July 9, 2017 — Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Those comforting words from our Lord in today’s Gospel from St. Matthew are quoted over and over, and rightfully so. Jesus is our savior, our redeemer, and it is He who provides us with the hope and understanding that comes from claiming Him as a friend and a guide and companion. There is much deeper meaning behind this invitation that we will examine later in this reflection.
The First Reading comes to us from the Book of Zechariah from the Old Testament. The name Zechariah alone gives us an indication of his significance; Zechariah means “remembered of the Lord.” Historians and scripture scholars believe that Zechariah was among the captives who returned from Babylon around 585 B.C. Considered one of the minor prophets, his writings are filled with predictions (prophecies) relating to Christ and His Kingdom.
Today’s reading certainly gives us the same picture of Jesus entering Jerusalem we hear during the reading of the Passion on Palm Sunday. “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt.” How many times have we seen that image and heard the shouts of ‘Hosanna’?
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was triumphal in every way, but perhaps not in the ways to which people were accustomed. When Julius Caesar returned in victory from Gaul, the parade lasted three days. Clearly Jesus entrance would be (and was) much more humble, and it would be clear (and should have been with a proper reading of this prophecy) that Jesus was a different kind of King.
Jesus is a spiritual leader and king. St. Paul emphasizes that in the Second Reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul says, “You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Because we are here in the flesh, we sometimes lose sight of this spiritual aspect of our lives. Because Jesus lives in us, because the Spirit is within us, Paul maintains that our body (the flesh) is dead, but the Spirit lives and reigns. We live out the Lord’s salvation through His resurrection.
When we were imbued with the Spirit, the body had to die. That is most easily understood in terms of conversion. We know what conversion means, but we may not dwell on it as much as we might. Conversion, for example, is at the heart of the idea of stewardship. For us as Catholics conversion is not a one-time occurrence; it is something that should happen every day, perhaps even more than once a day.
Paul explains to the Romans, and to us, that not only are we saved by the work of Spirit, but we also must accept the Spirit and walk by it if we wish to grow in holiness (ongoing conversion). He is saying that “…if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Jesus is our spiritual king. The Lord and the Spirit are the key to everlasting life for us.
In the introduction we made reference to Jesus’ words in the Gospel, but He had more to say. The full reading is, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Jesus does not say that we can merely hand our burdens to Him. He does assure us that He will share them with us. We are called to discipleship, and part of that is a willingness to learn, and to follow. Jesus had the heart of a servant, and we are called to seek a similar role. Sharing our burdens with the Lord is a gift offered to us, and it will be indeed rest for our souls. What makes the burden light or lighter is the fact that Jesus bears it with us, but we must be willing to offer it to Him and accept His help.