WORD MADE FLESH
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 27, 2014
1 Kings 3.5-12 | Psalm 119 | Romans 8.28-30 | Matthew 13.44-52
July 21, 2014
It took me a while to understand that the Mass readings should be read and meditated on in their entirety, not a la carte. If we read the texts in the order presented, we are offered a chance to walk the way of faith from the beginning – from the childhood of Old Testament to adulthood of the New.
Thus, the holy texts, which this Sunday refer to the rise of the kingdom of God, begin with Solomon's plea for wisdom which is presented as the ability to distinguish right from wrong.
Making such a request involved, of course, a choice. Solomon could have asked for riches, long life or conquest of his enemies. But he asked for an "understanding heart" – unerring guidance in matters of conscience. God was pleased with Solomon's choice and he granted it joyfully.
'The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure in a field.'
I read that text and try to remember when was the last time I prayed to understand what is right and what is wrong. Prayer reflects the depth – or shallowness – of faith. Where am I?
Another thought: Our times are no less confusing than those of Solomon. He struggled with pagan cultures' influences and so do we. Examples? One is the current attack on life, both at its beginning and its end.
Respect for life in all its forms rests at the foundation of our belief in a good God – the giver of life.
CLOSE TO GOD
We may accept this belief in principle, but unless God is for us someone with whom we have a close relationship, someone whom we trust, with whom we talk often, then one difficult situation – say, pregnancy resulting from an undesired union, or prolonged suffering of a terminally ill relative – and we cave in.
Many choices are hard and usually we are so lonely when making them. Loneliness is a bad advisor. That is why it is important to keep in touch with Jesus throughout one's life, not only in times of crisis.
Without work on maintaining our knowledge of right and wrong, the road from a momentary doubt to a permanent conviction is short and sadly swift. Often, when a bad decision is made, we look for an authority outside religion that would support it.
In the Gospel, Jesus tries to tell his disciples what the kingdom is without describing it. The kingdom transcends earthly experience. It is compared to a great treasure, or a wonderful pearl. Both are hidden and both can be acquired only at great cost.
First, however, they must be recognized for what they are: unique, extremely valuable things. Unless you know a lot about pearls, you will not be able to tell the true pearl from a fake. Unless you know something about treasures, you will look at one and see just an old pot filled with ancient, dusty trinkets.
Next comes the most difficult question, one that can be answered only through action: Do I want the pearl or the treasure more than anything else? Do I want the kingdom of heaven more than my career, my plans and my will? Do I?
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