Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A: Sunday, July 26, 2020
The First Reading: 1 Kings
Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom
The Law of the Lord Is of Highest Esteem.
The Second Gospel Reading: Romans 8:28-30
God Predestined Us to Be Conformed to the Image of His Son.
The Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:44-52 (shorter form: Matthew 13:44-46)
Three Parables of the Treasure Hidden in the Field, Precious Pearl, and the Dragnet
Background on the Gospel Reading
In today’s Gospel we conclude the Parabolic Discourse of the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew from which we have been reading for the past two Sundays.
In the first reading of last Sunday we read some reflection from the Book of Wisdom on the true nature of Divine Wisdom. In today’s first reading taken from the First Book of Kings we heard Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom. In many ancient civilizations, their wise men taught how a king ought to rule and behave as truly wise rulers. Such leaders reflected profoundly the Divine Wisdom. Young Solomon educated in a Scribal School (equivalent to today’s Seat of Learning like university) learnt of these divine ideals of Kingship. But he saw that the lived reality was something else as there was a great chasm between the theory and actual praxis. Solomon feared being an unwise and foolish king. So, God appeared to him in a dream when he visited the sanctuary at the heights of Gibeon and asked him to request God for any help. Then Solomon thanked God for the many blessings he received through his father, the righteous King David, acknowledging his inexperience and lack of skill in ruling, prayed for the gift of wisdom to rule the God’s people. Solomon asked God to give him a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. What exactly is a discerning mind? The Hebrew original has there leb ©¯me‘a (‘[:me’vo bleÛ). It literally means a’ listening/hearing heart.’ This Hebrew verb (©m‘) is flexible in meaning as in English. It can mean, ‘understand,’ ‘discern,’ ‘hear’ or ‘listen.’ Putting these varied meaning together, we could say that the verb implies firstly, listening to, masticating and digesting the Word, leading to the acceptance of it within oneself and, finally, responding to it with the correct course of practical action. It leads one to discern between various situations seeking to know and respond to the will of God. This happens in the context of personal prayer. Anyone, whoever be it, engaged in this spiritual exercise can never go wrong.
This is the key to read the first two parables of today’s gospel which speaks of the great worth of the Kingdom of Heaven. In the first parable, says likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a treasure hidden in afield. Thus, practices were quite common in the ancient world where wars and enemy invasions abounded. These be accidently be found. A pearl of great price is a similar windfall. When one receives such unexpected treasures, before spending it, one who has a listening or discerning heart needs to discern what one has to do with it in the light of the Word of God. Obviously, his prayerful reflection will make him invest all he has to buy it and trade with it in the most correct and just manner. Jesus applies these two metaphors to those who enter His Kingdom. The gift of faith which some was given is a great treasure. His/her fundamental option to choose the Kingdom through the gift of faith makes him forego all his/her former wealth. They count nothing. Now Christ and His Message become his one and only treasure. S/he may have to forego many precious things of the former life, sometimes the very life itself, for which the best example is martyrdom.
After Jesus, Paul is the next best example is St. Paul who said “ ….. for me to live is Christ and to die is to gain.” (Phil 1:21) Paul the Pharisee could have risen to the heights of his career as a Pharisee in the Sanhedrin. Renouncing all human glory, status and achievements, Paul said “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil 3:8) A few verses later he invited the Philippians saying, “Brothers, join in imitating me.” (Phil 3:17). Nobody can do that unless one has a discerning mind as we saw in the case of Solomon. But that narrow path is not easy to tread. Later in life, Solomon failed in his pursuit because he has too many allurements. He had no time to pray. The women in his harem contaminated his mind. He lost the God and the Law which he treasured as a young prince.
The third parable shows that after the fish have been collected, the good fish are kept and the bad ones thrown away; so too, at the final judgment, the good and evil will be separated. People with listening and discerning hearts are the good, while those who were not are evil. So, now is the time to choose the treasure hidden in the field as well as the precious pearl so that our ongoing choice of the same will win us heaven at the end.
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