03Jul 3 July, Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Theme

Jesus invites us to come to him and find rest from our burdens. Only those who become humble like a child can put themselves and their problems fully into God’s hands. Our Lord’s loving, gentle spirit is perfectly prophecied in Zechariah’s image of the royal figure right there among his people, humbly riding on a donkey. He is with us to help us, not to burden us with guilt.

Readings

Zech 9:9-10. A prophecy about a humble, mild Messiah, “humble and riding on a donkey.” And yet, he will also be strong and victorious, in the end.

Rom 8:9,11-13. By the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, we have the strength to live the new life of grace to which God calls us.

Mt 11:25-30. Jesus, gentle and humble in heart, invites us to come to him with all our problems. His yoke is easy and his burden light.

Bidding Prayers

– for the grace of humility, like Jesus, who was “gentle and humble in heart”; that we may not be arrogant or rude with others.

– for those in authority that they may exercise their power not for merely personal gain but as a service for others.

– for all who have the care of others, whether at home, or school, or hospital, or any other setting, that they may serve those in their charge with gentleness and humility.

– that helped by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, we may live the new life of grace to which God calls us.

Homilies

What Money can’t Buy (John Walsh)

If you live unspiritual lives, you are doomed to die; but if by the Spirit you put an end to the misdeeds of the body, you will live. In saying that St Paul was being faithful to the traditions of the Old Testament, and so were the first Christians in adhering to the doctrine of what was referred to as the “Two Ways,” the choice between two kinds of life which face everyone during their brief sojourn on earth. On the one hand there is the life dominated by sinful human nature, a life focused and centred on oneself. Such a life follows only one law, namely its own desires. It takes what it likes, where it likes. It is motivated and controlled by passion, or lust, or pride, or ambition. To allow the things of this world so to dominate one’s life is self-extinction, spiritual suicide. And those who follow such a course become totally unfit to stand in the presence of God, because they become resentful towards the law and control of God, and end up regarding him as an enemy.

On the other hand there are those for whom God is the focal point of their lives on earth. Their lives are given direction by God’s Holy Spirit, a direction which finds them daily drawing nearer to heaven. For such, death is only a temporary interruption on the way. These, it could be said represent extreme states of the Two Ways, whereas, in reality, most of us pursue a course that goes back and forth between the two.

One of the great heresies of our time, surely, is that happiness and peace of mind, and provision for the future can be bought with money. This, rather surprisingly, is especially true about the poorer people in society. The rich are all too well aware from bitter experience that not every day of their lives is filled with bliss. Despite having the luxuries that money can buy, they can suffer from the strains and tensions that go with money, which quite often can lead to the breakdown of personal relationships within the family circle, resulting in broken marriages, and separation from the children.

One of the great reasons why family members fall out, especially in rural Ireland, it has been said, is disputes over land and wills. Because of consumerism in our society the capacity to love has become rarer, a certain sociologist has claimed (Eric Fromm). Since God speaks to us from the scriptures, it is profitable to follow the evolving moral attitudes towards riches which we find in them. In the Book of Genesis, worldly possessions were regarded as a sign of God’s special blessing. We have, for example, an obviously exaggerated description of the wealth of Abraham, his flocks and herds, his silver and gold. Here the inspired writer is simply stating, in the language of his own time, that God loved Abraham in a special way indeed, that Abraham, by the fact of being rich, was a just man, since poverty was a curse, a punishment for sin.

But in the Book of job, this view is questioned. “The Lord gives, the Lord also, for his own purposes, can take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Later on during an age of great prosperity in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the minor prophets, like Amos and Hosea, even denounced the rich, because of their luxury, their injustices, and their exploitation of the poor. At this point the concept of poverty had reached a crossroads. There was the road which led nowhere, the way of the bitter, despondent, cynical, and – let’s face it – even the greedy poor, that Christ said would always be with us. And then there was the road travelled by those who came to be known as the “poor of the Lord,” those with nobody else to turn to, who in every aspect of their existence, depended entirely on the Lord, those who could declare with utter sincerity, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Christ identifies with these latter in today’s first reading. “See your king comes to you, humble and riding on a donkey.” And it is to these very, people that he addresses himself in the gospel, “Come to me all you who are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Learn from me, for I (too) am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” At the Last Supper he had said to the Apostles, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. Not as the world gives, do I give to you.” And the gift of Christ was not that of this world, but rather the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, a gift more precious, more enduring than silver or gold, or anything that this passing world can offer.

Analogy of Adoption (Anthony O’Leary)

In preaching the homily this Sunday there is a choice of speaking about the relationship of the Christian with God or of developing some aspect of the condition of that relationship as proclaimed in the readings, for instance poverty. To take up the first option the homilist could develop the family analogy of adoption. A child that is helpless and without any riches to commend it is taken in to the bosom of a family and becomes one with all the other sons and daughters. Such an adoption is an act of generosity on the part of the parents in that they have no guarantee as to how the young child is going to turn out. He or she may resent their adopted family, they may bring disgrace on the family. Yet the act of adoption gives them the relationship that enables them either to grow in love and gratitude or to rebel and reject the love offered. God’s gift of family relation with him in Christ, give us a capacity to love or to reject. The work of God is for our freedom. He does not force us to accept his love, yethis love in adopting us enables us to respond to him. He give himself to us. The readings portray this theology of grace under the symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven given to the poor and to the persecuted and also in Paul in the theme of being in Christ.

The option of speaking about poverty as a condition of being God’s friend would open up the whole area, well documented, of the preferential option for the poor. When Christ walked this earth he seems to have had a special place in his heart for those in need. But the area of poverty has to be treated with discretion as it is no merely material poverty that is blessed; it is those who know their need of God, who accept their creature status and do not make of themselves the centre of the universe. To live in such an attitude is to accept everything as a gift and to grow in sensitivity to the materially poor. How can a person be poor in sprit and close his heart against his brother in need? When one speaks only about material poverty one can limit God’s outreach to those of a particular economic condition, whereas by focusing on the attitude of the heart the preacher can disturb the consciences of the self sufficient as well as those who fell that they are not well off. Indeed in the western world how can we nt be severely disturbed at our relative wealth in the face of the hunger and privationthat is displayed on our television screens? As stewards of the gift loaned to us, we must respond from the depth of our heart and out of the abundance of God’s resources. But the active commitment to help will only spring freely from the converted heart that is poor in spirit, poor in the core of one’s being. When we are conscious of our family responsibilities in a world-wide sense, we can with open hands receive the gift of God which is himself. The preacher could refer to the parable of the sheep and oats to bring Matthew’s theology out more forcefully.

Mere Children (Liam Swords)

“Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee” was the refrain of a fairly recent pop-tune. Putting a hand in somebody else’s is the characteristic gesture of a child. Only to parents will a child give its hand unquestioningly. It implies complete trust. No amount of cajoling will entice it to take the hand of a stranger. Once outside the familiarity of the home, a child confronted with a big and frightening world becomes acutely aware of its own smallness and helplessness. Without father’s hand it wouldn’t dare venture out. Holding his hand there is nowhere it will not venture. The child is not only willing to be led, it positively wants to be led. The sad thing about growing up is that we lose our fathers or they lose us. In any event, we outgrow our need of them. And having lost the need for parents, God becomes remote for us. Only children instinctively understand God-language. Every child’s father is God to him. And God to every child is his Father. So is God revealed to “mere children.”

Growing up means becoming more independent. Or rather ceasing to be dependent. We exchange a child’s dependence on people for an adult’s dependence on things, like money, alcohol and drugs. And things are notoriously fickle. The world of an adult is stress-ridden and anxiety-plagued. There is no escape from tension. Drugs may provide temporary relief but can never reach the underlying cause. Contentment is a quality of the soul. A state of harmony between a creature and his creator, a child and his father. Adam and Eve unfortunately grew up. They lost their innocence. The original sin was Adam’s pride, his ambition to “go it alone.” It has tainted our nature ever since.

It has left us all “labouring and over-burdened.” Labouring under illusions of grandeur and burdened with conceit. The heaviest load we have to carry is the load of our own unfulfilled ambitions, the burden of our own ego. We’ve grown too big for our boots. Only humility can restore our lost innocence and our lost paradise. The humility to accept our creature-status, our child-status. We must learn to want to be led. We must trade childish pride for child-like humility. We must “put our hand in the hand of the man from Galilee’, if we ever hope to find our way home. Jesus invites us to do just that:

Come to me , all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.

His Kind of Heart (Jack McArdle)

This is a beautiful gospel passage, in which Jesus tells us the kind of heart he has, and the kind of hearts we should have, if we are to be open to his message. It is a consoling gospel, because it speaks of humility, gentleness, and rest.

I remember, some years ago, when Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. The “powers-that-be” didn’t know how to deal with her! They sent two limousines to the airport to meet her, one for her, and one for her luggage! She arrived smiling, with her personal belongings in a shopping bag, and the welcoming committee was completely at a loss what to do. They would have no problem at all with heads of state, and other dignitaries but, with this little frail woman who had some sort of extraordinary aura about her, this made them feel powerless, and they were in awe in the presence of a power and a strength with which they were totally unfamiliar. That is what Jesus speaks of today.

Please notice that part of today’s gospel is not spoken to us at all! It is Jesus speaking to his Father. I often think that, if you really want to get to know someone, it would be easier if you could eavesdrop on their prayers! How they speak, and what they say gives an insight into what’s going on within. The prayer in today’s gospel is like a whispered exclamation of gratitude. Jesus is truly grateful about the nature of his message. It is for the child-hearted, for the ordinary punter, and not for the intellectuals, and the worldly-minded. It makes little sense up in the head, because it goes against the thinking and values of the world, and it confounds those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Jesus repeats his oft-spoken message that he, and he alone, is the only way to the Father. He came with a message from the Father, and he is the only one who knows that message, and can deliver it. Genius is the ability to discern the obvious. The message is so simple that only God could have inspired it. The Jews were expecting a Messiah who would be endowed with worldly might, and he would lead them to earthly power and glory. This has no value in the eyes of God. Jesus said that the meek possess the earth, that the lowly are raised up, and that to live in his kingdom requires the heart of a child. Even as I write I know that you, the reader or the listener, don’t want some kind of theological dissertation. You want a simple message that touches your heart, and inspires your thinking. If the thinking is clarified and simplified, the actions that follow are simple and clear.

Today’s gospel contains a beautiful invitation. Jesus invites us to come to him if we want peace, if we want solid teaching, if we want salvation, or freedom from the bondage of our humanity. “Let me teach you,” he says. Come to him, just as you are, and he will lead you to a life beyond your wildest dreams. This life is not about going to heaven, or something that is promised after we die. It is promised and offered now, because the road to heaven is heaven.

Response: Today’s gospel certainly calls for a response. It should evoke a kindling of the heart, and it should offer us a clear way out of our turmoil and struggles. We can all distinguish between being intellectual and worldly-wise, and being childlike. Jesus speaks to the Father, and he speaks about the Father in today’s gospel. If God is Father, then we are called on to become like children. Being like children is to live within the limits of what we have, what we know, and what we can do. It is a time of learning and discovery and, especially, is it a time of dependency. For those of us blessed enough to have had a normal childhood, it is so much easier to understand what that means.

Jesus speaks about knowing the Father, rather than knowing about him. We axe invited into a relationship, an attachment, a sense of belonging. We have to think of God as Father, and to speak to him as Father. Prayer would be so simple and spontaneous if we could speak to the Father as a child speak~ to hisher earthly father. Not all fathers are good at listening, nor are some of them good at giving time and space to their children. This can make it all the more difficult for us to relate to the full meaning of such a relationship. Jesus tells us that he will inform us about the Father, and he will reveal the Father to us. Jesus is always on “stand-by,” as it were, waiting on us to be ready.

We all experience weariness, and heavy burdens from time to time. There is a tendency to file God’s phone number under “Emergencies Only,” and to turn to him when everything else has failed. God would love to be in on the act so much quicker. He is our Father and, having given us life, he wants to be involved in every dimension of our lives. Coming to Jesus is coming to the Father. Jesus tells us that his burden is light. It is not a question of exchanging one burden for another. Responding to his call, or invitation, is a source of great blessing and real joy. Responding to his invitation is to share in his life. The people who do this are the happiest people on earth.

When you get a chance, a quiet moment, today or soon, go down into your heart and see can you find the inner child there. Remember it is only the body that grows old. The person within is always a child, who always likes to be loved, needed, and praised, and who still whistles passing the graveyard. If you can get in touch with that inner child, your heart is ready to be open to God. If you read today’s gospel with that sort of open heart, it would really enter into you, and your heart would burn. The children of God are heart-people, not head-people. Down in my heart I know, even when I completely fail to understand it in my head. For those who don’t understand, no words are possible; and for those who do understand, no words are necessary.

Have you ever asked Jesus to reveal the Father to you? “Jesus, please reveal the Father to me.” To use this as a mantra, to be repeated again and again throughout the day, is bound to bring you into a new experience of God. Jesus, who knows our inner most hearts, will see clearly whether I’m serious or not and, therefore, whether to answer or not. You can easily become one of those to whom Jesus chooses to reveal the Father, as he says in today’s gospel.

It is not possible for a human being to fall on herhis knees, cry Out to God, and not be heard. The next time you feel “down,” go aside somewhere and, remembering Jesus’ invitation in today’s gospel to “Come to me,” call out to him from your heart. He will hear you, and respond to your plea. Then you take up the yoke of service, do something for someone else, and you will soon be distracted from yourself and your burdens. “I will give you rest. You will find rest for your souls.” The only way to know this is to do it. Take him at his word, and be open to him keeping his promises.

The father and mother brought Junior with them to the supermarket on a Thursday night, to do the weekly shopping. They filled up the trolley and arrived at the checkout. The girl looked at them, waved them forward, and said “It’s okay, everything is free today; no charge.” Imagine the reaction of the parents! There is no way they believe this, as they begin putting items on the conveyor belt. When the girl insists that it is all free, and there’s no charge, the father checks to ensure that it’s not April Fool’s Day. Then it dawns on him. Candid camera! He smiles as he looks around, and continues to transfer his shopping from the trolley to the conveyor belt. When the girl insists that there is no charge, the parents begin to get annoyed. A joke is a joke, but they are in a hurry, and they can’t be standing around here all day.

In the meantime, where is Junior? He heard the magic word “Free” and, by now, he has grabbed another trolley, and is dashing around the supermarket, grabbing boxes of sweets, crisps, etc., off the shelves! He has no problem at all with things that are free, and he sees the situation as an opportunity, rather than a problem!

Unless you have the heart of a child, says Jesus, you will never understand what I am telling you.

A Light Burden (Andrew Greeley)

In today’s Gospel St Matthew continues his “logical” organization of the words and deeds of Jesus by topics or by similarity of words. The related topics in this passage are the expression of Jesus’s concern for little children and His love for us as members of His family. The latter passage in which He says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light does not seem to fit the reality of our lives. The yoke is often hard and the burden is heavy. Jesus obviously means that if we can identify with the love of God which he experiences life will look different. Alas, it is so hard to do that.

Story: Once upon a time there was a boss and an administrative assistant. The assistant was not the most ambitious or reliable person in the world, but he tried hard at least some of the time. The boss was generous and good-hearted because it was in her nature to do so. When she corrected his mistakes she did so gently. When holidays fell in the middle of the week (like July 4 this year), she gave the rest of the days off. She gave him the week after Christmas off because, as she said, nothing ever gets done that week anyhow. On Summer Fridays she let him go home at noon. Whenever he needed time off to go to the doctor or for some family event, she gave it to him without question. She granted him a substantial raise every year and wrote generous reports on him to the personnel office.

Finally, he saw what he thought would be a better job and quit without notice. He told the new assistant “You won’t like working for her, she’s too demanding.”

First Reading: Zechariah 9:9-10 

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

He 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.

Second Reading: Romans 8:9ff 

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh- 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.

Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30 

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
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