July 5, 2020
Revised Common Lectionary
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 or Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 45:10-17 or Song of Solomon 2:8-13 or Psalm 145:8-14
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14 (see 1)
Romans 8:9, 11-13
Although this Sunday falls during the Fourth of July weekend, today’s Scriptures may remind many Christians of several movements from the “Christmas portion” of Handel’s Messiah: “Rejoice greatly,” “Come unto him,” “His yoke is easy.” Palm Sunday may also spring to mind as we hear Zechariah’s description of the triumphant king riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. This summertime Sunday offers us the opportunity to reflect on these familiar texts in a completely different setting.
The prophet Zechariah’s portrayal of the messianic king in today’s first reading does not square well with popular notions of political leadership. This ruler enters the city not like a military conqueror on horseback, but rather as a humble bringer of peace astride a domestic animal. This messianic figure eschews the chariot, the bow, and other implements of warfare, and instead signals a universal order of peace. The triumph of this messiah leads not to subjugation but to liberation for the prisoner and the exile. This one rules in the likeness of the God whose praise we sing in today’s psalm: “The Lord upholds the falling, and raises up all who are bowed down” (Ps 145:14).
The messianic vision expressed by Zechariah is reflected in the ministry of Jesus, who identifies himself in today’s Gospel as “gentle and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). The ways of God have been revealed not to the wise and the intelligent, but to “infants” (Mt 11:25, NRSV) or “the childlike” (RNAB) – meaning the poor in spirit, the meek, the sorrowing, and the other “blessed” ones that Jesus had identified in the beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12). He reassures them that even though persecution and rejection await those who accept the yoke of discipleship, his burden is easy, and his yoke is light.
On this first weekend of July, as both Canada and the United States have been celebrating national holidays, the Scripture readings challenge us to consider the kind of society that we aspire to be. Can followers of Jesus remain faithful to the Good News of the donkey-riding, peace-bringing, prisoner-liberating Messiah, while still embracing the spirit of “my nation first,” victimizing people of color, excluding immigrants, conquering through intimidation and military might, and dividing nations one against another? How do twenty-first century disciples follow in the footsteps of Christ, the bringer of peace and compassion, as they celebrate a nation that they love?
A Hymn for Today: “Come to Me, O Weary Traveler”
The late United Church of Canada minister and hymn writer Sylvia Dunstan has expanded on the powerful words of today’s Gospel to create a text that offers consolation and reassurance to those who would follow the way of Christ. The disciple need not fear the path ahead, because Christ himself is there even now as a companion and refuge.
“Come to me, O weary traveler;
come to me with your distress;
come to me, you heavy burdened;
come to me and find your rest.”
“Do not fear, my yoke is easy;
do not fear, my burden’s light;
do not fear the path before you;
do not run from me in fright.”
“Take my yoke and leave your troubles;
take my yoke and come with me.
Take my yoke, I am beside you;
take and learn humility.”
“Rest in me, O weary traveler;
rest in me and do not fear.
Rest in me, my heart is gentle;
rest and cast away your care.”
Text: Sylvia Dunstan. © 1991, GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission.
Image Credit: A wooden bullock yoke, bows and chain as used by bullock and ox teams, Cgoodwin, May 26, 2008; Creative Commons
“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.