14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) Zec 9:9-10; Rom 8:9, 11-13, Mt 11:25-30
There is a big difference in the results of living according to God and the Spirit versus living according to humans or the flesh. In the reading from the Letter to the Romans, Paul talks specifically about this difference.
He says living in the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead will give us life – eternal life in God. Living according to the flesh may seem like a fun way to go, but it will ultimately lead to our destruction. The other two readings bear this out as well.
We can discern this difference between living according to the flesh and living according to the Spirit in the Gospel. Jesus has just finished calling to task the cities and people who have refused to turn from sin and follow him. He tells the people who labor and are burdened to take his yoke upon them; that he is meek and humble of heart; and they will find rest.
Later in Matthew, Jesus reminds the people that all the law is based on just two laws: to love God with all your being and to love your neighbor as yourself. The love of God with one’s whole heart is the basic affirmation of Jewish belief, the Shema.
It is also the basis of our Christian belief. If we turn from within ourselves and live according to the Spirit, i.e., follow Jesus to a love of God and love of neighbor, everything else falls into place.
In the reading from the prophet Zechariah, we hear, “He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.”
We might be tempted to interpret Zechariah’s statement to mean that peace is the absence of war. Some people really believe if we could end all war, we would have peace. However, that isn’t the peace found living according to the Spirit.
Jesus promises a peace the world cannot give, and he demonstrates the way to that peace in his ministry. If you think about Jesus’ ministry, you see him reaching out to the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised, the outcast and the sinner. He came to bring a peace that is the result of justice.This is what is at the heart of the Catholic ideal of peace.
On the first World Day of Peace, January 1, 1970, Pope St. Paul VI said, “A peace that is not the result of true respect for man (people) is not true peace.” This respect we have for others, he noted, is what we call justice. Two years later, he stated, “If you want peace, work for justice.”
This past January 1, Pope Francis, in his World Day of Peace message, urged us to “renounce the desire to dominate others” and see all people as “sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters.”
He echoed Pope St. Paul VI, stating, “Only by choosing the path of respect can we break the spiral of vengeance and set out on the journey of hope. The world does not need empty words but convinced witnesses, peacemakers who are open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion or manipulation.”
Living according to God and the Spirit is based on love of God and love of neighbor. Living according to God and the Spirit results in a peace based on mutual respect and concern for all people.
Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.