Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Fr. Peter Ioirio
July 5, 2020 – 11:00 AM
I find it amazingly timely that today’s reading is the prophecy of Zechariah and God’s vision for Israel as told to him. See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass,…. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
We know that King David lived about 450 years before Zechariah and united the tribes of Israel and brought them together under God. History reveals that it did not last as Israel fell under attack and even was taken into Babylonian captivity.
The vision of Zechariah highlights not just the Chosen people of Israel to be the best in the world and favored by God but to be a beacon and example to all nations about how to live in peace and to banish war and violence from the earth. Instead of He shall banish the chariot and the horse, today we might say according to Bishop Robert Barron, “today he will banish nuclear weapons and assault rifles.” The true God always desire this vision and way of living for all His people. Christians interpret the fulfilment of this prophecy hundreds of years later through Jesus we entered Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday. He is the Prince of Peace through nonviolent love.
This vision coincides with our national Independence Day celebrations when the founders of the United States of America set forth the vision for the new nation which was different than any other before that time. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
In our Catholic tradition, we make an individual examination of conscience and hold up God’s vision for us according to the commandments of the Covenant and the beatitudes of Jesus and honestly confess where we fall short in living out this ideal for our lives. But our religion can become highly individualistic and privatized. This is not the teaching and example of Christ who formed a new people as his body in relationship with one another. We are to be a beacon and an example to attract others to Christ by the way we live in mutual love.
In the Gospel, Jesus is giving thanks and praise to God. But friends, in the Gospel of Matthew, he has just returned from a failed mission to various towns of Galilee where he performed miracles and proclaimed the Kingdom of God, and the people failed to repent. The people of those towns remained hard of heart and were not open to the message and mighty deeds of Jesus. 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 the childlike.26 Jesus is thanking the Father for simple open hearted people who are not cunning and duplicitous. They are the poor and simple people, in other words those who are childlike.
Now is the time America is making a national examination of conscience based on the ideal vision of the founders of our nation. We honestly confess that we are falling short of living out these ideals. The USA is 244 years old and we are going through growing pains again. Change is never easy at any age. I share this spiritual wisdom for all who are childlike and open hearted to receive it. We can apply this wisdom individually for sure (when we have gone through a divorce, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, a serious illness, etc.), and I believe that we can certainly apply this wisdom on a much larger scale.
The mystery of transformation more often happens not when something new begins, but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level, and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place. Most of us would never go to new places in any other way. The mystics use many words to describe this chaos: fire, dark night, death, emptiness, abandonment, trial, the Evil One. Whatever it is, it does not feel good and it does not feel like God.
We will normally do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart, yet this is when we need patience and guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening our controls and certitudes.
Jesus’ invitation to us today is fittingly appropriate for us to hear: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Aren’t we tired of the pandemic and all that has come with it including calls for societal change? Jesus shows us the way. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart;
He is referring to a yoke for oxen that is a wooden beam that connects the two necks of oxen so they can plow the field. Jesus is telling us to yoke our lives to his and go where he is guiding us in the way of self-sacrificing love.
As we go deep and reflect upon the visions of Zechariah, Jesus the Christ and the US Declaration of Independence, let us realize that we need love, dialog, perseverance and an openness to be the instruments of change for the world we desire to live in. We probably will not see it fulfilled in our own lifetime, but we trust the process when we follow the way of the Master… (point to the Crucifix.)