This Sunday the Church celebrates the 14th Sunday of Ordinary time. Notice how the readings during the special liturgical seasons tend to focus on our beliefs and doctrinal subjects while during Ordinary time the focus of the readings tends to be on how a believer should live out his or her faith in Jesus in the ordinary experiences of life. Zechariah wrote the first reading at a time when his land was being taken over by the forces of Alexander the Great. It is a hope filled prophecy that was fulfilled by a very different type of King in Jesus. But since we are still awaiting His return it is also a hope filled prophecy for us. To what extent have I chosen to make Jesus my king? The second reading speaks of the effects of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of the believer. How real have I made Paul’s words in my life? Do I live as if I believed them? In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of His role as the revealer of Divine Wisdom. Do I listen for the voice of Jesus imparting Divine Wisdom or do I look for the easy way?
First Reading: Zechariah 9: 9-10
9 Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion,
shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king shall come to you;
a just savior is he,
Meek, and riding on an ass,
on a colt, the foal of an ass.
10 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.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 9:9 When He comes the Messiah will come in lowliness and peace. He will not come as a conquering warrior. The prophet draws a contrast between the last kings of Judah, who rode in chariots and on horses (Jer 17:25; 22:4), and the princes of old (Genesis 49:11; Jdgs 5:10; 10:4), who rode on an ass. The gospels see a literal fulfillment of this prophecy in the Savior’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:4-5; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:14-15).
* 9:10 Both the chariot and the horse were weapons of war and symbols of conquest. The River means the Euphrates. The prophet uses the words of Psalm 72:8, ” from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth.” These are taken to be the boundaries of the civilized world known at the time. The world was seen as reaching from the Mediterranean Sea (the western sea) to the Persian Gulf (the eastern sea), and from the Euphrates (the river) to the islands and lands of southwestern Europe, “the ends of the earth.” Some scholars think that the words may also have a mythic nuance, implying the earth surrounded by cosmic waters, hence everywhere.
Second Reading: Romans 8: 9, 11-13
9 But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. 12 Consequently, brothers, we are not debtors 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.
NOTES on Second Reading:
This passage draws a distinction between the life of the flesh and the life of the Spirit. For Paul these are not the common Greek categories of body and soul. Living in the flesh meant living according to the unredeemed human nature (both body and soul) but living in the spirit meant living the new life of Christ. The Spirit who dwells in us gives us a share in the resurrected life of Christ now and at our deaths that same Spirit will bring our bodies to eternal life in its completeness.
* 8:9 The words, “if only ” (in the NAB), are sometimes translated as “since” (in NRSV) in this verse. In fact the NAB translation is probably better. Paul probably meant something like “if, in reality. ” It is not the behavior that results in being “in the spirit” but rather it is being “in the spirit” that results in the behavior that is pleasing to God. We as followers of Christ have the Holy Spirit within us as a result of our death and rebirth in Christ (Baptism). The Holy Spirit is now the new principle of life within us. Paul uses the terms, “Spirit of God”, “Spirit of Christ,” and “Christ” interchangeably as he struggles to express the multifaceted reality of the Christian’s experience of participation in the Divine life. This is much more than a simple identification with the cause of Christ. Paul sees it as a “spiritualization” of the believer who is empowered to “live for God” by the “Spirit of God” Himself Who takes up residence within the believer.
* 8:10 Paul plays on the meanings of “pneuma.” It clearly means the Spirit of God but the word is also used for a component of our humanity that can be contrasted with “flesh.” Without the Spirit as the source of Christian life the human “body’ is like a corpse because of the influence of sin. However, in union with Christ the human “spirit” lives because the Spirit resuscitates the dead human being through the gift of uprightness.
* 8:11 Here as in 8:9 the “pneuma” is the Spirit of the Father to Whom the efficiency of the resurrection is attributed. So the power vivifying the Christian is traced to its ultimate source, for the Spirit is the manifestation of the Father’s presence and power in the world since the resurrection of Jesus and through it. The future tense refers to the eschatological resurrection of Christians in which Paul sees the role of the Spirit as central. At His resurrection Christ became through the Father’s glory (6:4) the principle of the raising of Christians. (See: 1 Thes 4:14; Phil 3:10,21;1Cor 6:14; 2Cor 4:1)
* 8:12-13 These verses form a conclusion to the previous discussion and are a transition to the next section. Paul tells us that the Baptized Christian could still be occupied by the “deed, acts, pursuits” of one dominated by “saryx,” flesh. However, use of the Spirit received in order to abandon those things is the debt owed to Christ.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 11:25-30
25 At that time Jesus said in reply, “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 Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. 27 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.
28 “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
NOTES on Gospel:
* 11:25-30 This passage consists of a revelation discourse with Jesus as revealer of Divine wisdom. The discourse is in a three part structure: v 25-26 thanksgiving for revelation v 27 content of the revelation v 28-30 invitation to revelation There is a striking similarity to Sirach 51:1-12,13-22,23-30 but only Sirach 51:23-30 is really close to Mat 11:28-30.
* 11:25-27 This saying is usually thought by scholars to have been taken from a hypothetical source of the sayings and actions of Jesus called “Q.” Except for minor variations, the saying is identical with Luke 10:21-22. It introduces a note of joy into this section of Matthew which is dominated by theme of unbelief. While those who should have known better, the wise and the learned also called the scribes and Pharisees, have rejected Jesus’ preaching and the significance of His mighty deeds, the childlike have accepted them. This acceptance depends upon the Father’s revelation, but it is granted to those who are open to receive it and refused to the arrogant. Jesus as the Son can speak of all mysteries and what has been handed over to him is revealed only to those whom he wishes.
* 11:28-29 These verses appear only in Matthew’s Gospel. They are similar to Ben Sirach’s invitation to learn wisdom and submit to her yoke (Sirach 51:23,26). Burdened refers to being burdened by the law as expounded by the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:4).
* 11:29 Jesus invites the burdened to take on the yoke of obedience to His word, under which they will find rest in place of the yoke of the law with its complicated interpretation by the scribes. See Jer 6:16.