14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME A – JULY 9, 2023

 

14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME A – JULY 9, 2023

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

 

Theme: We Are Citizens of God’s Kingdom

The Bible readings this Sunday talk about a king who will come to establish God’s kingdom on earth. Prophet Zechariah, in our first reading, speaks of him as “a just savior” and “meek” whose role is to banish the chariot from Israel and proclaim peace to the nations. The Church reapplies this prophy to Jesus Christ. In our Gospel, Jesus, the king of God’s universal kingdom, invites us who labor and are burdened by anxieties and worries of this earthly kingdom to come to him and find rest under his dominion. How do we know if we are living in God’s kingdom or still in the kingdom of this world? In the second reading, Saint Paul sketches out what Christians belonging to God’s kingdom should be. He says that we need to live according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh. As Christians, you and I are the citizens of the heavenly kingdom. Our vocation in God’s kingdom is to always praise the name of our God and King (Responsorial Psalm) as we do now in this celebration of the Eucharist (Mass). 

Our first reading is the second oracle in the second section (ch. 9-11) of the book of Zechariah. To better understand it, we first need to understand the first oracle. In the first oracle, Zechariah describes how God, the great warrior, will protect the people of Israel. God will set up his home in Jerusalem, in the Temple, and establish his garrison there. This is not because the Israelites have earned God’s protection, but because God has seen their affliction. In the second oracle (our first reading), God, through the prophet Zechariah, asks the people of Israel to rejoice. Pay attention to why they should rejoice, “See, your king shall come to you.” This king is “a just savior, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” (v. 9). His mission will be to banish the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem. He shall proclaim peace to the nations and will have dominion over all the peoples of the world. (See v. 10). The Church associates Zechariah’s prophecy with Jesus. God sent his only Son to initiate the heavenly kingdom on earth. Jesus came to banish the “chariot and “horse” from God’s people, which means, he came to set us free from the dominion of sin.  We are called to rejoice heartily and shout for joy because Jesus came to give us rest in his kingdom as Matthew says in our Gospel.

Today’s Gospel passage is taken from section (11: 2 – 12: 50) in which Matthew narrates a dispute between Jesus and the people of Israel because they rejected the Word of God he preached to them. Note that in ch. 10 (“The Mission Sermon” that we meditated on Sundays June 18th, 25th, and July 2nd), Jesus sent his disciples on a mission. In ch. 11, Matthew does not recount the return of the apostles and the success of their mission as Mark and Luke do. Rather, he focuses on how the people negatively responded to Jesus’ mission. In vv. 20-24 that immediately precede our Gospel story, Jesus expressed his disapproval to the people of the towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, who had rejected the Word of God. While the mighty deeds Jesus did in their towns (Matthew 8-9) should have led them to repent and believe that he is the Messiah, they rejected his message. In today’s Gospel, Jesus reacts to their lack of belief.

Jesus’s reaction has two parts. First, he turns to his Father in prayer, and second, he invites those willing to welcome God’s Word to come to him. He promises to give them rest. Jesus commences his prayer by giving praise to God. “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…” (v. 25a).  Our responsorial psalm also invites us to praise God, “I will praise your name forever, my king and my God.” You and I are called to always praise God. And the ultimate moment when we come together to praise our Lord is our celebration of the Eucharist (Mass). That is why we should not miss Sunday Masses. I also encourage all of us to consider starting or ending our weekdays by praising God at daily Masses. Our Lady Star of the Sea Church offers weekday Masses on Tuesday at 6:00 pm and Wednesday through Friday at 7: 30 am.

In his prayer, Jesus also stresses the intimate relationship that he has with God and his role as the one who reveals his Father to us. “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.” (V. 27). Jesus continues to reveal God to us in the celebration of the Eucharist, the reading of the Bible, and the works of mercy that we are called to practice. The more we attend Mass regularly, listen to and read the Word of God at Mass or at Bible Study (which will start soon in person with me), and practice the works of charity, the more we know who God really is. And the more we know God, the more we strengthen our one-on-one relationship with him. To be able to that, our Gospel urges us to act as the “little ones” but not as the “wise” and “learned”. (v. 25b). Note that in biblical language, the “little ones’ refer to those who are humble and simple of heart, willing to listen to and accept the Word of God. The “wise” and “learned” refer to those who are self-sufficient and unwilling to listen to God’s Word.

In the second part of our Gospel, Jesus addresses the people and invites those who labor and are burdened to come to him. Jesus continues to invite us every Sunday to join him in the liturgy of the Mass during which we listen to his word and receive his Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He also asks us to take his “yoke” upon us and learn from him because he is meek and humble of heart. The expression “to take Jesus’s yoke” means to accept and follow what the Bible and the Church teach us. Jesus’ “yoke” is easy and his burden light. (See vv. 29-30). So, let us always respond positively to Jesus’ invitation and come to him by attending Masses and doing other Church activities.

Christians who come to Jesus and live under his dominion live according to his Spirit but not to the flesh. This is what Saint Paul teaches us in our second reading. He says, “Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Romans 8: 9). You and I have the Spirit of Christ, so we belong to him. We are the citizens of God’s kingdom. Let us live according to the Spirit of our Lord wherever we are. Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

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