Deacon Greg Maskarinec’s Homily – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
When I was in fifth grade the teacher separated me from one of my friends by moving us to opposite sides of the classroom. I don’t remember specifically why, but it wasn’t because of good behavior. Well, I started complaining that I couldn’t see the blackboard very well so that she would move me closer to my friend. Over the next couple of days I kept complaining and kept getting moved. After complaining again one day, the teacher sent me home with a note that said she was concerned that I might need eyeglasses because I was having problems seeing the blackboard. So my parents made an appointment for me with the eye doctor. After being examined the doctor said I needed eye glasses. I tried to explain to the eye doctor that I really didn’t need eyeglasses but I wasn’t successful. And so I returned a week or so later to pick up my new eyeglasses. Lo and behold…I could see much better with eyeglasses! Before getting my eyeglasses my vision was distorted but I didn’t realize it!
The same thing can happen in our spiritual lives. Our vision of God can be distorted and we don’t see him as He is. This problem has existed since man’s beginning, but let’s go back to the time of today’s First Reading.
Recall that after the split of the Kingdom of Israel into a Northern and Southern Kingdom, many of the Jews were awaiting the coming of the Messiah, a great warrior king who would reconstitute Israel as a world power that would rule over and dominate all the nations of the world. As we heard in today’s First Reading, God sent His prophet Zechariah to correct the vision of the Messiah. While the exiles from Babylon would be gathered back together under a great peace not only for the Jews but for all the nations of the Earth. This wasn’t consistent with Jewish vision of the Messiah as a great warrior king.
The fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy of a future king finally occurred when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey on Palm Sunday. However, despite the writings of the Old Testament prophets, for the people of Jesus’ time and even those within His inner circle the meekness and humility of Jesus didn’t fit their image of the world-be Messiah. For example, recall when Jesus rebuked James and John when they wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritan village that would not welcome Jesus. Or when Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” as He hung upon the cross while the crowds taunted him to come down and save himself if He was truly God. Again, not consistent with the Jewish vision of the Messiah as a great warrior king.
Despite the sophistication of our modern era, our vision of God is still often distorted. Today’s readings serve as corrective lenses through which we see that Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, comes not as a warrior king but as a meek and humble savior. A savior who offers us rest and relief from the common afflictions that we experience in our daily lives along with the oppressive burdens that we bring down upon ourselves in our pursuits of power, pleasure, prestige and possessions. What burdens do you carry that you desire relief from? Is it the death of a loved one, unemployment, addiction, infidelity, illness or loneliness? Jesus encourages us to take our sufferings and join them or yoke them together with His suffering on the cross. We have the opportunity to do this at each Mass when the gifts are brought forward. Place your burdens and afflictions on the paten which holds the hosts or in the cruet which holds the wine and offer them up in union with the gifts that will become the Body and Blood of Jesus. In doing so we respond to Jesus’ invitation in today’s Gospel…”Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
We are called to live in the spirit by learning from and by imitating the Lord Jesus. Do we call down fire from the heavens on those who don’t agree with our beliefs? Do we cry out, “If you are God then prove it and fix this situation for me!” If so, then could it be that our vision of God is distorted?
Allow me to prescribe two types of “corrective lenses” through which we will gain a clearer vision of God. This first “corrective lens” is Sacred Scripture where God reveals to us who He truly is. Try to make reading and reflecting on God’s Word part of your daily routine. Or maybe consider attending one of the Bible studies offered at MDP this coming Fall. The second “corrective lens” is a screen…the screen of the confessional. By confessing our sins frequently we will come to see the true vision of God as expressed by today’s psalmist. The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all His works.