Cause for Rejoicing

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

The Gospel passage for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time should sound familiar. We just heard it proclaimed on Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. Once again, we are invited to yoke ourselves to Jesus whose burden is light. This particular exclamation of Jesus comes in the midst of controversy and unbelief. Jesus has been challenged by the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Jewish elders and was rejected by most of them. In the midst of this rejection, Jesus interjects his belief that God has blessed the lowly and humble of Israel with the ability to accept what their leaders cannot; namely, that God's kingdom is not reserved for a select few, but for all who put their faith in Jesus.

Jesus' yoke is light compared to the yoke of the covenant. What started as a simple list of "do's and don't's" had evolved into a heavy burden indeed. The original two commandments, to love God and love one's neighbor, had been expanded to 613 commandments. A good Jew was expected not only to know all 613, but also to follow them scrupulously. Some of the 613 are challenged openly in the Gospel, such as the dietary regulations and the rules regarding the washing of pots and pans. It was impossible for the people who worked the fields and shepherded the flocks to keep all these rules. The poor also found it difficult to keep the rules, especially those that imposed taxes on the buying of food or on visiting the Temple. The burden of the Law had become heavy and oppressive. In contradistinction Jesus offers the foundation of the Law as the real test of whether one belongs in God's kingdom; namely, loving God and loving neighbor.

This Gospel passage is sometimes called the "Exclamation of Jubilation." Jesus rejoices in the fact that God's Law is really very simple. The passage from the prophet Zephaniah is paired with the Gospel to reinforce that jubilation. "Rejoice, daughter Zion. . ." The psalm response from Psalm 145 reinforces this notion of joy. We praise God for the wonders of creation and for the parental care with which God blesses us. This 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time asks us to join in the jubilation and rejoicing.

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