7-9-2017 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jul 10, 2017
14th Sunday in OT / A / 2017
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
We sometimes refer to Christ as "king," but what do we mean by that? What kind of "king" is Jesus Christ? Does it mean "domination" on his part, or "subservience" on our part? And when Jesus says "take my yoke upon you," what does that mean? Is it a burden, or a blessing? Let’s take a look at our readings today—and see what they say.
We begin with the prophet Zechariah, our first reading. The prophet looks ahead to a time when the Davidic king will return, restore Israel, and establish "right relationship" between God and humanity. What the prophet envisions is a return to Eden, to paradise, when humanity lived in complete harmony with God, with nature, and with each other.
For Israel, the vision of this "peaceable kingdom" came to fulfillment, first of all, with David—King David, around 1000 BC. The prophet Nathan anointed David as king and prophesied that his throne would last forever—a new beginning, a new creation, a new order.
But the Davidic kingship did not last forever, and that brings us to the prophet Zechariah, who lived about 500 years after David. Israel was just returning from exile in Babylon. As Jerusalem began to arise phoenix-like from its ashes, Zechariah once again plants the seeds of hope. He says in our reading today, "Rejoice, heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you, a just savior is he!" Words of consolation and hope for a broken people, who still longed for the Davidic king, the Messiah who would bring lasting peace and order to Israel.
"Your king shall come," Zechariah says. But how . . . how will this king come? Zechariah says, "Riding on a colt, the foal of an ass." Riding a colt? A sign of humility? Perhaps. But the picture is really that of a king in peace-time. Riding a colt was a symbol of peace in the kingdom—no need for a "war horse" or a stallion. The king
comes in peace, to destroy the implements of war and to establish a new order: "The warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations."
If we jump ahead another 500 years, we find the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy—and the hope of Israel. Jesus enters into Jerusalem "on a colt, the foal of an ass." Not just in humility, but in peace—the king of peace enters the city of peace. Jesus will denounce the weapons of war, turn the other cheek, love his enemies, and nail our sins to the cross. The cross is his throne, where he takes upon himself the violence and dysfunction of the world—and swallows it up in divine mercy.
And that brings us to today’s Gospel: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." To whom is Jesus speaking? Who are those who "labor" and are "burdened"? It’s all of us! All of us who labor in the old order of things—in a world of war, injustice, crime, drugs, human trafficking, family issues, personal issues. Original sin, from the time of Adam until now. Jesus invites us to join him in the new order of things. To us, Jesus says, "Come to me, and I will give you rest." Paradise regained.
But he makes one request of us: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart." Though we throw off the yoke of the old order, Jesus invites us to take on the new—"his yoke." And what is this yoke? It is living the Gospel, submitting ourselves to Jesus Christ, continuing the mission of Jesus.
But this yoke is not a burden: "for my yoke is easy, and my burden light." To live the Gospel—to take on the yoke of the Gospel upon our shoulders—does not mean slavery, but freedom. Christ is the Truth, and the Truth will set us free.
Today’s readings, then, invite us to recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior—and to follow him into the kingdom. It is there we will find rest—and peace for our world.