Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time A
July 5, 2020
Matthew 11: 25-30
By Rev. John Tran
Dear beloved bothers and sisters,
This weekend, we celebrate the 244th birthday of our nation; it is a beautiful country and we have done so many good things. We continue to make our nation proud and greater. We are so blessed to live in a country of freedom. But there is also much about which we should be concerned. Right now, our country is in turmoil because of the pandemic and because of the racial tensions over injustice. These are not thing we can ignore. As Jesus point out in today's gospel, things are often hidden from the wise and the intelligent and given to little children. In our own small way by our example and prayer, we can influence the direction our country takes. We pray for our leadership both in church and society, and for ourselves. God bless America.
The second part of today’s gospel talks about how easy Jesus’ way is over that of following the Law of Moses; with the Law, most people found it almost impossible to really live out in actual living. But today, I would like to talk with you about the first part of this gospel from Matthew. This section deals with who has the best possibility of being faithful to God. Is it the highly trained academic, or is it a person not necessarily so educated, but has grasped the real idea of what it is to follow God with the heart.
Notice how the rabbis and wise men reject Jesus in his lifetime, and the simple people accept him. The intellectuals and religious leaders have no use for him, but the humble welcome him. However, we must be careful to see clearly what Jesus means here. He is very far from condemning intellectual ability and use. Rather, he is condemning intellectual power which is intellectual pride and comes from wanting to exercise power over others. As one person put it, “the heart not the head in the home of gospel.” It is not being clever or insightful that shuts ourselves out, but pride. It is not simply stupidity which empowers, but it is humility. A person can be as wise as Solomon, but if he or she doesn’t have the simplicity, the trust, the innocence of the childlike heart, then he or she shuts himself out of really being able to meet God.
The Rabbis were aware of this in principle. There are many parables in rabbinic literature that show this. A Rabbi went to the market place and met Elijah there. The rabbi asked Elijah, “Is there among the people in the market anyone who is destined to share in the life of the world to come?” At first Elijah said there were none. Then, Elijah pointed to one man and said that that man would so share. The Rabbi asked him and asked what he did for a living. The man said, “I am a jailer; I keep men and women separate so that no wrong will be committed.” Then Elijah pointed to two other men; so the rabbi asked what they did. They replied, “We are merrymakers; when we see a person who is downcast, we cheer him up; when we see two people quarreling, we try to make peace between them.” These people did simple things, and so were in the kingdom of God.
Another example from rabbinic literature is the case of an epidemic which broke out in a certain city. The people in the neighborhood of a famous rabbi’s house were spared, and the people thought it was because of the Rabbi; but in a dream they were told that it happened due to a man who was willing to lend a hoe and shovel to someone who wanted to dig a grave. In another area a fire broke out, and those in the neighborhood of Rabbi Huna was spared; people thought it was because of the rabbi. But in a dream they were told that it was due to the merits of a certain woman, who used to heat her oven and place it at the disposal of her neighbors. So, God’s grace was given not because of the wisdom of a rabbi, but because of the man and woman whose simple deeds of human love had won them the approval of God. Academic distinctions are not necessarily distinctions in the eyes of God. Can we count ourselves in that number of the humble, but loving, man or woman? It seems that many leaders in Jesus’ time could not. Anyone can fall into the same trap.
What is it that kept the wise and the religious leaders from seeing what the ordinary people saw? It has to do with what is in the last part of the passage. It closes with the greatest claim that Jesus ever made: the claim that he alone is the Son of God. And it is through him that we all become sons and daughters of the Father, the one who sent Jesus. This is not a claim that the intellect or use of philosophy can understand or figure out. It takes a person of simple faith to accept Jesus as Son of God, who then understands what this means to the human race, what it means to be a part of God’s kingdom and put it into practice with our actions as well as our words.
There is a wonderful legend concerning the quiet years of Jesus, the years prior to his visible ministry. The legend claims that Jesus the carpenter was one of the master yoke-makers in the Nazareth area. People came from miles around for a yoke, hand-carved and crafted by Jesus son of Joseph. When customers arrived with their team of oxen Jesus would spend considerable time measuring the team, their height, the width, the space between them, and the size of their shoulders. Within a week, the team would be brought back and he would carefully place the newly made yoke over the shoulders, watching for rough places, smoothing out the edges and fitting them perfectly to this particular team of oxen. That’s the yoke Jesus invites us to take. Do not be misled by the word “easy,” for its root word in Greek speaks directly of the tailor-made yokes: they were “well-fitting.” The yoke Jesus invites us to take, the yoke that brings rest to weary souls, is one that is made exactly to our lives and hearts. The yoke he invites us to wear fits us well, does not rub us nor cause us to develop sore spirits and is designed for two. His yokes were always designed for two. And our yoke-partner is none other than Christ himself. And, Christ taught from his life just as much from his words, or what's the use of his Passion and Resurrection. We, after all, we are his yoke-partners and we follow him.