July 22, 2011

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe First Book of Kings provides the first reading for this weekend’s Liturgy of the Word.

Originally, First and Second Kings formed one book. An editor, however, eventually divided the book into two parts. Thus, today, all versions of the Bible present Kings as two volumes.

As might be assumed from the name, the Books of Kings consider the monarchs of Israel, of whom actually there were only three—Saul, David and Solomon.

After Solomon’s death, dynastic squabbles resulted in the division of the kingdom, and then came the foreign invasions.

Great mystique surrounded David and Solomon.

David was the king who confirmed his own, and the nation’s, covenant with God.

Solomon was regarded as the wisest of men, an impression that added credibility to his action described in this weekend’s reading.

His wisdom was seen as profound because, despite his own intelligence and access to power, Solomon knew that God was supreme.

Solomon asked God for the wisdom to be able to govern well. Governing well, however, also had a theological definition. It meant bringing the people more strongly into a relationship with God.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is the source of the second reading, its first verse being a favorite source of consolation for Christians through all the years.

“We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him” (Rom 8:28).

Paul wrote this epistle in part to encourage the Christian Romans as they faced the scorn of the culture of the time, and indeed as they faced increasing pressure from the political authorities.

This reading calls for great faith, and for commitment to the fact that earthly life is not the be all and end all for humans.

For its last reading, the Church offers a reading from St. Matthew’s Gospel.

The reading contains three short parables. Each of these parables has its own particular message. However, they come together in the teaching that total response is required to be genuinely a disciple. The true believer must have clearly in focus, and firmly in heart, their faith in and obedience to the Lord.

One of the parables, for example, is about the eagerness of the pearl merchant who sees a truly precious pearl. He literally sells all that he owns to acquire this valuable pearl.

Wrongdoing is not in the story. The merchant does not steal the pearl. Rather, he sells everything to buy the special pearl because it represents so much to him.

Nevertheless, evil and evil people do appear in the reading. In the end, angels will separate the righteous from the sinful. They will cast the sinful into the “fiery furnace.”

Peopling the world, and even the kingdom of God on Earth, are saints as well as sinners. God, and only God, will balance the picture. But again, individual perception and purpose in life create the circumstances in which all people will be at the end of time.

Reflection

Unfavorable economic times in general at the present time add anxiety to the consideration of finances for most people, either in terms of individuals, families or indeed the society at large.

However, in bad times or good, for economic goals or something else, people devote all their energies to pursuing goals. Some ultimately are unrewarding or at best temporary.

Jesus insisted before Pilate that the Redeemer’s kingdom was not of this world. As followers of Jesus, our kingdom is not of this world. Accepting this fact requires wisdom and strong faith as well. It requires discipline.

Union with God is the pearl of greatest value. Experiencing this union is worth everything, subjecting our instincts, our comforts and our obsession with ourselves just to be with God.

The value of the pearl is genuine peace in this life and then life eternal. †

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