FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2020)
Psalms 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14
Romans 8:9, 11-13
The disciples and those listening to Jesus might have been more pleased had Jesus said: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth” [for you have revealed all things to the brightest and best that the world has to offer!]. That might have made many more people eager to join the group, and it surely would have buoyed the spirits of the disciples. But that was not what Jesus said. Indeed, He pretty much says the opposite, stating that God has hidden “these things from the wise and the learned” [Scribes? Pharisees?], and “you have revealed them to little ones,” the less than brilliant, or the children who have so much to learn. Elsewhere, Jesus has already told them that “unless you become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus goes on in our gospel passage to speak about Himself as “meek and humble of heart,” and it is precisely for that reason that the weary and overburdened can come to Him and find “rest.” The importance of “meekness” is introduced to us in the first reading from the prophet Zechariah, a passage often read in our celebration of Holy Thursday: “your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” Note that the king comes on a colt, a young male animal not more than four years of age, and inexperienced. The description is more than an allusion to the “little ones” of the gospel.
Sr. Mary McGone reminds us that “in Jesus’ day, meekness was a quality sought in slaves; one biblical dictionary describes it as ‘enduring all things with an even temper, free from haughty self-sufficiency, tender of spirit.’ Meekness is not macho.” It is safe to conclude, that the one who Jesus came to reveal, God the Father, the one who “handed all things over to Jesus,” also posesses this essential quality of meekness. The relationship that Jesus has with the Father is special, and is so clearly seen in that special prayer that Jesus taught us: “Our Father,” our “abba,” our daddy.
All of this talk about meekness surely inflamed the powers that be, for “it was a threat to every reign of injustice,” and, as McGone also says, “arrogant people would have been quick to understand this seemingly simple statement as a biting criticism of their behavior and the way of thinking behind their lifestyle.” Arrogant people of all times should be challenged by this simple quote of Jesus. Far too often, our Church and our world are populated by arrogant people who feel they have all the answers, are fully self-sufficient, and uninterested in the thoughts or feelings of others. If meekness was the guiding principle for a parish, diocese, or church, what would those institutions look like? Would their leaders look like kings or potentates, or would their lives truly resemble that of the “little ones” of whom Jesus speaks?
Society teaches us to look out for number one, accumulate as much wealth as you possibly can, strive to get ahead. It is not a proponent of humility and meekness. A Christian’s life gets no meaning from status, wealth or even health. A Christian’s true worth is to be found in one’s relationship with one another and with God. It is the life of the Spirit who dwells within us that is most important, St. Paul tells us in our second reading. We “are not in the flesh,” Paul reminds us, “if only the Spirit of God dwells in you…. 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.” It is to the meek and humble that the Spirit is given.
We need to pray to be like the “little ones” in today’s gospel. We need to be men and women who admit to having so much to learn, and who, like children who are dependent on their parents, depend upon God for all that truly matters. We, too, are called to be meek and humble that the mysteries of God’s kingdom might be revealed to us, and that we might live our lives, “not according to the flesh,” but according to the Spirit who dwells within us. It is that Spirit that will draw all of us “who labor and are burdened” to Jesus, who reminds us that only He and His Father can give us the peace and the rest that we seek. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” says Jesus, “for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”