The homily from this morning is below followed by a few photos of the church, the fruit of the weekend's labors.
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Rom 8:9, 11-13
One of the greatest musical compositions ever is also one of the most well-known and, at least in the English-speaking world, most frequently performed. Georg Freiderich Handel’s Messiah. The libretto by Charles Jennens weaves together verses from the Old and New Testaments to present a concise history of our salvation. Handel wrote the music in 24 days, an astonishingly short span of time. At the end of the manuscript he wrote SDG or Soli Dei Gloria “Only for the glory of God.” Several verses in today’s first reading and gospel are clustered toward the end of the first section of the oratorio, a section subtitled: “The prophecy and realization of God’s plan to redeem mankind by the coming of the Messiah.”
The reading from Zechariah is the basis for the soprano air “Rejoice greatly Oh daughter Zion, your king shall come to you.” In Zechariah’s time this was prophecy. In our time it is history. Our King has come. We rejoice and give thanks in this Eucharist and every Eucharist we celebrate. A few moments after hearing “Rejoice Greatly” the last two verses of today’s gospel are introduced with a quote from chapter 40 of Isaiah. And thus begins the exquisite gentle air: “He shall feed his flock.” Jennens changed the pronouns in these verses from first person to third. And so we hear the invitation:
“Come unto Him all ye that labor
Come unto Him that are heavy laden
And He will give you rest
Take his yoke upon you
And learn of Him
For He is meek and lowly of heart
And ye shall find rest unto your souls”
Each line could be the basis for an entire homily or for a series of meditations on retreat.
The final verse from today’s gospel was rendered as “His yoke is easy and His burden is light.” It is the final chorus in Part I of this magnificent work.
One need not be a biblical scholar to recognize the relationship between Zechariah’s image of Jerusalem’s king riding “on a colt, the foal of a donkey” and Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem shortly before He was crucified. As described in Zechariah the king’s entry into Jerusalem is both triumphant and peaceful. Triumphant and peaceful. Those are two words that don’t appear often in the same sentence. Think about it. In war a donkey is useless. Though I’m not a farm boy it seems that a donkey is useless just about anywhere but a farm. Were the king to enter Jerusalem mounted on a horse, were Jesus to have entered Jerusalem on a horse, the image would be aggressive rather than peaceful.
We know from all four Gospels that Jesus instructed his disciples to bring a colt, the foal of a donkey, rather than a horse, for his entry into Jerusalem. Even then He was giving a message of peace rather than aggression. With good reason. . . to fulfill the prophecies.
Zechariah portrays the king as peaceful and humble, just as Jesus describes himself in the Gospel reading from Matthew. In commenting on the passage from Zechariah one scholar describes the king as follows, “The future ruler. . . . will be identified with and no different from those who consent to come under his rule. Yet, he will have the resources and power to dominate the nations and establish worldwide peace and stability.”
“And no different from those who consent to come under his rule.” This is a basic tenet of our faith: Jesus: fully human and fully divine. Jesus: like us in all things but sin.
Why is Jesus thanking the Father for having hidden things from the wise and learned but sharing them with the little ones? Exactly what was being hidden and shared at the same time? Jesuit Father Dan Harrington suggests that God has hidden from the powerful but shared with the poor the significance of Jesus’ deeds and the presence of God’s kingdom in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is sharing with the powerless the unique relationship between the Father and the Son, a relationship that is open to those to whom the Son wishes to reveal the Father, a relationship into which Jesus invites us.
If you have a recording of Messiah listen to it. If you don’t you can easily download it on a computer. The 1992 recording by Boston Baroque is as close to perfection as any I’ve heard. Listen to Messiah. Pay attention to the verses from today’s readings. When you hear “Come unto him, all ye who labor. . . .” recall that Jesus offered an invitation to those outside His immediate circle of disciples; an invitation to come to him so as to find rest. Listen to this glorious music and recall that Jesus offers us, gathered in this place, at this time, the same invitation.
In the psalm we heard: “The Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love. How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures.”
It is God’s mercy, kindness and compassion that make His yoke easy and His burden light.
Handel’s Messiah is magnificent. The words and the melodies come together in perfect unity. Soli Dei Gloria to be sure. From the opening, “Comfort ye, my people” to the overwhelming fugal “Amen” that ends the work, we are reminded exactly what Jesus did for us. Is there any reason not to accept the invitation to take his yoke upon our own shoulders?
The first is the outside of the church yesterday afternoon
This is a wide angle view from the back of the church.
This was taken behind the baptismal font looking toward the main entrance.
And this last was this morning. The sun was coming up in the east and the clouds and rain were approaching from the west. On the way to prepare for Mass I looked west and saw the rainbow. Tore into the house for the camera and snapped away.
The building to the left is the original church which is now a meeting hall.