'I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.'
All three readings for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time celebrate what God has done and is doing for us. Alone, we can't save ourselves, and even God can't save us without permission. Salvation is a work that only God performs, but He needs our cooperation.
In the first reading, Zechariah tells the Israelites to "Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass." Zechariah exudes confidence in God.
God will bring about peace through this king, riding on an ass. An ass is smaller than a horse; yet, this king will banish the horse-drawn chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem. This king will have dominion over the entire earth.
As we look back, there's no way that Zechariah would have had any idea of how literally this prophecy would be fulfilled. On Palm Sunday, Christ rode on an ass into Jerusalem and was proclaimed king. Within a week, He established His kingship over all mankind with His death on Calvary.
In the second reading, Paul gives tribute to God's power in His followers. The power His followers in Rome have in their spirits is nothing less than the Spirit of God who has won the victory over the flesh. "If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through His Spirit that dwells in you."
Paul makes a simple point. He tells his Roman followers that the Holy Spirit that is dwelling in them will raise them from the dead if only they allow the Holy Spirit to put to death the deeds of the flesh. If they allow the Holy Spirit to put to death the deeds of the flesh, they shall live forever in the glory of the Father. With this goal in mind, any present suffering they endure is a small price to pay for an eternity of glory.
In the Gospel, it's no longer Zechariah who calls the Israelites to rejoice, but Jesus our savior Himself praising the heavenly Father for having chosen His disciples for the kingdom of heaven. "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones."
Jesus is thrilled that His heavenly Father chose the disciples before Him as His very own. Remember, later Jesus says, "There is no snatching out of the Father's hand." Christ's heart is filled with joy at His Father's graciousness. He feels deeply affirmed that He is on track, carrying out the Father's plan of salvation.
"No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him." When Jesus reveals His Father to His disciples, they will know the Father just as they know Jesus.
Jesus then addresses His followers, including you and me, when He says, "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; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light."
Christ knows that the burden of our flesh is a heavy weight. Its weaknesses are great, and its temptations are severe. However, that's exactly why He came into the world, to win for us the power to overcome sin and temptation.
Why do we feel we are all alone in battling our flesh, whether anger, lust, greed, avarice or lethargy? Why do we turn against ourselves and condemn ourselves when we fail to resist temptation? We aren't our own messiahs. That's a pride we need to relinquish.
The temptations of the flesh are far too great for the flesh to handle. That's why Jesus died on the cross for our sins and gave us the Holy Spirit so that we might be victorious.
Through baptism, we're in partnership with God. We have His power reigning within us. When we yield to His power within us, we're victorious. When we fail, we simply humble ourselves, repent and receive His mercy. The more mercy we receive, the more gratitude fills our hearts that our God would make such a wonderful partnership with our flesh.
We live an astonishing life. We have the almighty Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit traveling with us every step of the way. There's never any reason to get discouraged, because His grace and His mercy are always available.
No matter how great the power of sin in your life, no matter how strong your addiction to sin is, the God within you is greater than your sins. Don't give up: Just remember that He desires your salvation more than you do, and He wants to make it happen.
Never give up hope, either for your salvation or that of your loved ones. The hope in your heart is God's gift to you. Take His words in the Gospel as proof of His intent: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest."