Christ Beats Alexander the Great
User's Guide to Sunday, July 6
Sunday, July 6, is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A).
Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30
It is hard to imagine a more impressive human specimen than Alexander the Great.
He was handsome, powerful and wise. He had huge ambitions — he wanted to rule the world — and then proved that these ambitions were not unrealistic. He conquered lands from his native Greece, through Egypt and the Holy Land, to India. His powerful personality made him a great commander of his army, but it also helped keep his empire relatively safe in his grasp throughout his life.
His intellect was extraordinary: He had been tutored by Aristotle himself and continued to study the arts and sciences throughout his life. His military strategy is still studied in war colleges.
Today’s first reading speaks about what happened after Alexander conquered Jerusalem.
He had laid waste to the ancient city of Tyre, then saw Jerusalem surrender to him. He entered the gates of Jerusalem on a war horse or chariot. But Alexander died young, and so did his hold on Jerusalem.
Then Jerusalem looked forward to a new king: "Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion; shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek and riding on an ass."
The reading describes the trappings of war associated with Alexander and tells us what the real Messiah thinks of them: "He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations."
Alexander called himself the "King of Kings" — but the real King of Kings was meek and humble of heart.
Alexander and Jesus are perfect counterparts to illustrate what Jesus says in today’s Gospel: "You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned," but "you have revealed them to little ones."
Yet how often in our lives do we choose the way of Alexander over the way of Christ?
Consider: Alexander the Great sought power; Jesus shared love. Alexander the Great acquired wealth; Jesus stayed poor. Alexander got sick and died. Jesus died and rose again to live forever.
St. Paul contrasts the two ways in today’s second reading, when he says, "Brothers and sisters: You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the Spirit. … If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."
Alexander’s team really was "in the flesh": It meant back-breaking effort and hard work. But Jesus says: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me … and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light."
So, the choice is ours. We can spend a life acquiring fame, power and wealth, like Alexander.
Or we can spend a life "in the Spirit," yoked to Christ, and live in him forever.
Tom and April Hoopes
write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer
in residence at
- June 29-July 12, 2014