SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME ( 26 July 2020)


FIRST READING (You have asked for wisdom.)

A reading from the first Book of Kings (3:5, 7-12)

The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: “O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this—not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right—I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.” —The Word of the Lord.

R. Thanks be to God.

 

RESPONSORIAL PSALM (119:57,72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130)

Lord, I love your commands. (Ps 119:97a)

I have said, O Lord, that my part is to keep your words. The law of your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (R)

Let your kindness comfort me according to your promise to your servants. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight. (R)

For I love your commands more than gold, however fine. For in all your precepts I go forward; every false way I hate. (R)

Wonderful are your decrees; therefore I observe them. The revelation of your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple. (R)

 

SECOND READING (God predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son.)

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (8:28-30)

Brothers and sisters: We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified. —The Word of the Lord.

R. Thanks be to God.

 

GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Cf. Mt 11:25)

Alleluia, alleluia.

Blessed are you Father, Lord of heaven and earth; for you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom. (R)

 

(Long Form)

GOSPEL (He sells all that he has and buys the field.)

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (13:44-52)

Jesus said to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” —The Gospel of the Lord.

R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

(Short Form)

GOSPEL (He sells all that he has and buys the field.)

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (13:44-46)

Jesus said to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” —The Gospel of the Lord.

R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The Hidden Treasure

How would you respond if God approached you, as he did King Solomon in today’s first reading, and said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.How would you respond? After all, we have myths about such an occurrence – finding the bottle with the genie inside that will grant us any three wishes we desire, or searching along sandy beaches with a Geiger counter waiting to discover a buried treasure chest.

So, if God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you,” what would you ask for?

- Would you ask for money or riches?
- Would you ask for a happy and secure family life?
- Would you ask for good health and a world free of the pandemic?
- Would you ask for world peace?

King Solomon’s own request was for an understanding heart” to judge rightly and distinguish right from wrong. This was an astonishing request. As a king he really did not need to ask for more riches. Nonetheless, he asked for qualities to best serve his people – to serve others. And so, what would we ask of God?

We all have private lists of requests we have madeto God: as students, we might have asked to pass a test and get into a good school; for friends, to have good weather for a special event or outing; for ourselves to live free from personal difficulties and troubles? These days we might expand this to seeking social stability or safety, or security; it could be to seek freedom and justice or – on a very deep and personal level – to seek true and lasting love. What is it we ask of God?

Our Gospel today has three more parables in this lengthy Chapter 13 of St. Matthew’s Gospel built around parables of the Kingdom of God. As the chapter comes to an end we are offered another glimpse into the this Kingdom by the story of the treasure in a field, the pearl of great price and the vast dragnet of fish. The treasure in the field and the pearl of great price are metaphors of the priceless value of the reign of God, while the dragnet refers to the inclusivity of all in this Kingdom.

Who among us would not be willing to sacrifice so as to gain a great treasure, or a priceless pearl? But a close examination of the Gospel shows that these situations are quite complex. How did the person know that the treasure was in the field or where to find the pearl? And what if the person did not have sufficient funds or resources to purchase the field or the pearl? Then what? These questions help us to see – in terms of the hidden treasure and the priceless pearl, that we need to be attentive to first discover the treasure, andthen have the insight to realize it is worth everything else we might possess and more. It also reminds us to have enough courage to make whatever changes and sacrifices necessary for obtaining in the end what we desire. DO WE CONSIDER THE KINGDOM OF GOD WORTH THIS EFFORT?

This leads to another important question – what is this reign of heaven for which we should be willing to give up all else?

Is it a way of living our life here and now or something that we can push off until the end of our life?

Is it a lifetime of faithful commitment?

Is it a life of public and personal integrity, and trust in God?

Is it marked by any sense of service to others?

Is it the kind of life Solomon sought for his people– a life able to distinguish right from wrong?

Is it the kind of life that inspired the Psalmist to live a life in harmony with the Law – God’s Law? Or a life inspired by St. Paul to live “conformed by the image of God’s Son”?

And what if we are finally able to acquire that hidden treasure or the pearl, to we hug it to ourselves, thinking its ours alone? Or – like Solomon – do we see this gift to be used at the service of others?

Our second reading today, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, is a passage often misunderstood as it speaks of predestination. We can easily understand what it means to be “called, justified and glorified.” We probably never really think of the concept of divine foreknowledge – of God’s knowing all things. But the notion of predestination causes us to struggle. But predestination does not mean that some are saved and some are not – so why bother? We seem to understand that ALL are foreknown by God – because we are ALL created by the same Father. Therefore, we should understand this passage to mean that ALL those who are foreknown are “predestined” to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. In easier words, all people are meant to be justified and glorified, and all are given the opportunity to discover the treasure buried in a field, the pearl of great price, or be caught up in the dragnet of divine creation. All of us are given the chance to sell what we have in order to acquire this new fortune. The cost may be great – the cost of discipleship is never easy. The parables today suggest that we may have to give up everything else. But St. Paul reminds us that “all things work for good for those who love God. That is the best gift of all.

Those who embrace the reign of God, the kingdom of Jesus Christ, in their lives are the ones who truly“strike it rich.”

Prayers

Celebrant: The Lord speaks to us, as he spoke to King Solomon, “Ask what you would like me to give you.” In prayer, let us come to him and seek the hidden treasure, the pearl of the kingdom.

READER:  For all who minister to our community as priests, deacons, religious and catechists, that they may bring from the storerooms of their wisdom both the old and the new for the edification of all God’s people, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.

READER: For the nations, that God may grant them leaders who desire to possess an understanding of the human heart, so that they may judge their people equitably and distinguish clearly right from wrong, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.

READER: That we may understand the joy we have in our hidden treasure, our precious pearl of the kingdom of God, gladly selling all we have to possess it fully, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.

READER: For our own efforts to choose the hidden treasure of personal faith and prayer, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.

READER: For those who have asked for our prayers and for our faithful departed and the bereaved who mourn for them, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.

CELEBRANT: God of provident love, you call people into your kingdom; you make all things work to their good. We are confident that you hear our prayers, and that you will grant our requests, through Christ, our Lord. (all) AMEN.

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