Promoting the Reign of God

Reflection on the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Times

by Mimi Darragh

The readings for this Sunday:

Zechariah 9:9-10
Romans 8:9, 11-13
Matthew 11:25-30

“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.”

We wake up in the morning and the news comes on. There are more deaths in Iraq with no end in sight. In fact Rumsfeld says it may take 12 years to quell the insurgency. This is followed by a story about child soldiers and another one on a shooting in Pittsburgh. Then you get a call about a young child’s death in the parish. The burden of life seems pretty darn heavy. We work to transform ourselves, our families, communities and world. We labor but feel burdened. Suffering and death seem to be winning. Today’s Gospel reading can sound too good to be true or too simplistic to be of any help with today’s problems. But taken together, today’s readings give us some clues on how we can go deeper in this life of faith and what we can learn from Jesus, his life, and his message in order to carry the burdens of this life a little more lightly.

The first reading from Zechariah reminds us again of the promise of the Reign of God. God’s reign is not about worldly power or military might. These have never brought true and lasting peace; they only add to our burdens. But humility and meekness are at the core of God’s reign. The Savior divests himself and his kingdom of the implements of power. We are called to believe in this reign of God and challenged to go deeper in understanding the meaning of true humility: that there is a different kind of power, even true power, in powerlessness.

In Romans, the second reading, Paul says we do this, we are able to go deeper, when we live in the Spirit, when we are conscious that we are living in the Spirit. That is where life is. If we are just living in our “bodies”, in our own egos, in our own “dramas”, our own small selves, we are not really living. We can go deeper in this life of faith by submitting in humility to the life of the Spirit.

And Matthew’s reading gives us a picture of life in the Spirit. The wise of this world will not understand; only the little ones, the meek and humble will be able to see and understand. Little ones understand that they are not God and not in charge of life and death. But we, as little ones, are charged with proclaiming the coming of the kingdom in some way.

The following prayer speaks to this, to acceptance of our small place in the Reign of God and how this acceptance is a way to ease the burden and carry our loads lightly. This prayer for years was attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, martyred in March 1980. And it does describe his deep trust in God’s providence and our place in God’s plan. But it actually was written by Bishop Kenneth Untener in 1979 for Cardinal Dearden of Detroit to use in a Memorial Mass for deceased priests.

It helps now and then to step back and take the long view.

The reign of God is not only beyond our efforts.

It is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying the reign of God always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the church’s mission.

We cannot do everything, but there is a sense of liberation in realizing that because this enables us to do something and to do it well.

It may be incomplete but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and to do the rest.

Finally, the responsorial psalm, Psalm 145, from this Sunday’s liturgy reminds us of God’s fidelity, compassion, and loving kindness. In our littleness, our response is “praise for all eternity”.

Questions for reflection: Do we feel burdened because we are doing too much or spreading ourselves too thin? Is there one thing we could concentrate on to promote the Reign of God? What would that be?

Mimi Darragh is a member of the Pittsburgh Area Pax Christi and Parish Social Minister for St. Valentine Parish in Bethel Park.