The Straight and Narrow Isn't Always so Straight.
Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Lessons from the primary dominica, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Zechariah 9: 9-10.
• Psalm 145: 1-2, 8-11, 13-14.
• Romans 8: 9, 11-13.
• Matthew 11: 25-30.
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost.
Lessons from the dominica, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• I Peter 3: 8-15.
• Psalm 86: 10, 9.
• Matthew 5: 20-24.
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; and, the Feast of the Holy Martyr Pancratius, Bishop of Taormina.
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Romans 10: 1-10.
• Matthew 8: 38—9: 1.
8:36 AM 7/9/2017 — Matthew’s Gospel is actually divided into five separate sections, referred to by some people as five “books,” and today’s relatively brief Gospel lesson comes from the third of these, the subject of which is the Mystery of the Kingdom. It opens at the beginning of chapter eleven just as Our Lord’s popularity is beginning to decline. There were a lot of different reasons for that. At this point in His earthly life Our Lord performs very few miracles, saying that He’s only got one “sign” left, and it’s one that will be perceptible only through faith. He’s asked by different people about who He is and what He claims to be—even by John the Baptist—and He gives cryptic answers which only raise more questions. The disciples He’s collected around Himself are not the most impressive people. He talks a lot about the supernatural character of the Kingdom of heaven, well above the heads of most of the common folk, yet at the same time He speaks of how this Mystery of the Kingdom will be hidden from the wise and learned and revealed to those He calls the “little ones,” which causes concern among the Pharisees. And it’s here in this section of Matthew’s Gospel we find the first mention of a plot against the life of Our Lord, and the prayer He makes out loud, which forms today’s Gospel lesson, is one of the reasons why.
He prays to His Father, but in the course of doing so makes a claim to divinity. We understand what He’s talking about because we recite it every week in the Creed: that He is God from God, light from light, begotten and not made, consubstantial with His Father. And if we find these concepts difficult to understand, what must it have sounded like to those of Our Lord’s time? And the line about hiding these things from the wise and learned and revealing them to little ones didn’t help. Of course, Our Lord isn’t speaking in a cryptic and opaque way inadvertently; he has a purpose. He came to redeem us by His death, and He needs to start the ball rolling, so to speak. We’ve reflected on this before, when we read about Our Lord’s final journey to Jerusalem and how His disciples all thought it was a bad idea because of the threats against Him, until the Blessed Apostle Thomas speaks up and says, in a leap of faith, “Let us go and die with Him” (John 11: 16).
For the soul who loves Our Lord, especially those in the beginnings of spiritual awakening, one of the most difficult things to accept is the confusion with which Our Lord often leaves us. He has a plan, and He relentlessly marches to it with determination, but He keeps the plan to Himself; and, those of us who have chosen to follow Him simply have to trust that He knows where He’s taking us. That is not always an easy thing. Our brief journey back home to God through this vale of tears is beset by uncertainty, hardship, suffering, heartache of every kind; and, unless we have schooled ourselves in the virtues of faith and hope, we could easily fall into despair. And that’s when we have to splash some cold water on our faces. Our Lord is not unmindful of the fact that the crosses we carry are heavy, which is why today’s Gospel lesson ends the way it does: “Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened; I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon yourselves, and learn from me; I am gentle and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11: 28, 29 Knox).
Sometimes, in our struggle to live the Gospel and maintain our spiritual equilibrium in this often hectic and less than spiritual world, we find ourselves spiritually exhausted from the fight. It's in those moments that we need to rely on Our Lord's promise, to take a step back from the fight once in a while and repose in the shelter of our Lord’s most adorable Heart. Again I remind you for the sixth time this summer: Our one purpose for being on this earth is to work out our salvation. Everything else is just window dressing.
Like children, we follow Our Divine Master along a road that is often winding and bumpy and strewn with potholes. We follow not because we know where He’s leading us, but simply because He leads us, confident that every step and stumble brings us closer to heaven, our true home.