•Zechariah 9: 9-10; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11: 25-30•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
There is a small stream near Butte called Silver Bow Creek. You canjump across it. There is another small stream in the mountains West of Anaconda — Warm Springs Creek. I have jumped across it. These two small creeks are headwaters for the Clark Fork River. At the end of April the river flowed leisurely through Missoula. One month later, at the end of May, the same river was roaring through town, threatening to flood areas of Missoula further downstream. It is amazing how two very small streams can become such a large, forceful body of water.
In the years and decades following the crucifixion, small Christian communities developed and spread around the Mediterranean. Each community faced issues and challenges unique to their own sociocultural circumstance. Each had various ways of explaining Jesusand his teaching.
The people of Galilee were forced by various social and cultural forces to move out of the context of their Jewish world. In order to survive they assimilated the Greek and Latin culture in which they lived. It was a mutual assimilation. They engaged in the process creatively.
Later communities learned how to live by looking to the past, to their predecessors. Each developed an oral tradition which subsequent communities struggled to keep intact. That tradition gave them a code of knowledge, values and customs, passed on from parents to children. For centuries the church was governed by wisdom from the past.
It is no longer that way. Computers and Google searches provide access to far more information and knowledge about the natural world than our ancestors dreamed possible. We live in the midst of a social-political upheaval far greater than any experienced by our ancestors. In just a few years we turned away from the past and focused on the future. In the process we have changed from a deeply religious society to a more secular and unbelieving way of life.
This is not necessarily bad. It is challenging. The earliest Christian communities were bold and creative in responding to the new situations confronting them. The challenge for us is to be bold and creative in the circumstances confronting us today.
I seldom use the word “must” in homily or teaching. I use it today convinced we “must” be as bold and creative as our ancestors in faith, or Christianity will become a relic of the past.
Today in our brief gospel text we heard an ecstatic outcry from the heart of Jesus. He is filled with joy as he prays, “I thank you God, Lord of heaven and earth.” Why the joy? Why the prayer of gratitude?
Because he had experienced the simple, ordinary people of Galilee and found they were innocent, trusting and receptive — very human. They knew what it is like to suffer, to feel bad or to live without security. They were not afraid to wonder and to love. He found them he ones most able to see and understand his teaching. That awakened joy and gratitude in his soul.
Don’t allow yourself to be confused or frightened by the Secular Age in which we live today. Keep your heart innocent. Trust in God’s love for all of us as we create new ways of expressing and communicating the gospel to others. Above all don’t be afraid to let go of old, conventional ways.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” “Learn from me!” Matthew’s Jesus invites all to learn from him. He was directed to the future he called it “the reign of God.” He challenged his first companions and challenges us to engage in making this a more human world for everyone.
The Clark Fork River is a great teacher. Like the Clark Fork, the Christian community began as a small stream. It grew larger and stronger in a process of mutual assimilation with new socio-cultural circumstances. The process continues and we are part of the process.