This week let us continue with a general, overall, view of what the Church is called to be – the sort of community which allows differences and settle opposing views in a manner worthy of our one foundation, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Do a reflective reading of THIS SUNDAY’S FIRST SCRIPTURE EXTRACT [ZECHARIAH 9: 9 – 10]. See there an image of how and what the Church should strive to become. Make a note of the facts that (i) Christ the King, our foundation, is triumphant and victorious” but without any trappings of pomp and worldly splendour, and (ii) all signs of antagonistic, warlike, dispute are abolished ….. the chariot … war horse … and battle bow … cut off.”

The contemporary church is in a stage of transition, adaptation and change, and this growth naturally gives rise to the expression of different views and approaches. How these are expressed is vitally important. As one contemporary commentator has observed we must all be wary of the pathology of groups so enclosed in their own circle or so locked into their own myths or rituals that they cannot listen, cannot hear, cannot learn from anybody outside themselves.

At the time of the prophet Zechariah the kingdom of Israel was disunited, there was infighting, jealousies, and recriminations. Too often the Church and our parishes are characterised by much of the same. We forget that respect for the ‘other’ is a key foundation stone upon which the human search for truth and understanding in all areas are to be built. The Church of God is no place for labelling people and denigrating another’s motives, commitment or integrity. TODAY’S PSALM [145 or 144] provides us with special insight: the Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger … the Lord is faithful … supports … and raises up.” The same Psalm proclaims, at the outset, that I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.” How is this possible if we are involved in denigrating any of our brothers and sisters whose commitment to both Church and Faith is, at least, equal to our own? We need to recall the words of Jesus recorded by Matthew (5: 21 – 24) in the Sermon on the Mount (referred to last week). How do we judge ourselves as orthodox and others as dissenters?

So we are able to make an easy transition to the opening words of TODAY’S SECOND SCRIPTURE [ROMANS 8: 9. 11 – 13] which states: you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really rests in you.” How much of our criticisms and antagonisms arise from the flesh and not from the Spirit? This reading ends with the observation – that if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” The Spirit calls us to dialogue – and dialogue means not only talking but hearing and listening. Too often in the contemporary Church there is at least one party that hears but does not really listen. It achieves nothing by coming to a dialogue with only one aim – to win your argument. I recently read something which struck a cord. What we find on the journey will be different for each one of us. The journey may look the same, but each one’s story is unique. We each discover within ourselves our own truth. We find our buried treasure.” Listening to what we hear in Christian dialogue is an essential part of each one’s personal discovery, and expresses the constant call to open our hearts (not our venom!) without fear in order that we should see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and understand with our hearts {see Matthew 13:20}.

TODAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 11: 25 – 30]

presents us with a striking mirror-image of our Old Testament scripture. It is not difficult to see the absence of chariot, war horse and battle bow.

In addition there is a telling description of the church’s one foundation …. come to me … take my yoke … learn from me.” We should have both the faith and courage to do so because he is gentle and lowly.” However, we are also reminded that we MUST do this when we find ourselves labouring and heavy laden.” How much of this approach characterises the manner in which we conduct our dialogues and settle the disputes withing our church, parishes and families? Too often the Lord is not the foundation – while the chariot, war horse and battle bow lurk just below the surface.

However, there is one further lesson today’s Gospel teaches …. we are, usually, not quite as clever” as we like to think we are. We may well leave our ‘opponent’ (who is really a brother or sister) overwhelmed but in reality they remain the wise and understanding.” Powerful and overbearing arguments seldom indicate the truth, and oftentimes lead to further division.

We all need to absorb and digest the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel – all things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Fathers except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”