July 4, 1999 -- 14th Sunday "A"
Zech 9,9-10; Rom 8,9.11-13; Mt 11,25-30
H O M I L Y
The Gospel we have just read has very interesting and extremely revealing points of contact with the Magnificat, the Virgin Mary's song of praise.
First, Jesus praises his Father for having revealed to the little ones what was hidden from the learned and the clever. Then he invites everyone to take his yoke upon their shoulders and to become his disciples, for, he says, "I am gentle and humble of heart."
The little ones, the humble ones, the lowly, have a very special place in the Gospel. The Father has a preferential love for them. Mary is one of them, and she proclaims at the beginning of her Magnificat: "My soul glorifies the Lord... for he has tenderly looked upon the lowliness of his servant." The Greek word used here (tapeinôsin) is translated differently in the various translations of the Bible: humility, lowliness, humble condition. But it is the corresponding adjective that is used by Jesus in today's Gospel, when he says that he is gentle and "humble" (tapeinos) of heart. And it is the same word again used by Mary when she says that the Lord has cast down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the "lowly", the humble ones (tapeinous).
When Jesus glorifies the Father for revealing to the little ones things hidden from the clever, the little ones he is talking about are his disciples. And they were not naive children. They were mature men who knew the ways of this world: Matthew, the tax collector, who knew how to make money; Jude the Zealot who knew the art of guerrilla; Peter, John and James, fishermen who knew how to steer a boat on the lake and how to throw a net. They had abandoned everything in order to be Jesus' disciples. When Jesus invites them -- and us -- to simplicity of heart he does not invite us to a form of childish attitude or to a childish type of spirituality. He invites us to a very demanding form of poverty of heart. He invites us to follow him as disciples and therefore to abandon all our securities and especially our thirst for power in the same way as his own disciples have abandoned everything.
The first reading, from Zechariah, describes the Messiah coming not as a powerful king on his horse, but as a simple, meek savior on an a donkey. Paul, the clever and the mighty Pharisee, who was thrown down on his way to Damascus has learned the path of humility and lowliness, and he describes it as the life according to the spirit as distinct to the life according to the flesh.
The great characteristic of the child is his powerlessness. The child may be as intelligent, loving, etc. as an adult. But because he has not yet accumulated learning, material possessions and social relationships, he is powerless. As soon as we become adults, we want to exercise power and control: over our lives, over others, over material things, sometimes even over God. It is what Jesus is asking us to renounce when he invites us to be like little children.
A good exercise at self-awareness would be to examine the various ways in which, in the various aspects of our life, we thirst for power and we fight to defend this power of ours. And then let us look at our Lord who came not as a powerful king on his horse, but as a powerless and humble prophet on a donkey.
Let us look also at the lowliness of his most holy servant, his mother, and with her let us sing with a renewed joy and hope: " He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly." And may it be that, one day, all together we can sing for ages and ages: " Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel, for he has looked upon the lowliness of his servants."