Lector's Notes

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

This passage is in the Lectionary today because its portrait of the Messiah superficially resonates with Jesus’ portrait of his disciples in today’s gospel, Mt 11:25-30. That’s a remarkable, beautiful and moving passage, and you might try meditating on it as part of your preparation to proclaim the Zechariah. However, you’ll be more faithful to the prophet’s text if you steep yourself in his vision, which is more corporate. Zechariah sees not a lone humble subject, not even just a nation, but a world (sea to sea, from the [Euphrates] River to the ends of the earth) at peace, where there’s no need for chariots or the warrior’s bow.

Nota bene: The animal is the foal of a donkey or of an ass. That’s not a misprint in your church’s lectionary. It rhymes with “goal” and is not pronounced “fowl.” I don’t want to insult your intelligence; I only correct what I’ve heard. And just in case, the prophet’s name is pronounced: zek uh rye uh.

Second Reading

Reading this to a congregation is challenging, especially where the sentences are long. Try to break up the long sentences into sense lines, pausing briefly where that will help the listeners follow. Vary your tone of voice to bring out the contrasts between life and death, spirit and flesh, righteousness and sin.

Introductions

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

The prophet Zechariah gives a portrait of Judah’s king. Not a conqueror out to glorify himself, this king stands for justice, peace, and allegiance to the highest sovereign, who is God.

Second Reading

Saint Paul teaches that to be “in the flesh” is to try to earn God’s grace by our own merits, while being “in the spirit” means letting God give us that undeserved grace.

Gospel

Jesus contrasts his teachings and his expectations of his followers with the doctrine and demands of other religious authorities of his day.

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Zechariah 9:9-10

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The King who rides on a donkey

FIRST READING—These verses are chosen for this Sunday because they describe a meek and humble Messiah, which Jesus is. The meek donkey is contrasted to the warrior horse which is a symbol of war. Zion (another name for Jerusalem) will shout for joy when the King arrives in the city – not as a mighty conquering warrior but as a just Savior who will banish war and institute peace.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

When the Messiah comes

FIRST READING—As we listen to Zechariah somewhere war is being waged. We don’t use the term war very often now, we choose softer terms. War evokes images of blood, destruction, families torn apart, innocent suffers; words like “collateral damage” and “mopping up exercises” spare us from facing the reality of what we are permitting to happen to our world. And war today is about greed, its about power over, and its about the generation of a rhetoric to make it more palatable.

“Rejoice heartily, daughter Zion, shout for joy! See your king comes, a just saviour, riding peacefully on the foal of an ass.”

The King is the Messiah, who can be found on the holy mountain, the image of God-with-us. With his coming all weapons of war are banished. His rule spans all people and nations. His love encompasses the globe.

So how did Jews and Christians come to believe that war was a way of solving inter-racial and inter-territorial disputes? Why do we hear people today speak of God and evangelisation with military metaphors? How can we reconcile the words spirituality and warfare?

Jesus said that if our hearts are full of violence it will pour out in our attitudes and speech. Listen to the language of sport. It is often violent. Violence on the playing field is tolerated whereas the same action in another public place would be prosecuted. Bullying is common in homes, schools, workplaces in government and in international relations. Followers of Jesus cannot be part of this. We need to be active in our challenge to it.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Our King is a gentle and humble

FIRST READING—Following the return of Israel from Exile in Babylon, Zechariah spoke out in favor of rebuilding the Temple, restoring the Levitical priesthood,and reconstituting the community of faith in its unity and purity of purpose. A king in the line of David would be needed. Only then would God’s ultimate will be fulfilled. A messianic age would follow. After the Exile there is more appreciation for the poor, for those who are peaceful, those who are humble.The future king (Messiah?) will himself embody those characteristics. Whereas the horsehad been associated with war, now the humble king will ride on the back of a donkey which denotes peace and humility (Genesis 49:10-11). The evangelists of the Second Covenant will utilize this sign as an identification badge for the Messiah.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

What kind of leadership do you seek and support?

FIRST READING—This reading sounds like a return to Holy Week with the victor riding triumphantly into the city. The image of the king who comes on a colt is confusing to 21st century people for whom the image of a donkey has nothing to do with biblical ideas. The king’s mount here is more like a popemobile than Pope Francis’ notorious 1984 Renault.

Zechariah portrayed the mounted king as a peaceful ruler. When he declares that the king will banish horse and chariot he’s reminding people of the Exodus escape when Moses and the Israelites sang, “I will sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant, horse and chariot he has cast into the sea” (Exodus 15:1). Zechariah’s king has plenty of glory and none of it depends on the trappings of war and domination.

This king is just. In the eyes of the poor, that’s the greatest promise possible. To the ears of the powerful, it sounds like a threat. The king is also described as meek. In this context that indicates that he doesn’t arrogate all the honor to himself, but recognizes that God has been his strength and God will provide the power to carry out his royal mission.

This prophecy is universal in outlook. Although the wording “from sea to sea” may have inspired U.S. poets in their visions of “Manifest Destiny,” the biblical concept actually proffers a strong critique of everything that smacks of chauvinistic nationalism. When the prophet speaks of a dominion that stretches “from sea to sea and the River to the ends of the earth” he’s describing the known world, what we in the 21st century would imagine via a photograph of the earth from space. This king’s peace-building rule erases boundaries. On the weekend after the celebration in the U.S. of the Fourth of July, Zechariah’s prophecy invites us to look at the intersection of our civil and religious life and ask what kind of leadership we seek and support.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Further Study

Verse by verse Commentary

The Book of Zechariah, the name means “Yahweh remembers,” comes chronologically after that of Haggai. The prophet Zechariah belonged to a priestly family which had returned from exile in Babylon. Like Haggai, he was called by God in 520 B.C., the second year of the reign of Darius. He probably lived until very near the time the new Temple was finished.

Working in a literary style quite different from Haggai’s but with the same doctrinal content, Zechariah describes in the first six chapters of his book, by means of eight visions, God’s plan for the restoration of the Temple and of the city of Jerusalem, and promises God’s blessing on Israel. As a prerequisite God asks His people for moral correctness; to be shown in acts of justice and mercy, and obedience to His commandments. In the seventh chapter Zechariah tells the people that fasting is pleasing to God if it stems from genuine piety (in Zechariah’s time the Jews gave much importance to fasting but their motivation was at fault because they were more concerned about appearing to others to be good than about seeking God’s favor). In the ninth chapter, from which our reading for today comes, Judah is set on one side, Judah’s neighbors on the other. God, whose power extends to all nations, takes Judah’s side, and as a ruler who goes to war for his people, He vanquishes Judah’s neighbors. Then the king of peace arrives; an earthly king able to inaugurate his peaceful reign because of the divine victory.

9 Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!

There is no distinction to be made between Zion and Jerusalem, both names refer to the city itself.

See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he,

There is disagreement among manuscripts and commentators whether the future is one who saves (the Septuagint and vulgate rendering), or one who has been saved, delivered by God (Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible).

Meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.

This does not indicate humility but rather peaceful intent. The horse was the mount in time of war; the ass was put to use for friendly and solemn entry.

10 He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim,

A geographical area originally settled by the tribe of Ephraim. The towns include Bethel, Naaran, Gezex, Sheckem, Megiddo, and Dor (1 Chronicles 7:28). At one time it was the largest of the tribes of Israel. Isaiah, Ezekiel and Hosea use the name as a poetic designation of the Northern Kingdom.

and the horse from Jerusalem;

Jerusalem, as used here, it is a designation of the Southern Kingdom.

The warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea,

From the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf.

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

The peaceful rule of this king will extend far beyond Judah into the rest of the inhabited world.

Source: Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

The  promised coming of a Davidic Messiah

FIRST READING—God’s holy prophets promised the fulfillment of the eternal covenant Yahweh made with the House of David in the promised coming of a Davidic Messiah whose rule was to extend over all nations. In the First Reading, the sixth century BC prophet Zechariah describes a vision of the future Messiah’s entry into the holy city of Jerusalem. He will not come, Zechariah writes, as a conquering king. The promised kingly heir of David will come to His people as a just Savior, meek and humble and riding on the foal of an ass.

Background to Zechariah

Zechariah answered his prophetic call in 520 BC when the Babylonian exile ended, and God’s covenant people were returning to Judah under the protection of Cyrus, king of Persia.  The first half of the Book of Zechariah (chapters 1-8) contains eight symbolic visions, which are related to the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple and meant to encourage the return of the exiles under the leadership of the High Priest Yehoshua/Joshua (Jesus) and governor Zerubbabel.  The second part of the book divides into two parts.  The first part (chapters 9-11) offers the Messianic vision of the coming of the Prince of Peace.  The second part (chapter 12) opens with an oracle proclaiming the victory of God’s covenant people over unbelievers and closes with a prophecy describing, in apocalyptic imagery, the final assault on Jerusalem, the return of the Messianic King, and His victory over Israel’s enemies.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Zechariah's Vision in the Four Gospels

In our reading, Zechariah gives an oracle prophesying the future triumphant appearance of the humble Messianic king as He enters Jerusalem.  He will not come as a conquering warrior riding in a chariot or on a warhorse.  Instead, he will come in peace, meekly riding on the colt of an ass.

Each of the Gospel writers takes up this prophetic description of the Messiah entering Jerusalem and proclaims its fulfillment in Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  They either directly quote the Zechariah passage or relate how Jesus rode into the city as described in the prophecy (Mt 21:1-5; Mk 11:1-10; Lk 19:29-38; Jn 12:15).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus as the Fulfillment of Zechariah's Vision

Jesus fulfilled Zechariah’s vision of the Davidic Messianic King when He rode into the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Gospel Reading).  He is the blessed One promised by the psalmist who comes in the “name of the Lord” (Ps 118:26) to establish peace (Zec 9:10a) and whose dominion will be over all nations and peoples of the earth (Zec 9:10b; also see Dan 7:14).

The crowds recognized the Messianic significance of Jesus of Nazareth riding into the holy city just as the prophet Zechariah described and called out to Him, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the king of Israel” (Jn 12:13; also Lk 19:38). 

Jesus was meek and humble, like Moses (Num 12:3; Mt 11:29).  Moses brought the Law of God to the covenant people of Israel, and Jesus is the new Lawgiver, bringing a new Kingdom and a new Law of love that is an easier burden for the people to bear than the rigid commands the Israelites carried under the yoke of the old Mosaic Law.

But Jesus is not only the new Moses; he is also the new David, the promised anointed king of an eternal covenant.  In the sacrifice of the Mass, like the crowd on Palm Sunday, we also call out “Hosanna/Save us, to God in the highest,” as we acknowledge Jesus as our Savior and eternal King.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—This psalm extols God’s kindness and compassion as well as his outreach to the lowly and forgotten.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

What has happened to the Lord’s promises of old?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—This psalm is an appropriate reflection on our first reading. It reflects the point of view of an unnamed king who is a descendant of David. It begins as a great hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God for all that God has done for Israel, particularly in making a covenant with Israel and then with King David and David’s descendants. God promises to never forsake David’s dynasty. Then the psalm becomes lamentation. This king is encountering defeat, disaster, insult and shame. He wonders where God’s promises have gone. Yet, he ends his psalm with an expression of praise: “Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen, amen!” He keeps faith that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, God will fulfill His promises.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Further Study

God, the Greater King

PSALM—In the Responsorial Psalm, attributed to King David of Israel, David acknowledges an authority higher than himself. It is Almighty God, who is the greater King, and David is His humble servant. David was, like all human beings, an imperfect man. However, he loved God with all his heart and was always ready to confess his sins and to accept God’s punishments to restore his relationship with his Lord and God. It was for this reason that Yahweh chose to make an eternal covenant with David, promising that his throne would endure forever in a Davidic Messiah who would rule with God’s authority over all the earth.

The Psalm's Title: Praise. Of David

The title of this psalm is: “Praise. Of David,” attributing it to King David of Israel.  David is the anointed king of Israel, but he acknowledges a higher authority, God the Greater King.  In verses 1-2, the psalmist wants to praise Yahweh “every day” and “forever.”  His devotion and gratitude know no bounds.  St. John Chrysostom wrote: “Devotion to praise is a mark of the truly filial heart.  He who praises the Lord every day will praise him for the eternal Day” (Expositio in Psalmos, 144.2).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Why the Lord Deserves Praise

8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.  9 The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.

In verses 8-9, the psalmist turns his focus to the goodness of God, quoting from Exodus 34:6-7.  He proclaims that God’s goodness is not limited to Israel, but He extends His compassion and mercy to everyone.

10 Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD, and let your faithful ones bless you.  11 Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might.  13b The LORD is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works.

The Lord deserves praise for all His works from all those who are faithful to Him.  It is through God’s words and His deeds that He reveals His glory.

14 The LORD lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.

This verse speaks of the universal reach of God’s love and compassion and expresses the theme of Psalm 145.  Yahweh’s kingdom is a universal kingdom of justice because He responds with goodness and salvation to all who invoke His name and love Him,  especially the weak and oppressed.  The meek and humble Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, fulfills the description of the merciful great King who ushers in a Gospel of love and compassion, calling all men and women who love Him to enter into His Kingdom of the Church and to live by His example.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Romans 8:9, 11-13

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Our life in the Spirit

SECOND READING—Paul continues his discussion on baptism. Living out one’s baptism means that one will live in the spirit of Jesus as opposed to “living in the flesh.” To live “life in the flesh” is to live life independent of God: self-sufficient and self-reliant with no relationship with God. On the contrary, one who uses his/her personal freedom to tune in and respond to the leadings of the Holy Spirit lives a “life in the spirit” which is centered on God and his values. Life in the flesh leads to death while life in the spirit leads to eternal life.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

The Spirit and the flesh

SECOND READING—Paul uses the images of spirit and flesh, to describe the change brought about by belief in Jesus. He does not promote a dualism between flesh and spirit as some people read it, but rather he challenges our centre. Where is your heart? What is your passion?

Aims or goals focused solely on material things are dead ends. They can even be against God’s law. We need material things; they are God’s gifts and are to be enjoyed. They become dead ends if they are all we live for, or if their acquisition damages our relations with God, others or creation. If Christ lives in us, as our guiding spirit then we have real life.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Let us live by the Spirit within us

SECOND READING—Those who live “in the flesh”cannot be identified with those who live “in the spirit.”The two realms have nothing in common. Remember: this has nothing to do with our later distinctions between “body”and “soul.”For Paul, the world of the “flesh”is the world of“sin.”The world of the “spirit”is the world of God’s power.To live “in the spirit”is to live in surrender to the power of God in our lives. In the writings of St. Paul, living in the spirit is not just a matter of ethics or of correct behavior, but it consists in the very fact that God dwells in us through the power and presence ofthe Holy Spirit. The disciple of Christ has become the very Temple in which God dwells now on earth. The Spirit of Christ is a life-giving Spirit. Those who live in the Holy Spirit will have eternal life.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Two orientations toward life

SECOND READING—It’s as easy as it is mistaken to interpret Paul’s categories of flesh and spirit as reflective of the body-soul dualism many of us imbibed as children. Lots of us were taught to think of the flesh or body as the temporary, corruptible, less valuable dimension of our lives, the part of ourselves we will escape when the spirit or soul gets released at death to live forever, probably without any appetites at all, simply content in the presence of God.

That is not at all reflective of Paul’s thinking.

For Paul, flesh and spirit speak of two orientations toward life. People who live “in the flesh” are preoccupied with glittering trivialities that ultimately deceive their devotees. People who live in the flesh place immense value on such things as attractiveness, dominance, wealth or fame. Being in the flesh is always egoistic, and therefore, ultimately isolates the individual as much as it harms others. It is the realm of death. Nevertheless, the world around us, whether in Paul’s day or our own, is full of propaganda for the shallowest of values and attitudes.

Paul uses a creative and vivid image to remind the community that the ways of the flesh have been relegated to their past. He says, “We are not debtors to the flesh.” All those values that used to put a social-acceptability appraisal on their worth have been eliminated. Because the Spirit dwells in them they have no more obligation to be “in” with society, whatever “in” might mean in any given age.

Interestingly, Paul doesn’t go on to say that Christians are now debtors to Christ or the community. All debts have been cancelled. Christians are absolutely free.

Paul wants his community to remember, to understand, and to live out the reality of what it means to be in Christ. He wants them to grasp the fact that they can live with the very same freedom that motivated Jesus in his life. They have become different; all they need to do is take hold of the freedom that is now theirs.

The final verses of this selection offer Paul’s version of the Nike slogan “Just do it!” He’s saying that Christ’s life and death have shown us that the old way offers death via the lonely road of slow, sure loss of beauty and strength; through the ultimate realization that dominance is fleeting; that wealth is powerless to bring joy; and that fame is terribly transient. But Paul says, “You have received the possibility of living by the Spirit. You can see through the flesh with all its phony enticements. You have discovered the way to life and you are free to take it.”

“Go for it!”

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Further Study

Verse by verse Commentary

For the past two weeks we have been looking at what Saint Paul describes as three ages: Adam to Moses which is the natural period represented by the fallen, unhappy family; Moses to Christ which is the legal period in which one nation is the example; and from Christ onward which is the period of international blessing where all nations are blessed and freed from the Law through the grace of Christ. The ancient rabbis often divided their six thousand years of man’s history into these same periods with the understanding that in the last two thousand years the Messiah would give a new law or reinterpret the old one. Saint Paul has recast this period in terms of Jesus the Christ. Chapter 7, which we skip over in our Sunday readings this cycle, contains a description of the doctrine of concupiscence, our tendency to sin as the result of original sin (Romans 7:7-25). In today’s reading we hear Saint Paul tell us that Christian life is lived in the Spirit and is destined for glory because Christian life is empowered by the Spirit.

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.

The word translated as “if only” can also be translated “if, in reality.” The Spirit, the new principle of Christian vitality, is derived from God, the same source as all other manifestations of salvation. The baptized Christian is not only “in the Spirit,” but the Spirit is now said to dwell in him or her.

Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Attachment to Christ is only possible by the indwelling of the Spirit. This is not an external identification with the cause of Christ, or a grateful recognition of what He once did for humanity. The Christian who belongs to Christ is the one empowered to “live for God” through the vitalizing influence of His Spirit. The mention of “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of Christ” in reference to the same Holy Spirit shows that the Spirit comes from the Father and the Son.

11 If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,

As in our second reading last week, the efficiency of the resurrection is attributed to the Spirit of the Father. The power vivifying the Christian is traced to its ultimate source; the Spirit is the manifestation of the Father’s presence and power in the world since the resurrection of Christ and through it.

the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.

The future tense expresses the role of the Spirit in the end time resurrection of Christians. At His resurrection Christ became, through the Father’s glory, the principle of the raising of Christians.

“But he who raised Christ up from the dead will raise us up also if we do His will and walk in His commandments and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness, not rendering blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching.” [Saint Polycarp of Smyrna (ca. A.D. 135), The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians 2]

12 Consequently, brothers, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.

We have an obligation. We are indebted to God to obey His law.

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.

We must make use of the Spirit which we have received; this is the debt that is owed to Christ. “It is right and clear that we are not obliged to follow Adam, who lived according to the flesh, and who by being the first to sin left us an inheritance of sin (see Genesis 3:13-19). On the contrary, we ought rather to obey the law of Christ who, as was demonstrated above, has redeemed us spiritually from death. We are debtors to Him who has washed our spirits, which had been sullied by carnal sins, in baptism, who has justified us and who has made us children of God (see Galatians 3:24-26).” [The Ambrosiaster (between A.D. 366-384), Commentaries on Thirteen Pauline Epistles Romans 8:12]

Source: Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

Life in the Spirit

SECOND READING—In the Second Reading, St. Paul writes that Jesus’ “Law of love” gives the promise of a new spiritual life. Unlike life in the flesh, “life in the spirit” promises an eternal “rest” in fellowship with God. It is a guarantee of spiritual life that has a present and future reality. However, by living in the Spirit of Christ, Christians can look forward to being alive in the future in a way that makes the present reality a pale counterfeit kind of living.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Holy Spirit has Set us Free

After the fall of Adam and Eve that resulted in the disgraced (absence of grace) condition of all their descendants, original sin became humanity’s inheritance and set two directions or two choices before those of us who were born into this state:

  • Direction #1: We continue to seek the will of God in our lives and fight against the inclination to enter into sin.
  • Direction #2: We allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the selfish desires of the flesh and seek our own life apart from God.
    In essence, this is the choice between supernatural life through the Holy Spirit or the animal life of the flesh.

St. Paul assures us that the Holy Spirit has set the Christian free from bondage to sin.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Christ's New Law vs. Old Law

St. Paul writes that the law of the Spirit, which gives life in Christ has set you free. (v 2)

It is a freedom that comes to us from the new law of the Gospel of Jesus Christ founded on love, grace, and freedom.  These three aspects that are present in the new law were absent in the Old Law:

  • It is the “law of love” because it makes us act out of the love which the Holy Spirit infuses into our souls.
  • It is a “law of grace” because, through it, we receive God’s grace, which gives us the strength to resist sin and to continue to grow in grace through the Sacraments.
  • It is also the “law of freedom” because it sets us free from the condemnation of the old law and the position of servants and raises us to divine sonship as co-heirs with Christ.

This freedom is a direct result of the saving work of God the Son (also see Rom 6:18, 20, 22; 2 Cor 3:17; Gal 5:1, 13; and CCC# 1972).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The New Law and Sanctifying Grace

The source of this life of freedom lived “according to the Spirit” is sanctifying grace.  It is the gift the Christian receives in the Sacrament of Baptism when he/she becomes infused with the life of the Most Holy Trinity through the power of the Holy Spirit to heal [sin] and to sanctify our souls.  It is a grace that permanently adheres to the soul of the Christian.  However, the sanctifying grace that liberates us from the domination of the flesh and places us under the Law of the Spirit does not prevent sin from continuing to threaten our freedom.

St. John Chrysostom warned Christians: “We need to submit to the Spirit, to wholeheartedly commit ourselves and strive to keep the flesh in its place.  By so doing, our flesh will become spiritual again.  Otherwise, if we give in to the easy life, this will lower our soul to the level of the flesh and make it carnal again” (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, #13; also see CCC# 1266 & 1999).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Our Life's Investment

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. (v 11)

By “the One,” Paul is referring to God the Father. The reality is that every day we are alive in our physical bodies is another step toward physical death.  No matter what we “invest” in our earthly bodies, it is a short term investment.  The body, because of the effects of sin, is doomed to physical death and is an instrument of spiritual death.

Through the regenerative waters of our baptism, we are alive in the Spirit of Christ.  He has justified (made righteous in the sight of God) the believer, and we look forward to a final resurrection at the end of time when we will receive new bodies and imperishable bodies.  Living in the Spirit of Christ, Christians look forward to being alive in a way that makes the present reality of life in the flesh a pale counterfeit kind of living.  Investing in “life in the Spirit” is a long term investment that will reap enormous benefits because God stands behind that investment.

In verses 12-13, Paul sums up what he has written so far in this chapter: A fallen human nature no longer dominates the baptized Christian. If the Christian chooses to put the “flesh” to death by continuing to live in the Spirit, he will genuinely have a life as God intended, and that is life in eternal communion with God.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Matthew 11:25-30

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Jesus speaks of his relationship with the Father

GOSPEL—This Gospel begins with Jesus’ shout of joy, not on account of the so-called “wise and learned” who do not recognize his true identity, but for the “little ones” with humble and open hearts who ‘get it.’ A ‘know-it- all’ attitude is a huge block hindering us from receiving God’s self-revelation.

Jesus speaks about the special and unique relationship that exists between him and his Father. It is really a statement about the divinity of Christ. In Jesus we find the Wisdom of God. He reveals the mind and heart of God to us.

The reading ends with Jesus’ beautiful invitation to the “heavy burdened” to come to him. The Pharisees and scribes have made the Law of Moses a heavy burden by adding to it a multitude of legalisms. On another level, faith in Christ helps all of us to deal with the burdens of life.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

Jesus’ laments people’s lack of conversion

GOSPEL—In the Gospel Jesus has been complaining about the lack of conversion in the hearts of his people. To his people much had been given in terms of the understanding of the love of God and God’s expectation of his people. Jesus breaks off his lament to turn to God in prayer.

He begins, “I give you thanks, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.”

Jesus thanks God that his disciples, the “infants” in things religious, are beginning to grasp the nature of God’s vision, while the learned, who profess to be educated in the tradition, are caught in the trappings, the externals.

Matthew emphasises the role of Jesus, who one with God reveals God to us in a new and definitive way. The faithful obedience of the Son is the model for the obedient, steadfast disciple.

Jesus now addresses those who are not yet disciples. Come to me if you feel the weight of religious burdens. I will restore you, bring you peace. The easy yoke, which Jesus offers is to be in partnership with him. Any demands that Jesus makes will be shared. His assurance comes from his experience in the ordinary experiences of life.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permision.
Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau's Reflection

Jesus offers rest from all burdens

GOSPEL—We come to an entirely new section of Matthew’s Gospel. Whereas Chapters 1-10 had developed the theme of Jesus’ authority and of his sharing that authority with his disciples, Chapters 11-28 will show how the false Israel rejected that authority and condemned Jesus to death.  Here, Matthew begins to build on the fact that Jesus will ultimately be rejected by the nation to whom he was sent. Both John the Baptist and Jesus are opposed (Matthew 11:7-19). Many have witnessed the works of Jesus which were meant as a summons to faith in him; they have not accepted that witness insincere repentance (Matthew 11:20-24).

Only the truly humble can actually see that God is at work in the life and ministry of Jesus. lnfants or children are the only ones who have no prior agenda to block their vision ofthe humble Messiah who has come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Those who are like children or infants are open to the possibility that God is at work in Jesus. The yoke of which Jesus speaks is a powerful symbol throughout the Jewish Scriptures. Those who serve under the king are under the yoke (1 Kings 12:4)or under a foreign power (Isaiah 14:25).

The yoke can be a friendly and facilitating situation or it can be a handicap. The rabbis refer to the Law as a blessing that gives rest and reward (Sirach 6:24-25). But to the poor, a yoke is hardly a blessing. Jesus will himself lift the burdens of those who have been under an unfriendly yoke. Not only is Jesus willing to lift our burdens, but he himself is the one who embodies and personifies what it means to be “gentle and humble of heart.” He does not lay any new burdens except that we love one another.

We may not be familiar with the yoke over the shoulders of those in underdeveloped societies who still carry water to their homes from a common well in the center of the village. They know what a burden that is. I once gave pastoral counsel to a young man who had suffered various forms of abuse when he was a child. One of his most vivid memories was that he was made to “haul water”up a steep hill with heavy pails joined with a yoke on his shoulders when he was really a very small boy. He came from a Caribbean island society where husbands and fathers abandoned their families and where mothers exhibited not too subtle hostilities toward all men, including the boys in their own families. The yoke of parental and societal abuse needed to be lifted from his shoulders.

There are many burdens that need to be lifted off our shoulders today: personal and societal forms of sin, abuses of all kinds, deprivations of human dignity, lack of educational opportunities, limited material and spiritual resources, etc. Jesus Christ and the Church must be there in the lifting of all those burdens.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Jesus makes an attitude adjustment

GOSPEL—As Matthew set up his Gospel, the selection we hear today is part of a general presentation of resistance to Jesus’ teaching. Immediately before our opening line, Jesus had reviled the cities that had seen his works but rejected his message. Then with his next breath he said, “I give praise to you, Father … you have revealed [these things] to little ones.” It seems as if his prayer of praise gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ own attitude adjustment, his discernment of how God’s ways were as surprising as rejection was distressing.

However much Jesus would have wanted the authorities to accept him, that wasn’t happening. Instead, simple folk flocked to him. Jesus clearly believed that if he was preaching God’s word, God’s will must have been hidden in those responses. Jesus’ prayer, spoken out loud in the presence of his disciples, revealed how he saw God working – in, in spite of, or far beyond his own hopes and plans.

Thinking of Jesus’ prayer as revelatory of his relationship with God sheds light on his next statement. Scholars refer to Jesus’ declaration about the complete mutual sharing of power and knowledge between Jesus and the Father as a Johannine thunderbolt in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Nowhere else in the synoptic Gospels does Jesus make any claims like these. But, this may say something very different from John’s presentation of Jesus, something much more in tune with the lower Christology of the first three evangelists.

Jesus introduces his description of his intimacy with God saying, “Such has been your gracious will.” As he says that, he seems to be simultaneously discovering and accepting the will of God. Following that line of thought, when Jesus talks about knowing and being known by the Father, he’s not referring to a settled body of knowledge or something like a divine facial recognition program. He’s talking about the knowing that happens in relationship, the kind of knowing that is growing and ongoing.

Seen in this light, Jesus’ prayer in today’s Gospel presents an early and less painful illustration of the kind of discernment Jesus went through at Gethsemane when he asked to avoid the cup but accepted God’s will (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44). This prayer reveals Jesus as the obedient teacher. His search for God’s will as well as his acceptance of it surely taught the disciples more than any sermon he preached. Or, better said, Jesus allowed his disciples to see his own process of prayer put flesh on every sermon he preached.

Taking into account the idea that Jesus was discovering the will of God and accepting it with joy, we can interpret the last verses of today’s Gospel in a new light as well. Jesus says: “Take my yoke … learn from me.” What is the yoke Jesus has just shown us? It is the yoke of learning from the Father, the yoke of unmet expectations countered by the discovery of grace in unexpected places.

Jesus says “I am meek and humble of heart.” In the Gospels, the word “meek” appears only here and in Matthew’s beatitudes. According to Daniel Harrington in The Gospel of Matthew, the meek are the anawim of the Hebrew Scriptures, that is the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized, those who had no one on whom to rely other than their God. What the idea of being humble of heart adds to meekness is the element of choice. To be poor is an involuntary condition and everyone is poor in the face of God. Because the heart is the source of volition, being humble of heart indicates a choice to recognize and accept one’s innate poverty.

When Jesus invited his audience to take his yoke and learn from him, he was inviting them to learn from his prayer, from his discernment and from his rejoicing in God’s surprising will. What he implied without saying so explicitly was that to learn from him meant to learn how to discover, accept and do God’s will. Those who can give themselves to God, who can take on Jesus’ yoke and imitate his humility of heart need no longer worry about carrying out their own agenda or being a success or failure. They can rest in the assurance that God’s gracious will is being accomplished even when, or perhaps especially when, they do not see the results. That is, indeed, an easy yoke for which we need do no more than simply thank God.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Further Study

Verse by verse Commentary

Last week we heard the final instructions which Jesus gave His newly commissioned Apostles before sending them out. Jesus has traveled through Galilee but there has not been a national conversion. Instead, in spite of the miracles He has performed, He has largely been ignored and rejected.

25 At that time Jesus said in reply,

This is a typical Jewish blessing formula, except that Jesus refers to God as “Father.”

“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

Divine communication from God

them to little ones.

Literally, the simple, the uneducated

26 Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.

Jesus has not reached the wise and prudent; His message has been grasped only by a few disciples who are from the peasant class. Jesus has resigned Himself to this because it is God’s will. There is a sense in which Jewish wisdom and learning, which was the knowledge of the Law, was a genuine obstacle to the understanding of the message of Jesus. The more one knew about the Law, the more difficult it was to see that the Messianic revolution would supersede the Law.

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.

Jesus is the absolute Son of the absolute Father. Jesus is the exclusive revelation of the Father. This is a direct contradiction of the Jewish claim to have complete revelation of God in the Law and the Prophets.28

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,

Those who are under the yoke of the Law; the metaphor of the yoke is used in rabbinical writings. The import of the saying in itself is more general than this – the weary and the burdened are the poor who have the Good News proclaimed to them. Jesus invites them because He is one of them.

and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you

The yoke and burden of Jesus are submission to the reign of God. This imposes no further burden on those who accept it, but rather makes it easier to bear the burdens they already have.

and learn from me,

The disciple is to be a life-long learner.

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.”

 

Source: Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

Jesus’ prayer of thanksgiving and his invitation

GOSPEL— In the Gospel reading, Jesus offers a prayer of praise to God the Father and an invitation to humanity to take up His gentle yoke to find “rest” in Him.

Jesus' Prayer to God the Father

In Matthew 11:25-27, Jesus offers a prayer to God the Father.  In verse 25, He gives thanks for those who possess childlike faith.  They are the ones who accepted St. John’s baptism of repentance and who have, by the grace of God the Holy Spirit, experienced the conversion of heart that is necessary to open their minds and hearts to welcome Jesus the promised Messiah who is God the Son.  The Catechism teaches that what moves us toward belief is not just being convinced of revealed truths that are intelligible in the light of our natural reason.  We believe “because the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.”  Moved by the Holy Spirit, our faith is more certain than our human intellect because it is a faith founded on the Word of God who does not lie and is Himself “Truth” (see CCC 154-157).

In His prayer, Jesus reveals a great theological truth not previously known.  He announces that He is the revelation of the Father; He and the Father are One (see CCC 73, 221, 238-42, 2798).  Notice that Jesus offers the Father vocal prayer.  We often focus on meditation and silent prayer and forget the necessity of vocal prayer.  Vocal prayer was an essential element of liturgical life in the Synagogue and the Temple liturgy for the Old Covenant people of God.  It is also essential in New Covenant Christian life, especially in the sacrifice of the Mass (CCC 2701).  This moment was not the first time Jesus prayed aloud to the Father.  He taught His disciples the great vocal prayer that unites us as children in the family of God, the Lord’s Prayer (see Mt 6:9-13).  Jesus will offer a vocal prayer to the Father at the Last Supper, which is usually called Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer” (Jn 14-17; CCC 2604).  He will also pray aloud in the Garden of Gethsemane in His time of agony when His soul cries out to the Father.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus' Invitation to Come to 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 yourselves.  30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Only one other prophet in the Old Testament is called “meek,” and that is Moses (Num 12:3).  Jesus is not only the new Moses, but He is the one who is greater than Moses.  Moses was God’s friend (Ex 34:12, 17), but Jesus is the Son of God (Mt 3:17).  Jesus’ invitation to bear His “yoke” recalls one of the reoccurring images of the Old Testament prophets for the people in covenant union with God: the image of domesticated animals.  Domesticated animals like oxen either respond obediently or resist the “yoke” of their master, just as the covenant people either respond in obedience to the commands of Yahweh or stubbornly resist (see the complete chart “Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets” in the chart section).

Image Part I
Covenant relationship
Part II
Rebellion
Part III
Redemptive Judgment
Part IV
Restoration Fulfilled
Animals Domesticated animals obedient to the Master’s yoke Resist the yoke;
run away and become wild
Ravaged by wild
beasts/birds of prey
Rescued by
their Master
Examples in Scripture Mic 4:13;
Is 40:10-11; 65:25;
Ez 34:15-16
Ex 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9;
Dt 9:6, 13;
Is 50:6; 53:6;
Jer 5:5d-6; 8:6b-7; 23:1-2;
Ez 19:1-9
Is 50:7;
Jer 8:15-17; 50:6-7;
Hos 8:1-14; 13:6-8
Mt 11:28-30;
Jn 1:29, 36; 10:1-18;
Heb 3:20;
Rev 5:6, 13; 7:9-17; 14:1-10; 19:2-9; 21:9-23; 22:1-3

In the Old Testament, God spoke through His prophets, often accusing the rebellious Israelites of being “stiff-necked “Stiff-necked” refers to animals like oxen that strain against their yoke.  These animals stubbornly resist being guided by their master, like the Israelites who refused to be obedient to the Law of God their divine Master (see Ex 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9; Dt 9:6, 13; 10:16; 2 Chr 30:8; Acts 7:51).

Jesus makes a promise to us in His invitation in this passage to “Come” and to take up His “yoke of obedience.”  He promises that His yoke will not cause us distress, and we will find “rest” in Him.  Jesus’ promise of “rest” recalls two events:

  1. the seventh day of Creation (see Gen 2:1-3).
  2. the command concerning the Sabbath obligation for the members of the Sinai Covenant (Ex 20:8-11; 34:21; 35:1-3; Dt 5:12-15).

The day God rested on the seventh day of Creation and the Sinai Covenant obligation of the Sabbath rest are significant links to Jesus’ invitation and promise in Matthew 11:28-30.  On the seventh day of Creation, God “rested” because He completed His work of Creation.  The Sabbath observance became an obligation of the Sinai Covenant as a day of “rest.”  The purpose of the Sabbath obligation was for members of God’s covenant family to enter into His “rest” and to have fellowship/communion with Him just as Adam and Eve had fellowship with God on the seventh day of Creation.

Jesus’ promise of “rest” in verse 29 is an allusion to the New Covenant Sabbath.  The Hebrew word for the seventh day of the week is the noun sabbat, and is from the Hebrew root sbt [sabat], the verb which means “to rest” or “to cease.”  The combination sabbat sabbaton, “Sabbath of complete rest,” is used for the seventh day in Exodus 32:5 and Leviticus 23:3, for the feast of Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement] in Leviticus 16:3-12; 23:32, for the feast of Trumpets in Leviticus 23:24, and the Sabbath year in Leviticus 25:4 (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5, “Sabbath,” page 849).  For Christians, it is an invitation that has a present and a future reality:

  • The present is in the Eucharist that joins us to the life of Christ and gives us “rest” that is peace with God.
  • The future is when, at the end of our earthly lives, we enter into our eternal “rest” with the Most Holy Trinity in heaven.

It is “life in the Spirit” that makes both the present and future “rest” possible for the believer. Jesus’ His invitation to “come” to Him leads to His promise that those who come to Him and obediently “wear His yoke” (follow the teachings of Jesus “the Master”) will have “rest”/fellowship/communion with God the Son.  Jesus’ “yoke” is easy (verse 30) because it is His law of love and “life in the Spirit” through which we enter into the “rest” of His kingdom (Jn 13:34-35; 15:9-12).  You cannot profess belief without demonstrating your faith in obedience to the gentle “yoke” of the Savior.

At the Last Supper, Jesus told His first-century disciples and us: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” and St. John repeated this truth when he wrote: The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments.  Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.  This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to live as he lived (1 Jn 2:3-6).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

We need to unload our burdens before the Lord

by Fr. Anthony Kadavil

One of the effects of Worship for many of us is that it gives us a time for rest and refreshment, when we let the overheated radiators of our hectic lives cool down before the Lord. This is especially true when we unload the burdens of our sins and worries on the altar and offer them to God during the Holy Mass. But whether we are in Church, alone in our quiet spot where we come before God each day, in our homes, or in the homes of our friends and neighbors, we find that prayer and Christian fellowship bring us the rest and refreshment that we all need so much. There is nothing quite like coming to the Lord and setting aside our burdens for a while – nothing quite like having our batteries recharged, our radiators cooled down, and our spirits lifted.

Jesus promises us rest from the burdens that we carry — rest from the burdens of sins, legalism, and judgment, from the weight of anxiety and worry, from the yoke of unrewarding labor, and from the endless labor for that which cannot satisfy. The absolution and forgiveness, which, as repentant sinners, we receive in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, take away our spiritual burden and enable us to share the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Life’s greatest burden is not having too much to do, nor having too much demanding our attention and care. Some of the happiest folk are the busiest and those who care the most. Rather, the greatest burden we have is our constant engagement with the trivial and the unimportant, with the temporary and the passing, and with the ultimately uncontrollable and unpredictable. The issue in life is not whether we shall be burdened, but with what we shall be burdened.

The question is not “Shall we be yoked?” but “To what and with whom shall we be yoked?” Jesus has no interest in unburdening us from our exaggerated self-esteem and from other modern infatuations (which are themselves debilitating burdens), in order to leave us with nothing to carry, no work to do. Instead, Jesus is interested in lifting off our backs the burdens that drain us and suck the life out of us, so that he can place around our necks his own yoke, his burden, that brings to us and to others through us, new life, new energy, new joy.

God’s incomparable, compassionate forgiveness is a gift that releases us into life with God as responsible human beings who want to grow deeper in love and joyful obedience. We are called not only to find peace, refreshment and rest for ourselves, but also to live the kind of life through which others, too, may find God’s peace, God’s refreshing grace, and the joy of placing their lives in God’s hands.

Visit Fr. Tony’s Homilies each week for an introduction to the Sunday readings, scripture lessons, homily starter anecdotes, a summary of each of the scripture readings, and Gospel exegesis. Fr. Tony’s Life Messages have be used with permission.

Praying with the Word

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart more like yours.

Faith Sharing Questions

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way? Which part of the Passion story speaks to you most this year? Why?

2. What makes you “shout for joy”?

3. What might cause us or others to live self-sufficient lives independent of God?

4. Can you name any heavy burden or cross that has turned out to be a blessing?

5. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that he is gentle and humble of heart. Who models this spirit for you? What can help us grow in gentleness and humility?

6. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Discussion Questions

by Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau

1. What are the burdens which you need to have lifted from your shoulders? What roledoes Jesus have in lifting those burdens? Do you realize that the burdens will only belifted if you acknowledge them and if you open yourself to the power of Jesus in yourlife? How are you going to begin doing that?

2. What are some of the burdens that the Church should be helping to lift from the shoulders of humanity? Do you see your parish or your small Christian community doing any of the lifting? Give some examples of the kinds of burdens that can be lifted inJesus’name by those with whom you have fellowship.

3. What can you do to make the role of Jesus more visible in your life? Do youhave any suggestions for a more active witness to the gentle and humble power of Christ so that people might see that he has lifted your burdens?

© 2017 Rev. Clement D. Thibodeau. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Scripture Study Questions

by Vince Contreras

1. In the first reading, why and how did the woman of Shunem show hospitality to the prophet Elisha? How was she rewarded? What other biblical figure does this remind you of? (see Luke 1:5-25)

2. In the second reading, what are the principal effects of Baptism? What is Paul alluding to when he describes this mystery? How does verse 11 relate to the Gospel reading for this Sunday?

3. In the Gospel reading, what is the standard that Jesus sets forth as a requirement for being his disciple? What is the price? What is the reward?

4. What image comes to mind of those who receive Jesus’ disciples as if they were receiving him? How is this like receiving a king’s envoy or the ambassador from a head of state?

5. Who are the “little ones” in this verse? Why do you think Jesus refers to them in this way?

6. What kinds of divisions has Jesus caused in your life? What would you do if Jesus asked you to turn away from or leave those you love most?

7. How has the paradox of this verse worked itself out in your life? If you do not know, what might ”losing your life” for Jesus’ sake mean for you?

© 2017 Vince Contreras. Used with permission.

Responding to God’s Word

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Tackle with prayer and effort one ‘flesh attitude’ that hinders your spiritual growth. Give your burdens to Christ. Reach out to someone who is carrying a heavy burden.

Closing Prayer

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

My God, I want to have confidence in your love, but so many things seem to hold me back: past wounds, past hurts, past betrayals, past sins—mine and others’. Open my eyes. Open my heart. Enable me to take the leap of faith that is needed now. Holiness isn’t a matter of starting to love you some time in the future, or even tomorrow. I don’t have to wait until I become a better person, more worthy, more virtuous.It’s a matter of trusting in your mercy today, just as I am. You showed this to the saints; show me, too, and give me a spirit of great confidence. I ask this through your beloved Son, our merciful Saviour. Amen. — Elizabeth Ruth Obbard (For Trust And Confidence In God)

I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God. — Helen Keller

SUNDAY VOICES

Video by Larry Broding. Visit Word-Sunday.com website for detailed commentary and other resources regarding the readings for this Sunday.


Introduction to 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time readings

INTRODUCTION — Today’s hopeful readings are full of promise. These words speak to people coming out of exile, to Jesus’ followers who are burdened, to those struggling to live as early Christians. Living in a time when we are burdened by information, negative or misleading, or disinformation as well as serious divisions and threats, we, too, need encouragement. We seek honorable leaders and words we can trust. Do we allow God’s word to be a true source of good news for us? What would happen if we allowed ourselves to accept Jesus’ invitation to come to him for rest?

PENITENTIAL ACT

Lord Jesus, you recognized that your followers were heavily burdened: Lord, have mercy. Christ Jesus, you invited them to come to you and learn from you: Christ, have mercy. Lord Jesus, you offer the same invitation to us, who are also burdened: Lord, have mercy.

NCR SUNDAY RESOURCESJoan DeMerchant


Fear and love

EXCERPT – Fear can paralyze us. Fear can undo the good that we are trying to accomplish. That is why Jesus’ words in today’s gospel are so important. Jesus tells us that if we come to him, if we place our fear into his hands, he will put our souls at rest. He will calm our hearts. Now notice that Jesus does not promise to take the causes of our fear away or to lift the burdens from our shoulders. But he says that if we trust him, we can carry those burdens, because his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

BUILDING ON THE WORDFr. George Sigma


Why you should pray to God, especially in times of need

EXCERPT — In the first reading, from Zechariah, the prophet describes a time of peace and holiness. As his community had experienced invasion, war and exile, Zechariah prophesies that a divine warrior king will dismantle armies and destroy weapons to bring peace throughout the world. Sometimes, the divine warrior imagery in the Old Testament seems problematic in its depiction of a violent God. While these concerns are valid and caution is needed when wrestling with such images, for communities who endured hardship, these images could be a saving grace and a reflection of divine love.

AMERICA MAGAZINEJamie Waters


Does the Church you know lift your burdens or does it impose heavier ones on your shoulders?

EXCERPT – Does the Church you know lift your burdens or does it impose heavier ones on your shoulders? When you come from having celebrated the Liturgy of the Eucharist on Sunday,do you feel lighter, less weighed down, better able to cope with the ordinary burdens of life? Or do you come away with a renewal of guilt, with a fresh awareness of shame, with more unworthiness than when you went in? Jesus promises that if we go to him, we will find rest for our souls. The Church believes and teaches that Jesus can be encountered in the fellowship of the believing community, in the word proclaimed in the assembly of faith, in the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ. We have encountered Jesus when we went to church!

ECHOING GOD’S WORDRev. Clement D. Thimbodeau (1932-2017)


Setting free the flesh

EXCERPT – Mere flesh, sarx, the debased, sin-ruled body, is earth-bound human existence left to itself. Flesh, in this sense, is dominated by the organic drives for self-maintenance and enhancement, even at the expense of others, until the force of death holds sway… Without civic prohibitions, we would “take any one as a sexual object, kill any rival or anyone else who stands in the way, and carry off any of the other’s belongings.” …The life [Paul] knew, however, transcended the world of mere flesh. The body inspirited could become a temple of eternal promise. It could sing of love, play in joy, console with gentle compassion, touch with kindness—all those gifts of the Spirit that make the human body revelatory of God.

SUNDAY WEB SITEFather John Kavanaugh, SJ

THIS WEEK’S CATECHISM EXCERPTS

Visit Doctrinal Homily Outlines for further commentary and catechetical connections.

“By using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the homilist can help his people integrate the word of God, the faith of the Church, the moral demands of the Gospel, and their personal and liturgical spirituality.”

From the Homiletic Directory
  • CCC 514-521: knowledge of mysteries of Christ, communion in his mysteries
  • CCC 238-242: the Father is revealed by the Son
  • CCC 989-990: the resurrection of the body

Knowledge of mysteries of Christ, communion in his mysteries

I. CHRIST’S WHOLE LIFE IS MYSTERY

514 Many things about Jesus of interest to human curiosity do not figure in the Gospels. Almost nothing is said about his hidden life at Nazareth, and even a great part of his public life is not recounted.172 What is written in the Gospels was set down there “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”173

515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith174 and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of his mystery.175 His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”176 His humanity appeared as “sacrament”, that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission.

Characteristics common to Jesus’ mysteries

516 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”177 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. . . among us”.178

517 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross,179 but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:

– already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;180

– in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;181

– in his word which purifies its hearers;182

– in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;183

– and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.184

518 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation:

When Christ became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in himself the long history of mankind and procured for us a “short cut” to salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam, that is, being in the image and likeness of God, we might recover in Christ Jesus.185 For this reason Christ experienced all the stages of life, thereby giving communion with God to all men.186

Our communion in the mysteries of Jesus

519 All Christ’s riches “are for every individual and are everybody’s property.”187 Christ did not live his life for himself but for us, from his Incarnation “for us men and for our salvation” to his death “for our sins” and Resurrection “for our justification”.188 He is still “our advocate with the Father”, who “always lives to make intercession” for us.189 He remains ever “in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing before him all that he lived and suffered for us.”190

520 In all of his life Jesus presents himself as our model. He is “the perfect man”,191 who invites us to become his disciples and follow him. In humbling himself, he has given us an example to imitate, through his prayer he draws us to pray, and by his poverty he calls us to accept freely the privation and persecutions that may come our way.192

521 Christ enables us to live in him all that he himself lived, and he lives it in us. “By his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man.”193 We are called only to become one with him, for he enables us as the members of his Body to share in what he lived for us in his flesh as our model:

We must continue to accomplish in ourselves the stages of Jesus’ life and his mysteries and often to beg him to perfect and realize them in us and in his whole Church. . . For it is the plan of the Son of God to make us and the whole Church partake in his mysteries and to extend them to and continue them in us and in his whole Church. This is his plan for fulfilling his mysteries in us.194

The Father is revealed by the Son

The baptism of Jesus

238 Many religions invoke God as “Father”. The deity is often considered the “father of gods and of men”. In Israel, God is called “Father” inasmuch as he is Creator of the world.59 Even more, God is Father because of the covenant and the gift of the law to Israel, “his first-born son”.60 God is also called the Father of the king of Israel. Most especially he is “the Father of the poor”, of the orphaned and the widowed, who are under his loving protection.61

239 By calling God “Father”, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood,62 which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard:63 no one is father as God is Father.

240 Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard-of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father in relation to his only Son, who is eternally Son only in relation to his Father: “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.”64

241 For this reason the apostles confess Jesus to be the Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”; as “the image of the invisible God”; as the “radiance of the glory of God and the very stamp of his nature”.65

242 Following this apostolic tradition, the Church confessed at the first ecumenical council at Nicaea (325) that the Son is “consubstantial” with the Father, that is, one only God with him.66 The second ecumenical council, held at Constantinople in 381, kept this expression in its formulation of the Nicene Creed and confessed “the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father”.67

The resurrection of the body

989 We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.534 Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity:

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 who dwells in you.535

990 The term “flesh” refers to man in his state of weakness and mortality.536 The “resurrection of the flesh” (the literal formulation of the Apostles’ Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our “mortal body” will come to life again.537


SOURCES/CREDITS:
Fr. Tobin Commentary Text: ©2019 Fr. Eamon Tobin, Commentaries & Faith Sharing PDF Handout. Images, videos, scripture verses, and other material which accompany Fr. Tobin’s text are curated by LectioTube.com. They do not necessarily reflect Fr. Tobin’s opinions or preferences. Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission.
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