God's Word on Sunday: God’s way is one of justice and mercy

  • July 7, 2023

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) July 9 (Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 145; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30)

The radiant prophecy from Zechariah is familiar to most as the text associated with the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The evangelist clearly saw Jesus as the embodiment of the king in this prophecy. Scholars are not certain as to the time in which it was written — many dates have been proposed, but none is certain. It was written as an oracle of hope during a time of distress and fear, which means it could have been written at almost any time. The best estimates place it after the exile, possibly in the fifth century BC. It was probably an independent oracle utilized by the author of the book.

Perhaps there is a good reason for this. The prophecy addresses the pain and the hopes of people in almost any age. It hints at a time and place of great violence, and it is filled with military imagery. In other words, it could have been written today.

The triumphant figure is a king, but a humble one. In Biblical terms, being humble means relying totally on God rather than human means. This king has an agenda — universal peace and the order that only God can bring. He will not take “no” for an answer, and his dominion will stretch across the entire Earth.

This is the vision and mission of Jesus Christ and all those who walk in His ways. Like many prophecies, it is beautiful, inspiring and designed to give hope. But it has not happened, then or now. It carries a message to people of every era — God is sovereign and over all the Earth. God’s way is not that of weaponry, violence or force, but of justice and mercy. And that is what will have dominion to the ends of the Earth regardless of how long it takes. God will not clean up the mess that we have made of our world but will empower us to do so if we are willing to turn from the ways of the world towards those of the kingdom of God as exemplified in the life of Jesus.

The contrast between these two ways of living is expressed in Scripture as the choice between living in the flesh and living in the Spirit. Living in the flesh means a life ruled by physical desires and the exaltation of self. It is not God-centred or overly concerned with the well-being of others. Living in the Spirit, on the other hand, is oriented towards God and others — it is selfless, generous and loving. The Spirit of God dwells in us, but we must make room for Him and follow His guidance.

Few fall completely into one category or the other, but our goal should be a steady progression in our ability to live according to the Spirit of God.

Jesus rejoiced at the nature of God’s revelation to humans. The kingdom of God and its principles were not the result of human speculation or reasoning. One does not “figure out” God and it is advisable to quiet the mind and its curiosity when speaking of God.  And the revelation was not given to the powerful, learned or clever, but to people who lived in simplicity of heart. These are the people who receive the word of God joyfully and gratefully and allow it to be their teacher and guide.

Yokes are usually not thought of as positive things. We speak of the yoke of slavery or addiction, for example. But Jesus offers us His yoke, which is easy, and His burden, which is light. Life does not seem like that at times, but Jesus assures us that He is gentle and humble of heart, so we have nothing to fear. He will be our teacher and we will learn to be like Him.

When we take upon us the light and easy yoke of Jesus, we will always be united with Him. He will walk beside us through life, sharing our struggles and offering us guidance, hope and encouragement. That is indeed easy and light.