14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

 

Leader: ln the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All reply: Amen

Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

All reply: Blessed be God for ever

 

Leader: Fundamental aspects of the mystery of the divine and human Jesus are revealed to us today. Jesus’ prayer offers us a precious insight into his loving communion with the Father. This heavenward gaze is complemented by the open arms of an earthly embrace: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened”. In accordance with the vision of the prophet Zechariah, Jesus comes among us as a humble man of peace, not as a warrior king.

We are enabled to live like Jesus – in peaceful communion with God and with one another – because we possess the Spirit of God. As Paul taught the Romans, “the Spirit of God has made his home in you”. We remain flesh-and-blood human beings but enlivened by the Spirit “who raised Jesus from the dead”.

 

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Zechariah 9:9-10

Introduction to the reading: In the last centuries before Christ, the Jewish people hoped for a triumphant Messiah king.  The prophet Zechariah spoke instead of a Messiah who would come not in splendor and glory with horses and chariots, but rather in meekness and peace, riding a common work animal.  All four evangelists will later apply this passage to the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem several days before his arrest.

A reading from the Book of Zechariah

Thus says the Lord: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey on a colt the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

The Word of the Lord.

 

Responsorial psalm: Psalm 145:1-2.8-9.10-11.13cd-14 

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm beginning and ending with the response:  

R/: I will bless your name forever, my king and my God.

I will extol you, my God and king,
and bless your name forever and ever. 

I will bless you day after day,

and praise your name forever and ever.

 

The Lord is kind and full of compassion,

slow to anger, abounding in mercy.

How good is the Lord to all,

compassionate to all his creatures.

 

All your works shall thank you, O Lord,

and all your faithful ones bless you.

They shall speak of the glory of your reign,

and declare your mighty deeds.

 

The Lord is faithful in all his words,

and holy in all his deeds.

The Lord supports all who fall,

and raises up all who are bowed down.

 

R/: I will bless your name forever, my king and my God.

 

Second reading: Romans 8:9.11-13

Introduction to the reading: Today we will begin five Sundays of readings from chapter eight of Paul’s letter to the Romans, a chapter which emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit.  Paul wants us to remember that the Spirit who will raise our bodies on the last day, is the same Spirit who inspires us to holiness every day.  Today Paul offers a sharp contrast between life in the flesh (meaning life prone to sin) and life in the Spirit.

A reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans

Brethren: You are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.

The Word of the Lord.

 

Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom. 

Alleluia!

 

Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew 

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Reflection on the Readings 

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

Homily 


It is after lockdown, and an elderly woman at the nursing home received a visit from one of the parish’s Minister of Holy Communion. “How are you feeling?” the visitor asked. “Oh,” said the lady, “I’m just worried sick!” “What are you worried about, dear?” her friend asked. “You look like you’re in good health. They are taking care of you, aren’t they?” “Yes, they are taking very good care of me.” “Are you in any pain?” she asked. “No, I have never had a pain in my life.” “Well, what are you worried about?” her friend asked again. The lady leaned back in her rocking chair and slowly explained her major worry. “Every close friend I ever had has already died and gone on to Heaven,” she said. “I’m afraid they’re all wondering where I went.” ☺

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

What a great comfort these promises are. There is a place to go to when death or loss or suffering descend upon us.

We look around ourselves these days in South Africa and in the world and we see uncertainty and distress. Things have to change and people are rightly impatient for that change to happen.

Zechariah and Jesus were no less distressed by the world in which they lived. The prophet Zechariah offers an apocalyptic vision, looking and hoping for a future time when conflict will end and those faithful to God will, “Rejoice heartily.” The saviour will come to Jerusalem, not as a victorious general riding on a warhorse into the city, but a gentle leader riding a donkey. Zechariah envisions a king who will banish the instruments of war, chariots, warhorses and bow. The king will declare peace for all the nations, “from the River [Euphrates] to the ends of the Earth.”

Zechariah was posting what people today yearn for amid the turmoil; leadership not by might and forceful suppression, but by the virtue of meekness. Zechariah is calling his contemporaries not to look to oppressive leaders, but to those who will bring peace. The coming king, in the prophet’s vision, will govern the oppressed and fallen by means of peace-making, reconciliation and gentleness. In this ruler people will realize God has come to their aid. And more: this ruler will reveal the kind of God the people have, a God who seeks reconciliation and peace among all peoples. The face of the one God sends will reveal the face of God. 

 Psalm 145: “I will bless your name for ever, my King and my God.” We pray Psalm145 today in gratitude for the people of peace whom God has given us, voices of awareness and reconciliation. In the last 2000 years, people of peace have been influenced the world and made it a better place. The world would be an awful place without that influence. Like the prophet they keep us focused on God’s ways as we pray in the words of the Psalm, “The Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger abounding in mercy.” Stirred by our Psalm we pray, “O God, fill us with your Spirit, make us merciful, filled with great kindness, like you, as we strive to be your instruments of peace in our troubled world.”

When all around us seems to be distress and disorder, we need help if we are to be the peaceful face of God in the world. God has seen our need and sent us the one Zechariah promised, who entered Jerusalem on a donkey and proclaimed “peace to the nations.” Jesus does not bang us on our heads with new laws and discipline. He offers peace to those who come to him. He doesn’t dictate to us from afar, but offers to be our yoke mate. Farm beasts were yoked in pairs to increase their ploughing ability.

That is the image Jesus gave his contemporaries and us: we disciples are not on our own to face present and future challenges to his ways of peace. He invites us to draw close to him, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” The ground is hard and rocky, we need strength and perseverance if we are to plough and plant seeds of peace in our world – and that “world” can be as close as our own family members and neighbours. Staying “yoked” to Christ can help us overcome the anxiety caused by the pandemic and social unrest that marks our days and promises to alter our futures.

These days are testing us in many ways, but in some they are not unique. “Learn from me” – throughout our Christian lives Jesus invites us to follow his way of meekness: loving, serving and forgiving. He assures us that we are not left on our own to follow his teachings and live his life. He showed the face of a loving God to the world and, yoked to him, we can do the same. Being a Christian demands everything we have to live as Jesus lived and in his spirit we are united to him so that we can follow his law of love. 

Meekness seems like a useless and impossible virtue in our modern world with all its dangerous weapons and aggressions. But the gospel today invites us to try practicing meekness (we “practice” because we will never get it perfect) by: softening our own hearts; not returning anger against anger; using our personal authority to stand with the powerless and those deprived of a chance for a full life.

Jesus was “meek and humble of heart” because he chose to be that way. He could have used power to gain a following, to conquer his opponents and overwhelm the towns that rejected him. Instead he used his power to stay committed to God and God’s ways and to share the life of the “little ones” who accepted him. They had suffered at the hands of the powers of the world, and Jesus will too. They only had God as their support and future and Jesus’ own faith was the assurance to them that their trust in God was not misplaced. 

During the days of the Second Vatican Council, Pope St. John XXIII used to submit all his anxieties to God with this prayer every night: “Lord, Jesus, I’m going to bed. It’s your Church. Take care of it!” And he understood very well Jesus’ words:

 

Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened ,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me….

For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

 

Reflection:

Shall we accept the yoke Jesus is offering? One thing we sense from Jesus is that his yoke is not meant to be oppressive. St. Paul says it will lead us to freedom. When we accept Jesus’ yoke we also receive him as our full-time helper, our “yoke partner.” Which explains how Christians were able to accomplish enormously difficult and seeming impossible tasks, even martyrdom, in Jesus’ name.

So we ask ourselves: 

  • What parts of my life would I identify as carrying the “yoke of Jesus?” 
  • How do I experience Jesus helping me carry that yoke? 

Prayer of the Faithful 

Leader:  

In our prayers today let us remember especially all people who carry heavy burdens and huge responsibilities, both in the Church and in the world, as well as in their personal lives. 

Reader:

We pray for Pope Francis, as leader and shepherd of the Church:(pause)
that the Lord will bless him in his work of encouraging people to come to the Lord, to be relieved of unnecessary burdens and to find rest for their souls.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for the leaders of South Africa: (pause) that God will give them wisdom in addressing current challenges, courage to work for the greater good, and openness to new approaches for the good of those whom they serve.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for an end to injustice and discrimination: (pause) 

that God will change the hearts and minds of those entrapped in judging people by externals, and help everyone to recognize the God-given dignity of each person.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for a greater appreciation of the Sabbath: (pause) 

that God will show us how to disengage from our busyness and technology so that our minds and spirits can be refreshed through prayer, engaging in relationships, and appreciating nature.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who need healing, particularly those with Covid-19: (pause) that God’s healing Spirit will ease their suffering, restore them to health, and guide all who are caring for them.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for: Dorothy Teichler and Anneluise Glisson

LORD HEAR US

We pray for John Stewart, David Rossiter, John Ruder, and all those with the Covid-19 virus who died during the week.  Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord.

 

All: And let perpetual light shine on them. 

May they rest in peace. Amen.

 

Leader: Let us pray our prayer for healing.

 

God of infinite mercy, hear our prayer!

In this time of the coronavirus pandemic,

we ask you to give us the courage to take care of one another as Jesus did. 

 

For those who are ill, especially those who are frightened and alone, for those who cannot access healthcare, for those who are homeless and lost, hear our prayer! 

 

For those who are dying, and for those who have already died from this virus, for those who tend them and for those with no one to tend them, hear our prayer!

 

In the midst of our own anxiety we ask you to give us the courage to support one another as you would. 

For those who are unexpectedly unemployed, 

for employers who share what they can, 

for our government and financial institutions and those who lead them, hear our prayer!

 

In the midst of our struggle to ensure a healthy future for all who live on this planet, 

we ask you to give us the hope that surpasses our current understanding. 

For healthcare workers, medical researchers, spiritual leaders and our faith communities, hear our prayer!

 

In the midst of our growing awareness that all life on Earth is connected, 

we ask for the heart to respect and cherish all life,

that all peoples recognize that we are all your children, hear our prayer!

 

We ask this through Christ our Lord. 

Amen!

 

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us. 

 

My Jesus,
I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment,
feed my soul at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.
Amen.

 

CONCLUDING RITE

 

Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us: 

 

All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

 

Leader: Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
by whose gracious will
the mysteries of the kingdom are revealed to the childlike,
make us learn from your Son humility of heart,
that in shouldering his yoke
we may find refreshment and rest.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

 

Blessing

 

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

 

Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

 

All: Amen.

 

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