Saturday, June 28, 2008

The 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today is the Sunday of the 14th of the Ordinary Time of the Liturgical Calendar. The readings have been taken from prophet Zechariah, Psalm 145, an epistle from St. Paul to the Romans, and the Gospel from St. Matthew.

In the first reading, we find Zechariah prophesying the joyful return of the king to the city of David amidst sounds of celebration. In the reading, the prophet is looking to the future of an Israel still constructing itself from the pieces of having been conquered by Babylon. We have to note that Zechariah is one of the two prophets of this period who urged the building of the Second Temple in the time of Ezra. It is in this context that the prophet referred a picture of rejoicing as he envisioned the coming of the messianic kingdom. The building of the temple for the prophet is the coming of the promised One, where the House of Yahweh is the living presence of His Person. That the culmination of the building of Israel is the erection of the temple on Zion. It is here that it is not by chance that the Gospel shows us Jesus the gentle one that our rejoicing rests. Just as the temple on the Mount of Zion symbolizes the stability of the promise of Yahweh and the comfort of the whole People of God, it is also by Jesus that we find the fulfillment of the one that we seek and to rest in thee of His meekness and gentleness.

The 147th Psalm tells of the psalmist effusively extoling his praise to the Almighty One. It continues along the vein prepared by Zechariah in the first reading when Israel rejoices in the coming of Her King. In this song, it extols not only a King but God and Lord at the same time. Who then is this Lord and God, to whom praises have been given in abundance? Who then is this Lord gracious and merciful and slow to anger and of great kindness? In Deuteronomy, we find these words spoken by the lips of Yahweh, the sovereign God of Israel, whose commands, precepts, and laws are conditions imposed upon the community of Israel to follow before entering into the promised land. Here, the clear majesty of the arrival of the King within the midst of Israel is depicted in His transcendence and is posed in connection with the humility of Christ. It is that the benevolent character of the God of Israel in the Old Testament has found its truest expressions and passes without doubt to the person of Christ. This could only be intelligible only in the Gospel, where the Second Person of the Trinity communed with the created order.

The Apostle to the Gentiles, whose jubilee has been recently opened by Pope Benedict XVI to mark the 2000th year of his birth, has taught the early Christians in Rome the duality of a life rooted in the Spirit of Christ and the reality of the equal demands of the flesh. The apostle has reminded the faithful of Rome that they belonged to the same Spirit of God, the Spirit who indwelled the Lord Jesus and raised Him up. He is quick to point out that belonging to this Spirit is to forsake the works of the flesh, that we have to show the fruits of the Spirit in us. Thereby, we are saved.

The Gospel speaks of the equality between the Father and the Son in their essence. In this way, the Father is revealed in the Son as He was seen going about his Father's business at the midst of Israel. This is the reason that the invitation towards the gentleness of Christ is our journey towards the gentleness of the Father because He showed the true nature of God, though in the nature of man. This is the gentleness that Matthew the tax-collector sought in following Him, Him whom they had pierced on the Cross. From being under the control of the fleshly desire of enriching oneself of the material things to a life following Jesus devoid of any oppressive snares of the world. To that of a life immersed in the kindness and mercy of God.

In the Clerus, which is the reference given by the Congregation of the Clergy, the homily for this specific reading of cycle A says that the texts from the Holy Scripture reveal the paradoxes of Christianity: the paradox of the Messiah, the paradox of love, and the paradox of grace. Beginning with with the prophecy of Zephaniah, the projected idea of Lord and God is his otherness and royalty, that it draws awe. However, "He is a Messiah-king, but who reigns – what a mystery! – from the throne of the cross in the midst of the most atrocious suffering". In the Gospel, "the paradox is that of the Lord and Master who, in his simplicity and humility of heart, places the burden and the yoke on his shoulders, so that we, his servants oppressed by the weight, might find the burden lighter and we, his disciples worn out by laws and precepts, might find the yoke easier". From these two paradoxes usher us into the paradox of Grace, which demands a conversion of hearts in men and women of every age: "In Christian life, the terms "to die – to live" are correlative, that is, one must die to live. It is by the death of the deeds of the flesh that the new man is raised, who lives by the Spirit. This is death in the ascetic sense, and, if God wills, also in the real sense to the point of martyrdom, so that Christ may live in us in a way that is not of this world. If this is truly imprinted on him, a Christian is not of this world, but he is in the world as leaven and as light".

It is here that the Neo-Catechumenate grounds its roots to follow in this complex post-modern and post-Christian age, in an age not totally foreign to the realities in the time of Paul of Tarsus. We are besieged of different pagan ideas that tend to mix with Christian faith, ending up relativizing our beliefs. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily prior to his election as the Successor St. Peter: "we are living in the dictatorship of relativism" - a relativism that does not give space for religion in the public square, that views Christian beliefs with suspect eyes and scorn. The communities of Neo-Catechumenal Way in our adult catechesis are important in the way we interpret and witness the gentleness and meekness of the Lord into the world that gives us no voice. We hold in us the Spe Salvi, the saving hope, and we cannot keep it to ourselves for our own salvation. We have to sow the mercy and kindness that Jesus had shown us personally to the outside world in need of a Savior. We hold in us the conviction of the paradoxes of Christianity and offer this to the world for it is the will of Jesus in First Timothy that all men maybe saved and come to the knowledge of His love.


Today is the Sunday of the 14th of the Ordinary Time of the Liturgical Calendar. The readings have been taken from prophet Zechariah, Psalm 145, the epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, and the Gospel from St. Matthew.

The Day of the Lord invites us to reflect on the paradoxes of Christianity. Clerus, the official website for the Congregation of the Clergy, in its liturgical commentary for this Sunday mentioned three main paradoxes that we can learn on today's readings: The Paradox of the Messiah, the Paradox of Love, and the Paradox of Grace. We invite you brothers and sisters to listen to the Word and encounter the meaning of these paradoxes in our lives rooted in the charism of Neo-Catechumenal Way. These readings invite us closer to listening closely to these paradoxes that Christians should learn to hold in faith.

In the passage taken from the book of the Prophet Zechariah, the seer recounts a vision of the King of Peace coming to seize the city and the temple. He was one of the two prophets who was incessant in building the Second Temple of Jerusalem during the time of Ezra, which we know was razed to the ground when Babylon conquered the City. This was the temple of Zorobabel. This same prophet was the one who greatly encouraged the return of the exiles to Palestine, which seventeen years before, Cyrus the Great, a King of Persia, made possible.

The 145th song of the Psalmist has been described in the Clementine Vulgate as Lauda anima, which also corresponds to the first words of the Psalmody. Lauda anima in the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible says "Praise the Lord, O my soul". It is worth noticing that here the Lord has been described as "gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness."

St. Paul to the early Christians in the City of Rome in his epistle explains the duality of Christian reality: the life in the Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, and the flesh, which demands but brings death. In his commentary on this passage from Romans, St. John Crysostom explained that either a believer has to choose the one or the other: "Thus the soul and the flesh belong to things indifferent, since each may become either the one or the other. But the spirit belongs to things good, and at no time becometh any other thing. Again, the mind of the flesh, that is, ill-doing, belongs to things always bad." The Doctor of the Church taught that it is not the flesh itself which is the source of evil but the judgment, the power of our choice to choose our own ruin.

Matthew in the Gospel recounts Jesus' words first of his equality with the Father and the rest which all will find in Him in the second. It is saying that there is no rest but in Him because He is a God rich in mercy and kindness. St. Augustine of Hippo has an extensive commentary on this chapter in Matthew. He said that it is love which makes the difference how our burdens disappear in the Lord: "For love makes all, the hardest and most distressing things, altogether easy, and almost nothing." In our Christian faith, the word love is a Person, who has incarnated Himself to be with His beloved.

My dear brothers and sisters the Leitourgia invites us again to encounter this God of meekness and kindness as we live in this troubled and confusing times. The Lord does not wish us to hide from these realities but to give the world a common witness of Him who was crucified. Being in this community does not shelter us from the harsh living in the flesh, but we are constantly reminded to live in the hope that saves, the Spe Salvi of God. Let us then rise to meet the Lord at the table praying to send His abundant helps and grace.