Sunday Sermon for July 6, 2014, the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Zech 9:9-10; Rom 8:9, 11-13; Mt 11:25-30
In the Gospel reading today our Lord praises His Father for revealing to the simple the things that have been hidden from the learned and the clever. There are certainly many examples among the Saints where those with little or no formal education have been granted knowledge of the mysteries of God with insight and understanding that baffles theologians. However, when we look at the history of the Church, we recognize that God has raised up great Saints from among those who are also very intelligent and very learned.
The distinction we need to make is between being simple and being a simpleton. Remember, God is perfectly simple, so to speak of those who are simple cannot be understood in a pejorative sense. The problem that many people today face is that they have made their lives very complex. Sometimes this is dome inadvertently by just getting caught up in all of the technology and the various distractions of modern life. At other times it is done intentionally due to our pride.
Whatever the cause, we have lost the simplicity that our lives could have. In so doing, we have often lost sight of the beauty of what God has created and we have lost the sense of wonder and awe in almost everything except the latest gadget. Such is the modern version of what St. Paul speaks of in the second reading he talks about being in the flesh as opposed to being in the Spirit. The idea of the flesh is not just about illicit pleasures, but it is about elevating the things of the senses above the things of the spirit.
If we live in the Spirit, then the Spirit of God will help us to discern what is of real value and what is passing. For instance, when we look at the prophecy in the first reading we hear about the Messiah riding on a donkey and banishing the horses and chariots from Israel. While in and of themselves there is nothing inherently wrong with either horses or chariots, we have to recall that God had forbidden them for the Hebrew people. The Jewish people of the ancient times were to ride donkeys, even in times of war.
So, the fact that the Messiah is on a donkey instead of a horse is a sign of His meekness and a sign that He is peaceful. However, it is also a sign of His obedience to the will of His Father. It demonstrates a simplicity in the face of what appears to be a better way. If we fast forward to today, I cannot tell you how many people have told me that they would like to get rid of their computers. Many people over the years have gotten rid of their TV sets and have told me it was among the best decisions they had ever made.
For these people, their lives became more simple, more quiet, more focused on the things that are truly important. They came to recognize that the complexity and the technology were taking them away from prayer and the things of the Spirit. They were praying and going to Mass right along, but they found that they were in the flesh and not in the Spirit. A few changes toward greater simplicity corrected their priorities.
Some of these very learned people have chosen a life of voluntary simplicity and, in doing so, they have found a peace and a fulfillment that they had never known previously. Now they have profound insights about the things of God rather than being focused on the things of the world. They notice the beauty now where before they had looked right past it.
This is what distinguishes the Saints from the rest of us. It does not matter how much education they had, how noble their family might have been, or what title they had achieved, they were able to remain simple and keep themselves from getting caught up in the temporal or sensual things that pulled them away from the spiritual things.
With so many distractions around us, it is hard to assess what is truly good and necessary as opposed to what is not. We cannot base our consideration on whether or not we like something, because a lot of things have an addictive quality to them which makes us think we need them. We really have to recognize that all of these things have not only robbed us of our time, but also of our peace, our prayer and our priorities. I realize the difficulty of feeling left out when you are the only one who is not part of the latest craze. But the joy in God known to the simple is far greater than the passing happiness that comes with the satisfaction of the senses.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.