shall say, `The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments on them, and he sat thereon” (Mt 21:1-7).
– According to John, “The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt!” His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him” (Jn 12:12-16).
1.2/ The Messiah shall govern all nations of the world: Although Christ acted such humbly and gently, he shall conquer all the world and govern all nations, not only the Israel. The way which he used to conquer and to govern is also very different with the way of worldly kings, not by forces and weapons but by sacrificing himself (Jn 10:17), teaching the truth (Jn 18:37) and loving all people (Jn 3:16). The prophet Zechariah prophesized the Messiah’s reign, “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
2/ Reading II: “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.”
Chapter eight of the Letter to the Romans must be read together with chapter six and seven of that Letter. The reason is that since people were liberated by Christ from being slaves for sin, the law and death, they are free to live according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Many people misunderstood St. Paul; they think Paul wanted to advertise the new teaching which says people only need to believe in Christ to inherit salvation, without the need to do any good works. In chapter eight, Paul explained clearly that people are liberated by Christ from being slaved for the flesh so that they are free to live according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
2.1/ Living according to the flesh: is to live according to the greed of the eyes, the desire of the heart and the gratification of the flesh. Those who live according to the flesh are like animals because they act according to their natural instincts. People can’t live as such because beside their body like other animals, God also bestows on them other special faculties, such as: the soul, the intellect, the memory and the will to control all other faculties of their body. St. Paul explained this as follows, “But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.”
God’s Spirit is also Christ’s Spirit. The faithful are also bestowed this same Spirit so he can guide and give them strength to live according to the truth, what Christ teaches them to live. Paul affirms, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
2.2/ Living according to the Holy Spirit: is to live oppositely to the flesh. St. Paul gives us three advantages of those who live according to the Holy Spirit.
(1) The Holy Spirit helps people to really live: Many people are misled to believe that in order to fully live, they must have all material things and be satisfied of all their desires. This is a wrong belief. We can illustrate this by an example. A person wants to smoke pot to satisfy their desire of being high. After trying a few joints, they want to try other substance to be higher, such as methamphetamine. This can indeed causes them on higher to the point that they can be died suddenly, and the side effects of this substance are beyond imagination. So, what people think it makes them fully live, become the cause of death and of sufferings for them. Therefore, St. Paul has a reason to say, “Living according to the Holy Spirit is truly live; living according to the flesh is to become a slave for sins, and shall lead one to death.”
(2) The Holy Spirit helps people to become righteous: Since the law, though it is good because it originated from God, has no power to help people to keep it; there is another need to help people to become righteous, this need is Christ. He is the new covenant. People need to believe in him to be free from sins and to be righteous.
(3) The Holy Spirit shall resurrect people from death: All human beings must die; but those who have Christ’s Spirit in them shall be resurrected from the death because the Holy Spirit is the element that makes people to live forever. The Holy Spirit can’t die because He is God himself. St. Paul explained this as followed, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.” Those who don’t have the Holy Spirit shall not live forever.
3/ Gospel: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart.”
Jesus made a comparison between the wise and the understanding (sophos, sunetos) with the lowly (nêpios), to tell his audience that they need to have the child’s attitudes, such as: trust, humility and eager to learn, so that he could convey to them knowledge about God. A prideful and suspected attitude shall prevent them from recognizing what he would like to reveal for them.
3.1/ Knowledge about God: Jesus said to them, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
(1) Jesus knows His Father more than anyone else: The Greek verb which the author used here is “epiginôskô,” to know a person as he is or a thing as it is. People understand God with different levels; only Jesus understands God with the most perfect level. This isn’t a surprise because Christ is the Logos or God’s intellect. He and His Father are one (Jn 10:30).
(2) People know about God through Christ’s revelation: If God doesn’t reveal for people, they shall never be able to know Him. Christ is God’s revelation. He comes to reveal His Father for people as he announced to his disciples, “He who sees me sees him who sent me” (Jn 12:45). Moreover, in order for people to understand these revelations, they need the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, to enlighten and to guide them from inside.
3.2/ Two lessons we need to learn from our master: Though Jesus’ disciples must still bear the heavy laden, they don’t bear it according to the worldly way; but Christ’s way. To do this, they need to learn from Christ. Two important virtues we need to learn from him are:
(1) Meekness: This is the second beatitude. We can learn this virtue from Jesus. He is God himself; he can destroy all those who reviled, scourged and killed him because he didn’t commit of any sin, but he didn’t do that. Instead, he chose the way of forgiveness. On the cross, he prayed to the God, “Father! forgive them because they know not what they do.” He reconciled people with God and others. He taught us to love, to forgive, to pray and to do good deeds to our enemies. Human beings also like those who are meek, gentle and easy to forgive. Wickedness and revenge make us hatred by all; we shall not find true peace by getting angry with people.
(2) Humility: is the virtue that opposes to the sin of pride. No one likes the pride and those who always show that they know everything. Humility is to know oneself in the relationship with God and others. The humble know that all they have are from God, so they shouldn’t boast with others, but use their given gifts to extend God’s kingdom and to serve others. The pride steal God’s grace and always feel unrest because they fear that others shall be better than them. They are discontent when they don’t get what they want, and angry with all people.
3.3/ Rethinking our life: Tiredness can be a result from laboring or from all kinds of pressure from our life. Tiredness from working can be healed by resting our body; weariness must be healed by spiritual ways. When people come to Christ, he will show them how to avoid this spiritual weariness.
– Praying helps us to eliminate weariness. Christ was so busy with his mission of preaching, teaching and healing; but he could still find time to pray to His Father, especially when he must face difficult decisions such as choosing the Twelve, before his Passion and on the cross. He can overcome all these obstacles by his Father’s strength.
– Solving problems according to God’s standards: Worldly people want to be known and praised, Christ teaches us to do all good things such as: to pray, to fast and to give alms in secret. People want to have power so they can give an order and being served; Christ teaches us to be the smallest and to serve others. People think they must protect themselves from overworking; Christ teaches us that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). We feel weary because we act according to our way or the worldly way; but if we give up our will and act according to God’s way, our weariness shall be disappeared.
– Behaving gently with others: Worldly people think it is weak to yield to others; Christ teaches us to yield, to forgive and to sacrifice even for our enemies. If we behave according to “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” we shall never find peace and hatred shall increase more and more; but if we follow Christ’s way to be humble and to forgive, the hatred cycle is end and the love cycle begins to develop. We have peace.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We need to learn Christ’s way of leading others: not by showing our power and fame, but by humbly serving and loving others.
– Since Christ liberated from being slavery for the flesh and bestowed on us his Holy Spirit, we must make efforts to live according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and urge.
– We need to learn from Christ two important virtues, meekness and humility: meekness so that we always treat others with compassion; humility so that we recognize our lowly standing in the relationship with God and others.