July 25, 2008

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe First Book of Kings is the source of this weekend’s first reading.

As might be supposed, the two books of Kings take their name from the fact that they deal heavily with the kings of Israel—Saul, David and Solomon.

While these two books concentrate on these three kings, the books, in fact, are not political histories. The authors of these inspired books were not interested in politics, except when politics furnished some religious consideration or another.

The only thing that mattered in life was religion, the process whereby God related to the people and they related to God. Nothing else in the long run made any difference.

David and Solomon were almost magical figures in the ancient Hebrew mind. David was the king who confirmed his own—and the nation’s—covenant with God. Solomon was regarded as the wisest of men.

Under David and Solomon, at least in the estimate of the Hebrews themselves, the unified kingdom of Israel had status among the nations of the ancient Middle East.

In this weekend’s reading, Solomon realized that, despite his own intelligence and access to power, God was supreme. Solomon asked God not for power or wealth, but for the wisdom to be able to govern well. Again, to emphasize the place of religion, governing well meant bringing the people to God and God to them.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans furnishes the second reading.

The reading begins with a verse that has long been a favorite source of consolation for Christians: “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.

These verses in this reading call for strong 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. These parables belong uniquely to Matthew.

Key to understanding the message is to note the eagerness of the pearl merchant to possess the truly precious pearl. He sells everything in order to buy this priceless pearl.

The Gospel presents the kingdom—and life with God—as an extraordinarily valuable pearl. If we are expert in assessing the value of pearls, if we are wise, we will put everything else aside and seek the pearl that is the kingdom.

“Everything” is the operative word in this phrase. We must invest every part of ourselves in our quest for God. We must “sell everything,” so to speak, to be true disciples.

The reading further reminds us that saints as well as sinners people the world, and even the kingdom of God on Earth. God, and only God, will balance the picture.


This Liturgy of the Word calls us directly to the fact that our kingdom is not of this world, just as Jesus insisted before Pilate that the Redeemer’s kingdom was not of this world.

As followers of Jesus, as part of the Mystical Body of Christ, we are in the same situation.

Only the wise see that the enduring kingdom is not of this world. Belonging to this kingdom will require determination on our part because we will encounter obstacles and rebuttals everywhere in daily life.

Determination will be only half-hearted if it does not mean that we have discarded everything—including our instincts, our comforts and our obsession with ourselves—in order to be with God.

However, if we are so wise, and if we give ourselves to God, if we sell all for the pearl of great price, we will live eternally. †

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