Our first scripture reading today from Zechariah has the prophet extolling the freedom and liberty OF God’s people precisely because we ARE God’s people! The Israelite Community looked for the banishment of the powerful nations that were continually subjecting the Israelites. They often saw and portrayed the “Messiah”….the Promised One….. as a “liberator”. He would be one who would throw off the “yoke of oppression” that the Israelites constantly suffered under. This “messiah” would establish them as a “great nation” among their neighbors! The “yoke” mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel today is very different from the “yoke” placed on the Israelites by their conquerors!
Matthew depicts the awaited “Messiah” as “meek and humble of heart”, not as the imagined mighty king who would free the Israelites by force. And that Messiah is Jesus! Jesus cites his close relationship with his Father, the “Lord of heaven and earth”, to encourage his listeners to “Come” to him. And he promises them relief from their labor and burdens if they will trust in him. Jesus is fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament in his very being……….liberating the people from MUCH MORE than simply foreign oppressors. Jesus is promising a “rest” …..a freedom, a liberation, an escape from the tentacles of sinfulness…….that can only be had by believing in Jesus as the Messiah! FREEDOM!!!!
This weekend of July 4th we celebrate our Nation’s freedom and independence. We have, and are still going through some very challenging and difficult times, yet we can and should pause to give “Thanks” for a gift that we can at times take for granted. For us, as Catholics, we are asked to learn from today’s scriptures the important lesson of “recognition” of the TRUE “Messiah”. Jesus lets it be known that it is NOT power, domination, defeat of enemies, etc. that will help us recognize our liberator. Rather it is the Christ, who walks with us, who understands our challenges, our needs, as well as our short-comings and still invites us take his “yoke”……that of “service”, “forgiveness”, “justice”, “compassion”, ……”LOVE”……upon ourselves….AND THEN WE WILL BE TRULY FREE!!!!!
HAPPY “FREEDOM” WON FOR US BY MANY…..ESPECIALLY JESUS CHRIST!!!