Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Zach 9:9-10; Rom 8:9, 11-13; Matt 11:25-30
Living not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; living not as debtors of the flesh, but under the yoke obedience. The readings this Sunday reveal the mystery of living the kingdom in terms living by the Spirit of Christ. Saint Paul in the Second Reading shows us the difference between living by the spirit and living by the flesh. The words that captured my imagination in Paul’s Letter to the Romans are the following: “Consequently, brothers and sisters, we are not debtors 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” Mark Twain, the great American humorist once described a banker as “a person who loans you an umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the moment it starts raining” (cf. The Quotations Page web site)! While Mark Twain was trying to be humorous, his description might help us to understand what Saint Paul tells us today. He warns us on the dangers of becoming “debtors to the flesh.” One of the most foolish things a person can do is to take a “loan” from the devil. Some people even try to bargain with the devil. They may only want just some gratification; just a little fun – like trying illicit drugs just once, or some forbidden pleasure just once! The devil however is a claver and cruel banker. Once a person has taken out the smallest loan, the devil demands interest and charges in terms of guilt feelings, sadness, anger, misery and eventually bitterness and despair. When the devil takes us that far, he forecloses our debt and takes over our souls. Does that sound familiar?
That is why Saint Paul warns us to owe no debt to the flesh, to devil. What exactly does Paul mean when he speaks of “the flesh” as opposed to “the spirit?” By the word “flesh” in John’s Gospel 1:14 means “whole human nature’ as God intended it to be. But Paul here refers to our unredeemed and weak human nature; our human desires that continually pull us down. Because of our human nature, we are either advancing towards God or sliding backwards away from God. The devil being a claver fellow, tries to manipulate our weak human nature. At times the devil gives us a loan we cannot pay back and then we are stuck; we are trapped; we are enslaved by that debt burden, like some third world countries who now seek debt cancellation from the IMF and the World Bank. However, for us Christians there is Good News regarding our debt. Thanks be to God, his Son Jesus Christ is capable of paying off our debt burden. That is why Saint Paul tells us that we are not debtors to the flesh. We do not owe anything to anybody because we have received the Holy Spirit who strengthens us by joining us to shoulder his yoke, thereby canceling our debt; enlightening our burden. The best way to understand how God in Christ cancels our debt is to imagine having a “joint account” with Jesus. That is why Jesus offers us the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that we are no longer debtors to the flesh, but living by the Spirit. That gift of the Spirit is offered only to the little ones; those who by God’s grace become humble, innocent and pure of heart. That state of life comes from the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead. It was out of this purity of heart, innocence and intimate relationship with the Father that Jesus was able to overcome death and all powers of the flesh. It is in this sense that Jesus in the Gospel invites us saying: "Come to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." In other words Jesus invites those burdened by the yoke of the flesh and disobedience to embrace the yoke of the Spirit and obedience to His Word under which they find relief from their burden and debt. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The readings invite us to live by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, so that we may have life in him; 2) It is only by living in Christ that Christ can cancel our debt burden and lead us to live by his Spirit; 3) We pray for God’s grace that we may live by the Spirit and resist taking any “loan from the devil.”
©2011 John S. Mbinda
Homily & Music