Image: Seeing upside down at Trapper’s Lake Spirituality Centre
Each one of our scripture readings for this Sunday contains an image of God, or of our relationship with God, that goes against our ordinary understanding of how things ought to work. This upending of our expectations gives us good reason to reflect, and to consider how we are being given the opportunity to look at things in our life a little differently.
In the first reading the prophet Zechariah predicts the defeat of the nation’s enemies and the arrival of a reign of peace due to the efforts of a humble king, riding on the back of a donkey. St. Paul writes to the Romans and seems to tell his flesh and blood followers to no longer trust in what they see and know through their senses but instead to put their faith in an invisible spirit to guide them. In Matthew’s gospel we read that the wisdom and secrets of God are not revealed to those who are wise and intelligent, but to those who are infants and children. What the readings seem to be telling us is that, we are strongest when we are weak, most human when we are spirit and most wise when we are innocent.
Each of these paradoxes make little sense when we take them at their surface meaning but become more clear when look at them reflected in the life of Jesus.
Jesus was the Son of God and also human. He had the power of God but knew all too well the human condition and therefore he is a model for how to be the best human being we can be. Jesus did not see his power as something to be exploited or to be used against others. He taught that it was better to turn the other cheek, to show mercy and to be compassionate even towards one’s enemies. It goes against our instincts but Jesus proved the case that goodness overcomes evil not by force, but by love.
We can reflect on how we use our power. Do we find ourselves being defensive or aggressive when people have different opinions than ours? Do we take advantage of those who are weaker than us or do we use our strength to lift others up? Can we lay our defenses aside to welcome others with a gesture of friendship?
Jesus told his followers not to fear those who could hurt our bodies but who could do no harm to the spirit that God gave us. By doing so he gave us a pathway to conquering fear in our lives. Jesus ultimately conquered death itself as he gave his life on the cross and rose from the dead three days later. In this he showed what St. Paul was stating, that if we live by the spirit we have no need to fear even our own mortality.
Do we realize that because of the path that Jesus showed us, we no longer have to worry about being cautious about speaking the truth and standing up for what we believe in even if it is unpopular? Because of the spirit of God that lives in us we, can live our lives boldly and without reservation as death no longer has dominion over us.
Jesus spoke in parables so that the meaning of his stories were only open to those who took time to listen carefully, who were willing to question their own understanding of things and who were open to learning something new. Those who came with their heads already full of knowledge went away confused and even angry because to them Jesus made little sense.
As our lives unfold before us do we keep an open mind about what God is trying to teach us? When we meet new people are we willing to give them a chance and get to know them without our prejudices and past experiences getting in the way? Can we look at the world with awe and wonder again like we were able to do as little children?
As we learn from Jesus what it means to be fully human, the puzzle of these seeming contradictions becomes more accessible to us. The yoke that Jesus gives us is not an extra burden for us to wear but rather the instrument which relieves the weight that bears down on our soul. Learn from Him and follow him and you will find rest and fullness of life.