The prophecy of Zechariah was primarily concerned with the rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of the nation – a restoration that would prepare the people for the messianic age. Consequently, the first reading of today clearly prefigures the kingly nature of Jesus Christ: He will be powerful yet humble. It is on this note that the liturgy of today invites us to reign like Jesus our master. In the gospel reading, Jesus thanked the Father that the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven have been revealed to the humble. He to whom heaven is revealed is indeed powerful. Being powerful and humble at the same time is what we are called to embrace this day. Humility is the seed-bed for the proper germination of power. Without humility, power becomes sicken, tyranny.
In the first reading, Zechariah enumerated the good works that will be associated with the expected Messiah; He shall eradicate evil and instill peace in the land. In doing this, He will not actually be destroying the world but renewing it. Because he rides on a donkey – a sign of peace and humility, the poor and the dejected will be able to approach him; because he is down-to-earth, he will be able to have a firsthand knowledge on the workings of evil amongst the people and their suffering – he will not rely on the report of others. The humility of God makes relationship with him possible and effective. Imagine how effective leadership will be if every leader took out time to concretely live with and amongst the people. If the problem of the people is not experienced by the leader himself, solution may not be a priority. Indeed, incarnation was a possibility because our God “rides on a donkey”.
The humility of God does not go down well with the pride of men who are carried away by appearances. If something or someone is powerful, we want to see the person or thing flaunt the power around. Power is often time misunderstood as the ability to defy protocols, break the laws and get your way around them, reap where one has not sown, oppress the poor and so on. Such misunderstanding and misuse of power may be very attractive to the senses but because it is devoid of humility, it ends up destroying rather than building the human person and relationship. Divine power is never disrespectful to the human dignity and social order.
However, true power comes from God; for this power is able to save. It enables us to understand and accept our need of God rather than thinking that we can live without Him. Those who acknowledge their need of God are truly powerful. Thus in the gospel reading of today, Jesus thanked the Father for revealing Himself to infants. Infants are known for their dependence on their parents and guidance. Realizing that we need God, we draw close to him. When we do so, Jesus says that he will easy our yoke and lighten our burden. This means that we will never be without Divine assistance in our struggles in this world. Humility is acknowledging your worth as a gift from God and using it for the good of all.
The second reading reveals to us that the pride of the senses is what causes us to fall into the sins of the flesh. The wisdom of this world only leads to death but the wisdom of God is able to save. The fact is, when we live life with a humble disposition, we will relate with things in their true meaning/ essence and not for momentary gratification. A heart that truly seeks for the eternal is not caught up by ephemerals. Beloved, God has made each and every one of us powerful. Our power is his presence and gifts in and amongst us.
It is one thing to possess the power of God, it is another thing to use it for the right purpose. If we are humble, we will be able to serve and through our service, the power of God in us will truly and efficiently eradicate evil. But if we are arrogant, we will become licentious. The rich man in Luke 12:16-21 was powerful by his wealth but for his pride, he made wrong decisions, became foolish and was eventually lost. When we are humble, Jesus does not promise that we will not have troubles, but that we will certainly not be lost because He is our wisdom. God Bless You!
• Rev. Fr. Evaristus Okeke is a priest of the Archdiocese of Benin City.