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Our King speaks peace

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

July 6, 2014
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Zechariah 9:9-10
Romans 8:9, 11-13
Matthew 11:25-30

Each year, on the Sunday closest to the Fourth of July thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Eritreans, Filipinos, Koreans, Latinos, Poles, Croats and Russians gather at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows (The Grotto) for the annual Freedom Mass. This celebration reminds those of us who so easily take our freedom for granted about the real meaning of this holiday.

 The media tell us that the Fourth of July is a celebration of what it means to be American. At one time we could be sure that the sight of the American flag would fill every American with feelings of patriotism, loyalty and pride.  

Our joy today is about liberty and its sometimes feeble American expression. It is about the need we have to be free and our conviction that we were born to liberty. Instinctively each of us feels a love for this country that has been — in so many ways — our land of opportunity. We want what we have to be extended to the world. However fragile our freedom, we know that it is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

The First Reading might well have been deliberately chosen for this weekend. “Be glad,” it says, “your king comes riding on a colt.” At that time kings who conquered lands showed their intentions by the animal they rode when entering their new territory. Those who rode an ass or a colt came in peace. Those who came on horseback were warriors.  The prophet tells us about a king who will speak the language of peace rather than war to attain dominion.  

Freedom is built upon peace. As we hear the Scriptures, we pray for leaders who will come in peace to work for freedom. We pray that those who announce that they will lay down their lives for their country might also be willing to lay down their arms.

This message of peace is much like the Gospel — accepted by very ordinary people but sometimes scorned by those who have power in the world. With the Christ of the Gospel, we rejoice when the message of peace is heard. With Christ’s disciples, we pray that we may bring that peace to the world.

As we move to the altar today, we give thanks to the Father for the gift of Jesus who lives in the Church.  The peace that Jesus offers us is both the desire and the gift of the Father. The Holy Spirit waits only to be enlivened by our willingness to listen to his prompting. We, too, can be children of peace.

Some will consider us naive. Others will say that we are unrealistic. Although our courage may desert us in the face of opposition. At this celebration, we pray that we might be willing to bring peace to the world. Then we will celebrate a freedom that is reality rather than wish.

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