With our special celebrations and feast days behind us, the Church now enters a long stretch of Ordinary Time. This also means that our lectionary – the order of our readings for Mass – falls back to some basic patterns for the cycle and the season, and our themes become more varied.
The Word for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14
Romans 8:9, 11-13
We open with a reading from the book of the prophet Zechariah. It is helpful to remember that Zechariah’s prophecy comes from the early post-exile era, around 520 BCE, around the same time as Ezekiel and Ezra, and is attributed to two different authors (1st Zechariah forming Chapters 1-8, 2nd Zechariah forming chapters 9-14). Our passage for this Sunday comes from 2nd Zechariah with a vision of a restored Jerusalem with a new king. This vision of a new King should sound very familiar, because to our Christian ears this sounds very much like Jesus. While Jesus wouldn’t be coming for another 500 years, Zechariah’s vision for a restored Jerusalem is typical of the post-exilic era, during a time where the Jewish people see a future for themselves. The joy Zechariah feels is the same joy we find in Christ… a joy and praise echoed in our Psalm.
This Sunday we also resume our Cycle A schedule with our emphasis on the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s Gospel, as you may recall, addresses a primarily Jewish audience, placing Jesus in the sandals of Moses as part of a “new covenant” between God and his people. Just as Moses was the intermediary between God and His people, our Gospel today has Jesus embracing this roll as intermediary. It is through Jesus that the Father is revealed. Not only that, Jesus tells us that his “yoke is easy and his burden light.” Up to this point, the intermediaries for the people were the Temple priests, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Scribes and other Temple hierarchy who in Jesus’ eyes had failed in this roll of intermediary by putting up any number of barriers between God and His people. Jesus is telling us that it doesn’t need to be that way… that we shouldn't be burdened by the Letter of the Law, but instead need to be embraced by the Spirit of the Law. The meek and humble king prophesied by Zechariah in our first reading is answered by Jesus in this Gospel.
Our second reading comes from Paul’s letter to the Romans. Here it is important to remind ourselves that during Ordinary Time, our second reading isn’t necessarily meant to compliment our first reading and the Gospel, but instead give us an opportunity to cover major sections of important Epistles. At this point in Ordinary time, and for the next 10 weeks, that focus will be on the major teachings from Paul’s letter to the Romans. This week, Paul teaches us that we, “are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.” This separation of “flesh” and “Spirit” is a common theme with Paul, and when addressed to his Roman audience, takes aim at their hedonistic traditions in favor of a higher, spiritual purpose. That life in the "Spirit" leads to life everlasting.