July 6, 2014 – Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“His kingdom will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” With those words Zechariah concludes our first reading, a prophecy of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, and of His Kingdom. The Book of Zechariah was written six centuries before the birth of Christ, but the verses of our first reading connect us to everything completely.
The “River” which is referenced is the Euphrates River. In a sense that river is close to the beginning of everything in our history and tradition. In Genesis it states that a river flowed through the Garden of Eden and then divided into four rivers. The fourth of those rivers is the Euphrates (Genesis 2:10). In two verses Zechariah connects the creation to the coming of Jesus. The Lord’s reign will be universal and will encompass the entire earth. We are called to “rejoice heartily” and to “shout for joy.”
Stewardship can be somewhat of an all-encompassing term. Most of us understand that Jesus called us to be stewards of everything we have and everything we are, and to use a portion of those gifts to build the Kingdom of God. Stewardship also means that we need to try to grasp and comprehend our faith and everything it entails. The readings on this 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time span the depth and breadth of our faith. As indicated, the first reading connects the beginning to the end.
In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, our second reading, Paul calls our attention to another important feature of our faith. It is our spiritual lives which are key, not the reality of our bodies. At our Baptism we were imbued with the Holy Spirit. From that moment we were filled with a spirit more powerful than the flesh. There is a caution in this belief, however. Paul and others continually point out the weakness of the Pharisees. They were too spiritually proud — that is, there was a self righteousness among them which resulted from them believing that they were spiritually fulfilled while others were not. An important understanding of stewardship is that we must constantly strive to be a spiritual people, while at the same time not thinking we are better than anyone else. The secret is to be a servant — to serve, but not to feel superior about it.
The Gospel from Matthew not only relates to the first reading, but it reminds us of how much the Lord loves us.
The humble description of the Messiah’s entrance into Jerusalem described in the first reading: “meek and riding on a donkey,” is fulfilled by the Lord’s description of Himself: “For I am gentle and lowly in heart.” One of the characteristics of Jesus which is not easy for many of us to emulate is His absolute humility. Yet, it is this humility, this understanding of what it means to love and to help others, which allows Him to be our Savior and our Redemption and our strength. If we do allow Jesus to take our burdens, to share in our yokes, we will find rest and comfort in His everlasting presence and love. At the World Youth Day in Brazil last year Pope Francis declared, “The Cross of Christ bears the suffering and the sin of mankind, including our own. Jesus accepts all this with open arms, bearing on His shoulders our crosses and saying to us: “Have courage! You do not carry your cross alone! I carry it with you. I have overcome death and I have come to give you hope, to give you life’ (John 3:16).”