Sunday Sermon for July 3, 2011, the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Zech 9:9-10; Rom 8:9, 11-13; Mt 11:25-30
In the first reading we hear about the King and Savior of Zion and Jerusalem. We are told that He is just and that He is meek. What follows demonstrates what this means: he will rid Jerusalem of chariots and horses, as well as the bow of the warrior. In place of these, we are told, He will proclaim peace.
To put this into perspective, God had forbidden the Israelites from riding horses. The reason is that only Egypt and Assyria, both enemies of Israel, raised horses in the ancient world. To have horses and chariots meant that the Israelites would have had to make some kind of treaty with one of these countries. The Israelites were to ride only donkeys and they were to trust in God rather than human or military power.
Of course, treaties were most often forged through marriage. The marrying of foreigners was also forbidden by God. So, on both of these points we can see the disobedience of the Israelites in favor of human prudence. After all, if your enemies have horses and chariots and you have only donkeys, the battle would not seem fair. Indeed, on the natural level, it is not. But how many times had God shown them that He will bring victory in the battle if the people would just trust in Him.
The Israelites did not trust Him very well and neither do we. But our Lord, in the Gospel today, praises God for revealing to the simple what He has hidden from the learned and the wise. Those who are learned and wise tend to trust in their own abilities and not in God. Of course, Americans and our Allies have come to trust in the military prowess that we possess. This is foolishness in the eyes of God, just as trusting in God is foolishness in the eyes of the worldly, the wise and the learned.
In the ancient world they would trust in the flesh through marriage to try to create peace. Today we trust in material things to bring peace. History has shown that neither of these bring either true or lasting peace. There is only one source of true peace: Jesus.
St. Paul told the early Christians that they were not in the flesh, but that they were in the Spirit. Trusting in material things is basically trusting in the flesh because it puts trust in ourselves and keeps us from looking to God for the help we need. St. Paul tells us that if we live by the flesh we will die, but if by the Spirit we put to death the works of the flesh, we will live.
This is extremely difficult for us because we cannot control the things of the spiritual realm. We like to know just exactly what we have, where it is, how it works, and so on. God just tells us to trust in Him and He will provide. We have no control over what God is going to do; we cannot even see Him or touch Him, let alone control Him. This is why we prefer the flesh. There seems to be greater security for us when something is more tangible.
However, we all know that God is all powerful and that real security comes in an absolute trust in God. This does not mean that He will do things the way that we think they should be done, but it means that we can be at peace because His perfect will will be accomplished in us. To those who do not know the Lord, this sounds ludicrous; for those who know Him it is simple truth.
Perhaps one of the great blessing about being alive today is that the weaponry has become so advanced that if there were a persecution against the Church, there would be no possible way that the simple, faithful Christians would be able to match force, technology or firepower with the persecutors. If this happened we would have to rely solely on the help of the Lord. That is a blessing!
We each need to look into our own hearts and ask where we have thought ourselves to be learned, wise or in control. We need to consider where we have been living according to the flesh rather than the spirit. By this I do not mean merely violations of chastity, but dependence on and trust in material things.
Jesus gave us His peace as His parting gift and told us that it was a peace that the world cannot give. If we want true and lasting peace in the world, we will not achieve it by violating human dignity or the principles of peace. Rather, real peace will come into the world when Christian people are truly living their faith in Jesus.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.