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Ordinary Time 17 (A)
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Readings for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

 

1. 1 Kings 3, 5 and 7-12

  • The Lord appeared to Solomon.  The first half of the first sentence describes a moment of revelation that we may have experienced in our own lives, too.  The second half describes the way the revelation took place: in a dream at night. 
  • All of us have thought about dreams with their fantastic images and what they may symbolize for us.  So what I am reading today is familiar to us all, and I will read it in an ordinary conversation level that shows this.
  • Who are the characters?  God, speaking from the Sabbath rest, invites Solomon: Ask something of me and I will give it to you.  It reminds me of a father or mother inviting their children to speak up.  The words are delivered openly and with assurance.
  • As for Solomon, I hear several uncertain voices.  He says he does not know how to act.  He makes a sober request and asks for help: Give your servant an understanding heart.  He asks for a gift that will allow him to serve his people in outstanding ways.  Let this be an example for us as church.  Finally, he confesses that governing is almost impossible.  We can identify our own time with that of Solomon; who indeed can govern a vast people?
  • Central point: God is never outdone in generosity.  Despite Solomon’s limited request, God is wholly transparent and gives him even more: After you there will come no one to equal you.  And numerous other gifts are added in the text of scripture that we do not hear today in our liturgy.  What beautiful things God will give us if we only ask!
  • Message for our assembly: Who is able to govern this vast people of yours?  We also belong to a large body of believers, much vaster than the kingdom of Israel.  Our leaders must also depend on God’s gift of wisdom and our generous prayers.  As I emphasize Who is able?  I bring out our own place in this.
  • I will challenge myself: To remind my listeners of the pleasure God takes when we ask for help to serve our neighbor.

 

2. Romans 8, 28-30

  • The high point of this reading occurs at the beginning, and I should prepare for immediate take-off.  All things work together for those who love God.  When we listen we should remember the first half – the opportunities that are never lost – rather than the second half with its apparent condition.  No, the apostle is not bringing in a caveat through the back door, but inviting us to generosity in love.
  • And from that point I will declare the wonderful details of God’s plan for us in a very inclusive way.  So many commentators have sliced apart this predestination passage and used it to instill an unholy terror in people, dividing the human race into elect and damned.  Once again, the apostle is merely describing God’s intention for us: foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified.  Nowhere does he talk about the consequences of our rejection of the terms.  There is a bit of that in today’s Gospel passage.
  • I will not emphasize in my voice the many masculine pronouns I hear, but rather the action words connected to each.
  • In this passage I hear the first whisper of a phrase that many mass presiders have used.  Christ is become not just Lord of heaven and earth but also the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  In other words, Jesus is our elder brother.  Jesus is true man as well as true God.  Let our assembly take it to heart.
  • The Climax comes in the very beginning.  This is God’s Plan A for us all, and no backup is mentioned or provided for.
  • The message for our assembly: To gain a full level of assurance as we reflect on God’s plan for us.  Our response to God’s love is to love God in return, as the great commandment tells us.
  • I will challenge myself: To build the pitch of my voice gradually as I work my way through the litany of love.  I want to tell everyone, especially those who are almost out of eyeshot: Glory is our destiny.

 

Gospel. Matthew 13, 44-52

  • Today we hear still more parables about the Kingdom of God.  There are three: the treasure buried in a field, the pearl of great price and the net thrown into the sea which collects fish.  I will let the people hear all the details.
  • These parables have in common a description of the motivation we have to gain a certain reward in life.  People throughout the ages have dreamed of buried treasure and priceless pearls.  Investors every day give themselves over to the fever of trading stocks, bonds, futures.  In other words, Jesus is saying that we are to motivate ourselves in such a way as these people.  He goes and sells all that he has and buys it.  People do this every day in the world!  But how many will do it for the cause of Jesus?  It is up to me to link the level of our motivation with that of modern-day investors, political campaigners, child athletes and contestants for beauty pageants.  And with my voice I should ask my listeners why it is that we do not get more motivated because the Kingdom is indeed within our reach.
  • The passage concludes with a short wisdom saying that does not seem related to the parables.  Yes, there is the scribe instructed in the Kingdom of heaven.  But what is this head of the household who brings from the storeroom both the new and the old doing here?  Certainly the homilist can tell us, by taking these ancient stories and adding some from his own treasury of stories. 
  • Climax: There is immense energy behind the actions of people who give up everything they once had.  I say it twice today, during the treasure and pearl parables. 
  • Message for our assembly: At the end Jesus asks: Do you understand all these things?  The tone of my voice will show that Jesus is inviting us to understand, to chew on the parables a little – not that he is looking for an excuse to chew us out.  I will leave a little time for the assembly to realize that the question is addressed to us also, so that we can respond with a Yes of our own.
  • I will challenge myself: To give voice and indeed my body to the driving force that impels people to give over their entire lives for the Gospel. 

Word to Eucharist: Do we come forward out of routine or with some reserve, as a weekend exercise detached from the events to which we give our full commitment?  Would we sell what we have to be in this procession - as if we made time stand still while we enjoy the communion with Christ?

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