14th Sunday Ordinary Time
"Seed on good ground"
God has wonderful ways of communicating His word to us. He also has wonderful ways of getting us to accept that word without in the least interfering with our free will.
Here is a remarkable story that proves both points.
Father William Naughton was pastor of the church of SS. Peter and Paul, Elmira, New York, in the late 1940's. In 1946 he started a class for sixteen people who had asked to be instructed in the Catholic faith. To break the ice at their first meeting, he asked each of the sixteen to tell the rest what had prompted them to seek entrance into the Church.
Most of those questioned probably gave interesting but not unusual reasons: they had been baptized Catholics but never raised as such; they had married Catholics, or planned to do so; and so forth.
One woman, however, told a tale that startled everybody and opened up new vistas on God's ways of working.
On a certain day, said this housewife, she heard a dog barking loud and long outside her house. Looking out the window to see what was happening, she saw that the dog was dragging somebody's coat along the ground. He would tug it a few feet, stop and bark, and then tug it a few feet farther.
The housewife at once went out, snatched the coat away from the dog, and sent him packing: She took the garment indoors and began to inspect it. At this point it was soiled and rather badly ripped. Whose was it? She looked into the pockets for some identification of ownership. All she found was a Catholic prayerbook, and, this had no owner's name on it.
But the prayerbook now caught her fancy. She started reading it, and went on until she had finished it. "I had never thought of religion before," she told the instruction class. "But after reading the book, I decided to attend some Catholic services. I liked what I saw, so here I am!"
"The seed that falls on good ground," says today's psalm response, "will yield a fruitful harvest." This housewife was evidently "good ground." But the way God sowed the seed of His word was certainly striking. As St. Gregory the Great would have said: "It was not by chance but in God's providence." Who but a tender, even a playful God, would have thought of using a barking dog as a messenger of the Good News?
-Father Robert F. McNamara
Q326: The point of the Readings today seems to be about the desirability of “humility” [Zech 9:9-10; Rom 8:9-13; Matt 11:25-30]. Is such “meekness” calling for a milk-toast attitude on our part?
The First Reading points out a contrast between the two favored kings of Israel: David and his son Solomon. David was powerful yet never owned a chariot; he was truly humble, and was totally dependent upon God. Solomon was powerful and intelligent, yet totally dependent upon his many chariots. In the Second Reading, St. Paul captures this contrast beautifully when he talks about dependence on the “flesh” without the “spirit” – a dependence upon Self rather than upon God’s assistance.
If you have ever been to the Grand Canyon, you have probably taken a ride on the donkey from the rim of the canyon down to the canyon floor. That meek little donkey has only one purpose in life (as far as I know), and that is to help carry the burdens of others – either You as a passenger, or to back-pack supplies for others. The message: why do it yourself, when you can have help with your burdens?
This lesson we learn from the behavior of Jesus himself. He humbly accepted his situation in life, and always trusted totally in his heavenly Father. Jesus is saying the same thing in the Gospel: don’t depend upon yourself, trust in Jesus to help carry your burdens. More importantly, learn to carry your own burdens with His yoke – he is there to help you, to lighten your burden. That is what Humility is all about, learning to turn humbly to Jesus, acknowledge your need, and accept His help.
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The Word who was All-Powerful did not cling to his power, but became flesh, to offer his Yoke as our model of holiness (CCC #459). By his own poverty, he gives us the example to follow in our encounters with trials and burdens (CCC #520). We will never enter the kingdom without humility, because humility is the antidote to sinful Pride (CCC #2559).
Small is Beautiful
We Americans like to think big. As citizens of the most powerful nation on earth we sometimes think that we can use that power successfully in anything we put our minds to. Today's readings seem to contradict that assumption. Zechariah speaks to an Israel looking for a victorious messiah king coming with power to restore Israel's place among the nations. The prophet tells them to look instead for a king who will come not in a war chariot but humbly on a donkey. Today many people look to the media pundits and celebrities for wisdom and the answers to their problems, but Jesus tells us to look instead to the meek and the humble. If we would know God and the life he offers us, we must go to the son and those who imitate his humility.
Dear God, our Father, I thank you and praise you for sending your Son to show us the way to live. I thank you for the many burdens you have lifted from me or at least gave me the courage to bear. May I so imitate the humility of Christ as to come to know you more fully.