14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.
Zechariah 9:9-10 – Romans 8:9, 11-13 – Matthew 11:25-30.
I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children (Mt 11:25). Let me begin to unpack these words of Our Lord by telling you the story of a man who was reflecting on them with his little boy on their way home after Mass. He asked his son, “Who do you think the priest was talking to when He read that passage… was he talking to the children in the church or to the grown-ups?” The little boy paused, thought for a moment, and then he replied, “I think he was talking to himself!”. Why did the little boy say that? Because he’d heard, “I bless you, Father…” Whenever we pay attention to the Word of God, the Lord uses the opportunity to instruct us who are His ‘little children’ (Jn 13:33).
What is being revealed to us in today’s Readings? I will make a start on answering that question with a story from Aesop’s Fables entitled “The North Wind and the Sun”. The fable goes like this. There was a dispute between the North Wind and the Sun about which of them was the stronger. While this dispute was going on, a traveller wearing a cloak was passing along a road beneath them. The North Wind and the Sun saw him, and agreed between themselves that the one who could part the traveller from his cloak would be the stronger. The North Wind was the first to have a ‘go’. It howled around the traveller and blasted him with his chill from the North. With the first gusts of wind, the traveller’s cloak whipped around his body and nearly blew away, but the traveller grabbed it, clutched it in his fists and refused to let go. No matter how hard and how furiously the North Wind blew, the traveller held on to his cloak. Then it was the turn of the Sun to part the traveller from his cloak. The Sun began to shine. At first his rays and beams were gentle, and the traveller relaxed in the welcome warmth after the bitter cold of the North Wind. As time passed and as the sun’s rays grew warmer and warmer, the traveller unfastened his cloak. Finally, he became so warm that he himself took the cloak off. The Sun won the competition, not because he roasted the traveller, but because he employed gentle and kind means to get the traveller to do what he wanted. The use of gentleness and kindness to get a result is far more effective than the use of force or violence. And that, I suggest, is one of the lessons we can take from today’s first reading.
Gentleness and kindness: Zechariah prophesied concerning the King who was coming to rescue His people. He would be different from the kings of the earth. The word of God stated that the King would be humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. This beautiful expression indicated how gentle and humble the long-anticipated King of Kings would be. Earthly kings were expected to ride on horses and in chariots, the vehicles of war in those days; but the victorious King leading us to freedom from evil, sin and death would ride in triumph on a donkey, not just any donkey but on a very young one, tender in years. The Lord Jesus fulfilled that prophecy to the letter in His triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Mt 21:2-7).
The Lord Jesus often reached out to people in His time on earth by touching the lives of people positively, as did the Sun in the fable to win his wager with the North Wind. Jesus continues to manifest Himself and to reach out with warmth and gentle persuasion to each and every one of us with His still, small voice (1K 19:12) in our time.
We can persuade people of the things that have lasting value by approaching them gently, kindly and patiently. The application of physical force or mental pressure to make people accept the Church’s experience of salvation history would be intolerable, inappropriate and ineffective. In adopting a gentle, kindly and respectful approach to people wherever possible, as Christ did, we may win their souls for Christ. He was not only the “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild”. He is the Truth, and He always spoke the truth, so He called out evil for what it was (cf. Mt 23:16, 17, 27, 33; Lk 11:44.)
Humility is a virtue that needs to be cultivated in order to become victorious, for “pride goes before a fall”, as the proverb has it. In Zechariah’s prophesy about the victorious king, he identified him in terms of humility. That Victorious King is our Lord Jesus Christ, about whom St. Paul wrote as follows: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death” (Phil 2:5-8a). We have to stoop to conquer. Humility brings us down to earth, and once there, we can reach out to the great mass of ordinary people and be able to touch their lives positively with the Good News. Humility disposes us to remain strong in the face of the storms of life because we are “down to earth”; or, to put it another way, we are rooted deep in the rock – that Rock who is Jesus Christ (Ps 62:2; Is 26:4). When you stay close to Jesus, as the years go by you will come to be more and more like Him; and if you endure to the end, you will be saved (Mt 24:13).
Childlikeness is mentioned In the gospel by Jesus. He is not talking here about childishness. Childlikeness is characterized by innocence, trustfulness and honesty. Someone who is childlike is open to being taught by God and is therefore someone to whom the Lord will reveal the mysteries. Are you ready to be taught by God? Do you count yourself among those ‘little children’ of God? Then cultivate those virtues of trust, honesty and childlikeness! For a start, try repeating ‘O Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.’ and placing yourself entirely in His hands. You’ll be amazed at the spiritual fruit your trust produces.
Holiness: In the 2nd reading, St Paul emphasised that our interests should not be in the unspiritual [matters] but in the spiritual. Since we have received the Spirit of God, we should humble ourselves and, like children, place our total trust in the Father. Allow yourself to be moved by the Holy Spirit and thus to live a spiritual and a holy life. Holiness will ultimately give you victory over sin and death.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, our gentle, kind and humble King, help us to do Your will by serving You in truth, holiness and virtue, so that the evil in us and in the world may be defeated. Amen. God bless you.