Fourtheenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Burdened and Liberated

Lectionary Readings (Taken from the Biblical Meditations of Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller)

  • Zechariah 9:9-10. Your king comes, a just savior, to proclaim peace to all nations.
  • Romans 8:9, 11-13. The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us to bring our mortal bodies to new life.
  • Matthew 11:25-30. Jesus offers thanksgiving, praising the Father for what has been revealed to merest children but hidden from the learned and the clever. If we take Jesus’ burden upon us, we will find rest.

 Thoughts for your consideration: By John Gonzalez

In the Gospel passage for this week Jesus is offering an unusual prayer of thanksgiving to  God his Father. It is an ecstatic prayer that professes a mystical union with God but it takes place after he encounters some unrepentant towns that are not quite receptive to his message or great works. Jesus is taking some criticism from the established religious and social leaders and in an earlier verse (16-19) he offers an interesting comment about the criticism that both he and John the Baptist received from the leaders of his day. John shunned the world and all its social trappings preaching from the wilderness and thus having people come to him. Jesus immersed himself in the world and accepted the hospitality that he received as he went about preaching and ministering throughout all of Judea. Ironically they both received their criticisms amidst the fact that they had completely different styles, John was deemed possessed while Jesus was labeled a sinner.

This is the context from which Jesus offers this prayer where me makes a strong statement about the social impact of God’s wisdom. The point of Jesus’ prayer is to place God’s wisdom apart from human wisdom. In this prayer Jesus suggest that it is the ignorant and simple who will have a greater chance of understanding the idea that God does indeed love them and cares for them in a way that those who are caught theologizing within a particular social context (in support of the Temple authority and their collaboration with the Roman Empire) cannot fully appreciate. Gustavo Gutierrez tells us in his discussion of this passage that the “little children” or “babes” are the poor, the suffering and the sick, the people who have been marginalized by their society. In this passage Gutierrez comments over the odd behaviour where Jesus expresses gratitude at having the revealed truth hidden from the learned and the clever.

The fact that God hides “these things” from the wise and reveals them to the simple is the concrete occasion for grasping what is behind this behavior and gives it meaning – namely, the free and unmerited love of God for every human being and especially  for the poor and forgotten. … This predilection, which does not imply exclusivity, is underscored by the hiding of revelation from the wise and important. An entire social and religious order is hereby turned upside down. [1]

The poor and marginalized are the ones who stand on the periphery and because of that they are not corrupted by social commitments. This liberated perspective will help them comprehend a meek and humble messiah who preaches an altruistic message of peace that will not be compromised by social conventions.  This is the messianic image that Zechariah attests to in the first reading and in the second half of the Gospel passage Jesus invites the poor and marginalized to again find their hope within this countercultural image of the messiah.

Paul guides us along this same lesson but we must be careful not to interpret his dichotomy between the Spirit and the flesh as an attack or condemnation of the natural world which we theologically accept as good. Instead Paul dichotomy refers to motivation. Will our disposition and actions be determined by our social conventions and values whose self interest will be contrary to the Will of God? Or will we be motivated by the Spirit of God that chooses to serve all life within a pledge of peace (verse 6). If our preaching and actions serves a specific political or economic interest then it should be held suspect. But if our ministry and analysis considers and addresses the actual plight of those who are poor and marginalized than “the Spirit of God dwells in you.”

Our Catholic Church struggles to offer the prophetic and pastoral positions of our faith on a number of social issues that by moral right must be addressed. This is a responsibility that our Church has and we (the faithful) are obliged to engage in this responsibility as we are all part of the “Body of Christ”. It is fair to critique the angle and positions offered however especially if the positions that some of our members take continue to promote social and economic burden on the poor and marginalized. The Gospel message we hear this weekend gives us a clear orientation to serve those who are most burdened by our social and economic policies. May we continue to serve God by relieving the burden from those who our society has weight down.

Gustavo Gutierrez, On Job: God talk and the suffering of the innocent,
(Maryknoll, Orbis Books, 2009) xiii

About jdgonzo73

I am a Catholic lay minister in the field of Christian ethics, Latino theology and Paulacrucian spirituality. I am currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Fordham, an ad-junct professor at Molloy College and St. John's University and the Project Coordinator with the Catholic Roundtable.
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