Sunday Scripture Readings

seventeenth sunday

in ordinary time,

July 28

1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Psalm 119;

Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52

OUR GOOD NEWS: No sacrifice is too great for the joy of God's King-dom. In the Old Testament, dreams were accepted means of divine communication, especially for rulers seeking God's guidance. God had favored Solomon in choosing him over other, older brothers to succeed their father David as king. In our first reading God appears with a further undeserved, generous offer: "Ask something of me and I will give it to you." The promise to grant one's fondest wish is a familiar fairy tale motif, where the choice usually reflects personal advantage - "long life, riches, defeat of enemies." Instead, the youthful monarch requested continuation of God's special love and concern shown his father. He selflessly asked for "a heart with skill to listen" - sensitivity in understanding subjects' needs, skillful decision-making, which builds up rather than weakens a just society. Unfortunately, Solomon failed to do his part in living up to the royal ideal. This failure was repeated by subsequent Davidic successors but finally realized in Jesus, the Messiah and universal King. Nevertheless, today's first reading invites us to cultivate Solomon's prayer for a heart - mind and body - attuned to God's word and docile to his desires. Prayer means asking for what God wants to give, what makes us better able to do his will of loving service to others. The first two Gospel parables illustrate the opportunity as well as challenge of discipleship. In ancient times, frequent unrest (invasion, brigandage) encouraged people to bury money and jewelry in fields. Sometimes unclaimed and forgotten, such treasures awaited lucky finders like our poor farm laborer plowing another's property. Overwhelmed at the possibility of becoming a millionaire, he straightaway disposed of all his meager possessions, however dear and necessary, to purchase the field. Heedless of future complications - Would the owner sell his patrimony? Sue for fraud and deception? - he eagerly gave up everything in a gamble he couldn't refuse. The parallel parable differs in minor, complementary details: a well-to-do merchant on the lookout for quality pearls, in ancient times considered the most beautiful and valuable of jewels. Chancing upon a rare perfect specimen, he too immediately "sold everything" - merchandise for making a living, souvenirs acquired in travels, his wardrobe and personal objects. Anyone not sharing his peculiar enthusiasm would judge such behavior irresponsible and foolish. Jesus' point in both parables is obvious. He has come to offer us God's Kingdom, a unique pearl of the greatest price. Genuine disciples are those who respond to this opportunity with joy and selfless commitment, eagerly giving life in the Kingdom top priority. The third parable is more developed, with a different message. Galilean seine nets were drawn through the water. Only afterward was the catch sorted, with edible, kosher fish going to market. Jesus warns us not to expect perfection in the Church nor presume that active membership automatically guarantees admission into the final-age kingdom. The concluding saying addresses Christianity's relationship to Judaism, with wider implications for the current tension between old-fashioned and modern. It's not that one or the other is right, or that both are important. The new is old, now made fresh, relevant and exciting.

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