02 July 2011

Dominica Quartadecima Per Annum

First Reading, Zechariah 9:9-10
A sign of contradiction is prophesied here since the prophet Zechariah speaks of a king who “shall proclaim peace to the nations”. No longer are prophecies coming forth which deal specifically with the nation of Israel. It was thought that the Messiah would be a mighty warrior and is now prophesied here as “meek”. Riding on a donkey is a reminder of Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 21:2-9). Indeed there are prophetic verses in Scripture which describe the Saviour as mighty and powerful but no one other than Jesus has fulfilled the prophecy of a Messiah with the combination of mightiness and lowliness. Matthew 21:2 mentions two animals, an ass and a colt as does this Reading. The Septuagint defines the two as a yoked animal and a young foal. The king’s dominion will be “to the ends of the earth”. This alludes to the extensive limits of the Promised Land but is really understood to mean Christ’s Kingdom.

Second Reading, Romans 8:9, 11-13
It helps to clear up any misconceptions about what Saint Paul means by “flesh”. He is not referring to the natural needs of the human body. Our bodies have needs which cannot be ignored. Our bodies thirst and hunger and thus are in need of food, drink, and sometimes medical attention. Our bodies, like our souls are a creation of the all-good God. So what is flesh? Basically it is an abuse of God’s gifts and a perversion of the natural law. Sexual intimacy between a husband and wife is a gift from God; but when that intimacy ventures off into areas such as lustful thoughts, adultery, pre-marital sex, reading pornographic material or watching explicit movies, then these would be considered desires of the flesh. Work is a gift from God. Earning a living and climbing the corporate ladder falls well within the parameters of God’s holy plan; but if that climb should turn into a lust for power and material wealth, then that is a desire of the flesh. These are only some examples. Some thoughts or desires of the flesh may very well be unavoidable because they are the result of our own concupiscence. But stopping those thoughts from ever entering our minds is not what’s important since that is nearly impossible; but what’s important is a quick remedy. Today, some of these excesses described here are so commonplace in our culture that much of the population has almost become desensitized. The remedy is the Spirit of Christ dwelling within us. He is our Source for living in the spirit and being all that God made us to be. The Eucharist, a daily prayer life and spiritual reading are all great weapons for thwarting off any unhealthy passions. Recall the words of Jesus: “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

Gospel, Matthew 11:25-30
The “wise and the learned” as mentioned here are likely those who set their hearts on the rewards of this life. It has nothing to do with anyone’s level of intelligence or education. The “little ones” are those who cultivate a humble heart, understanding the need for dependence on the Lord. Jesus defines His yoke as easy and His burden light. Actually for us, because of our weak nature, the yoke is quite heavy and burdensome; but our Lord makes it easy and less burdensome because He helps us to bear it as described by the prophet Hosea: “I will draw them with the cords of Adam, with the bands of love; and I will be to them as one that takes off the yoke on their jaws” (Hosea 11:4). Saint Bernard of Clairvaux explains it this way: “Our Saviour sweetens by the spiritual unction of His grace, all the crosses, penances, and mortifications of religious souls.” Saint Augustine of Canterbury testifies that before he knew the power of grace, he could never comprehend what chastity was, nor believe that anyone was capable of practicing it; but the grace of God renders all things easy. In addition to these thoughts from these great saints, it can certainly be said that trust in God which is nurtured through prayer leads to inner peace and makes all burdens, crosses and inconveniences light.