14th Sunday Year A - Homily 4

Homily 4 - 2014

The rising star of our latest young tennis sensation swept across our sky for a day. It may well shine again. Rolf Harris, whose star remained high in the sky for a couple of generations, has become a man everyone now loves to hate. What is celebrity? What is fame? What is greatness?

I find it fascinating how in today’s First Reading the prophet Zechariah envisaged the Messiah-to-come. Your king comes to you. He is victorious, he is triumphant. No doubt, as everyone hoped and expected. But then he added, humble and riding on a donkey. That would be like the queen arriving for some state occasion riding her bicycle. A real send-up of the pretensions to grandeur of any de facto or would-be super-powers! He went on, He will banish chariots from Ephraim, and horses from Jerusalem. Chariots were the equivalents of today’s armoured tanks; horses of fighter jets. He will banish them … What hope then for victory, for triumph? If that is God’s coming Messiah, the hope for the nation, what is God about? What is God like? What is God?

Jesus seemed to think that Zechariah got it right. On PalmSunday he acted out the scene in a marvellous example of street-theatre. Zachariah's words certainly raise a question. What do we ultimately want? celebrity? reputation? good name? to be the envy of others? It sounds attractive, certainly, to many. Market research seems to indicate it is what people want. Jesus talks, instead, about rest, rest for our souls – perhaps, better, deep inner peace. You do not find that much hinted at in advertisements. Jesus was of the opinion that many, perhaps most, people felt overburdened, tired, exhausted, powerless, running around but getting nowhere, dissatisfied, restless, frightened to stop and to be still. 

He spoke of himself as gentle and humble of heart. What did he mean? Can we get behind the words? Gentle – respectful of people, sensitive to where they are at, no obsessions, no compulsions, not invading their space, no hint of aggression or bullying, so totally non-violent. Humble – peacefully in touch with himself, content to be simply who he was, shying clear of celebrity, not needing to impress or be impressed. He invited others to give it a try. Learn from me, he said.

But more than that. It was relationships that interested Jesus. He talked about his burden, the yoke across his shoulders. He did not identify it here; but essentially he saw it as his task, his inner responsibility, his burden, to engage with people and to love them without prior judgment; to show the world that such love is possible; and to encourage everyone to have a go at doing the same. Perhaps, part of the burden dimension of that responsibility was his sadness at encountering the reluctance of most people to seriously have a go and, as a result, to allow the rest they unconsciously seek to elude them.

He seemed to think that sophistication was the problem. Too many people need to see themselves as learned and clever. For them, consistent love as the solution to the world’s problems is naïve – childish, in fact. Not listening to Jesus, they never get to know the Father.

Anyhow, in his deep concern for us, Jesus invites us to shoulder his yoke with him, to learn from him by walking side by side with him. Loving is hard work and can have its cost; but in comparison with the all-too-common alternative, it is easy, it is light. His way is the way, the only way, to true inner peace and life-giving rest for our souls.