July 05, 2020
A donkey and an ox often appear in Nativity paintings or creches. There is no mention in the Gospels according to St. Luke and Matthew of a donkey or an ox being present at the birth of Jesus. It is the great Jewish prophet Isaiah who inspires our devotional/artistic renderings of the nativity with these words: “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib.” (Is 1:3) In our first reading today a donkey is referenced explicitly and in our Gospel an ox implicitly.
The prophet Zechariah speaks to daughter Jerusalem and Judah: “Your king shall come to you, a just savior is he, meek and riding on an ass…” A donkey! To paraphrase Zechariah speaking for God: “Enough with war horses, no more swords and spear, bows and arrows. I come to you as your King riding on a donkey – an ambassador of peace.” Jesus certainly knows this text. Near the end of his public life, Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
In our Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus invites us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” A “yoke” is a wooden and leather harness placed on a team of oxen to pull heavy loads or carts. Jesus is saying to his disciples to take his yoke upon their shoulders. It will lessen the burden and give them rest. Jesus notices when we are weary and eases the load. Jesus appears as the humble savior and king that Zechariah announces. “Jesus does not spread his kingdom by conquering others. He quietly works alongside those who belong to him and his Father in every generation, humbly and tirelessly providing for their needs as they strive to bring divine justice and peace into a world inclined to war.” (Elizabeth Nagel, Workbook for Lectors)
Jesus invites us to come to him. We come to/encounter Jesus through prayer, reflection on Sacred Scripture, the Mass and Sacraments, and in/through others. Jesus especially draws close during these difficult times of stress and suffering. We need to consciously accept his invitation and surrender ourselves. In the very last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, Jesus, the Risen Lord says: “Surely I am coming soon.” The last verse of the Bible is our prayer response: “Amen. Come. Lord Jesus.”
Question: When do the disciples receive the Holy Spirit? Answer: On Pentecost. “Yes” and other times too! “Spirit” in the Bible means “breath” or “wind” – “a mighty wind swept over the waters” in the Creation Story, Book of Genesis. “Spirit” is the life breath of God. The readings today tell of the “comings” of the Holy Spirit, at critical mom... READ MORE
On Thursday we commemorated the Ascension of the Lord when Jesus says goodbye to his disciples, commissions them, and returns to God, the Father. During this period of social distancing we may “feel” how it must have been for the disciples as they see Jesus lifted-up and a cloud taking him from their sight. “Clouds” in the Bible both reveal and conceal the presence... READ MORE
There is a greater efficacy to Scripture when the Word of God finds expression in a person’s life. What we may miss by reading or listening to the Bible gains greater clarity when the meaning of the sacred text is exemplified in an individual. In our First Reading, Acts of the Apostles, Philip goes to Samaria to proclaim Christ. “With one accord, the crowds pay attenti... READ MORE
Jesus and his disciples are at table. It will be the last supper that they will have together. Jesus is aware that the end of their fellowship is near. He says: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” I wonder if the disciples are able to take in these words of Jesus. They hear the words but are they able to comprehend their ... READ MORE
Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is called Good Shepherd Sunday. Psalmist sings: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” St. Peter writes: “For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of our souls.” Jesus says: “I am the gate for the sheep.” The pastoral metaphor of “God shepherding” finds expression in... READ MORE