14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Zechariah provides this weekend’s first biblical reading. Zechariah was of the priestly caste and was born in Babylon during the time when many Jews were in forced exile in the Babylonian capital. When the exile ended, due to political changes and Persia’s subjugation of Babylonia, he went to the Holy Land with his grandfather.
It might be assumed that he was either a youth or a young adult when he made this trip, as few grandparents at the time lived long enough to see their grandchildren reach middle age.
Whatever his age, unless he was an infant too young to notice, and this is unlikely, he would have seen, and probably was part of, the enthusiasm of the people as they quit the despised Babylon and began their journey home.
Finally in the Holy Land, he devoted himself to the care and study of the Scriptures. Obviously, he saw himself, and was regarded, as a prophet. He met a violent death, being murdered, apparently, in the temple precincts themselves.
This weekend’s reading captures this great joy and enthusiasm of the exiles as they came upon their homeland. It was a holy joy, based on the thought that God had rescued them. He will continue to protect them. One day, God will send a messiah who will enter the holy city of Jerusalem with great humility, seated on an ass.
This image was to be a part of the event of Palm Sunday, actually to occur many centuries later when Jesus entered Jerusalem.
St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans provides the second reading. In it, Paul repeats the theme so often given in his writings. Christians not only follow Christ, or join Christ in their own walks through life, but the Lord becomes part of them. They become part of Jesus. Christian discipleship forges this strong a bond.
The last reading is from St. Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus continually encountered persons very well educated in the Scriptures, but often they opposed the Lord. It was a problem. In the minds of many at the time, they were regarded as the wisest in the society.
Jesus had to insist that the wisest in popular consensus were not the wisest after all. By contrast, the Lord says that humble and innocent children often can better see profound truths.
As to the critics, Jesus does not leave them to drown in the sea of their own pride. Rather, the Lord reaches to them. The lesson is strong. God offers salvation even to those who reject it or see no need for it. But, they still must respond to this offer.
The Gospel this weekend presents facts indispensable to Christian doctrine and to achieving Christian holiness. None of us, in the last analysis, is that insightful. Original sin has robbed us of good vision. We all see a world, but it is a distorted and unclear image. We are myopic, thinking only of ourselves. To compound it all, we deny, or are oblivious to, our inadequacy. We exaggerate ourselves, making ourselves greater than we are.
We deceive ourselves. We trick ourselves into thinking that we can find the way on our own. We cannot. Only God can show the way.
Mercifully, happily for us, God shows us the way in Jesus. Jesus not only leads us, but also gives us divine life itself. As true believers, we live in Jesus, and the Lord lives in us.
The key to attaining this relationship is our humility, our trust in God.
We do not have to yearn for God without relief. God awaits our call. He loves us with an everlasting, perfect love. He will come to us. Thus, with Zechariah, we can rejoice that the Lord comes to us.
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