05 July 2014

A SMILING ASS – ARE YOU?

14TH Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 11:25-30 (Zc 9:9-10 / Ps 145 / Rom 8:9, 11-13)

On Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem.  The crowd was wild with joy, expecting Jesus to be the Messiah they have always waited for.  Waving palm branches, the people cheered Jesus, shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”  Many among the crowd spread their garments in the way as Jesus, riding on an ass, passed through.  This event fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah in our first reading today.  “Thus says the Lord,” the prophet declares, “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!  See, your King shall come to you; a just Savior is He, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.”

But my question is, why was the ass smiling?

The ass on which Jesus sat as He entered Jerusalem was smiling because all the while it thought the people were cheering for him.  Poor ass, it forgot he was not the center of anyone’s attention that day.  Except its own.

Are we not like this ass?  How many times have we already found our selves slowly but surely sinking into the quicksand of self-importance?  Have we not either actually grabbed the limelight or at least wished it were on us?  Did we not, even for once, patronize those who patronize us so that they may continue patronizing us?  How often have our egos hurt because we think too highly of our selves?  Yet no one but we ourselves deceive our selves into thinking that we are the center of people’s attention, that their applause is ours, that their cheers are ours, and that their adulation is something we deserve.  Worse, sometimes, but often in ways that may be subtle, we even demand that adulation from them!  Poor asses that we are!  The Lord uses us to exemplify humility and yet we lack in humility our selves.

Do you know that Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is not about palms but about passion?  Do we understand that Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is not about welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem but following Jesus unto Calvary?  We have emphasized in our holy week liturgy that Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is about discipleship.  Our passion is to become like Jesus.  Our following of Him is our paschal mystery.  Our life is our liturgy: we are disciples of Jesus.  Thus, the words of Jesus in the Gospel today should sound all the more louder and clearer to us: “…learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”  Let us learn the way of Jesus: humility.  Let us celebrate the liturgy of Jesus: self-oblation for others.  Let us follow Jesus: Love like Him.  Let us become like Jesus: beloved of the Father.

Who are the beloved of the Father?  The little ones!  “I give praise to You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,” Jesus exclaims in the Gospel today, “for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned You have revealed them to little ones.  Yes, Father, such has been Your gracious will.”  The little ones are God’s favorites.  The little ones are the humble of heart.  They are the beloved of the Father.  Are we humble?  Are we God’s favorites?  Are we the beloved of the Father?

In Latin, “humility” is humilitas.  It comes from the word, humus, which means “earth”.  That is why to be humble is “to be grounded”.  Some may be too quick to assert that the humble person is one who is grounded on himself.  While such a claim is correct, it should not be the first consideration for a disciple of Jesus.

For a follower of Christ, humility is being grounded of Christ Himself.  With Jesus Christ as the defining reality in his life, a Christian must strive to keep himself grounded on Him.  To veer away from Jesus is the sure route to pride.  Isn’t that the sin of the fallen angels?  In the primordial battle, as Christian tradition has it, Lucifer and his legions turn away from God and so they fell into arrogant pride that they refused to serve Him.  They became too self-consumed.  They were consumed by pride.  They became e-v-i-l because that is the exact opposite of how creatures should l-i-v-e.

While it is true that touching base with one’s true self is never optional for a person to be humble, a person however cannot be humble unless he is rooted in God.  And because, as the Gospel today teaches us, all things have been handed over to Jesus by the Father and “no one knows the Son except the Father just as no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him,” to be rooted in God one must be grounded on Jesus who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Cf. Jn 14:6).

And so, Jesus invites us, “Come to Me….”  But coming to Jesus means more than going nearer Him.  To come to Jesus we need to satisfy two requirements that the second reading today tells us.  The first is implicit in the reading: We ought to live not by the flesh, that is, we need to die to our former way of living, to all worldliness, to all inordinate attachments.  The second is very explicit: We must strive to live in the Spirit of Jesus so as to belong to Him.  Many times we do want to respond to Jesus’ call, “Come to Me,” but many times, too, miss satisfying these two requirements.

In this Holy Mass, we beg the Lord, for our selves and for one another, the grace to be courageous and generous in dying to our self so as to be raised to life by the same Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead.  Then, with His Spirit dwelling in us, as the Apostle Paul says, we belong to Jesus.  And when we truly belong to Jesus, Jesus can use us better to teach the world how humbly man ought to live.

It is alright for an ass to smile, misled into thinking he is the star of the show.  It is an ass, you know.  But we are not asses.  We are disciples of Jesus.

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