July 25, 2014

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. First and Second Kings originally 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, Kings has to do with the kings of Israel. Actually, only three kings reigned over what was the united kingdom of Israel. They were Saul, David, and Solomon. After Solomon’s death, dynastic squabbles resulted in the division of the kingdom.

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 all people.

This regard for Solomon added credibility to his action described in this weekend’s reading. He 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. Governing well had a special definition. It meant bringing the people into accord with God. Possessing great wisdom enabled Solomon to accomplish this holy end.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is the source of the second reading. Beginning this reading is a verse long a favorite source of consolation for Christians. “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (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—and worse—from the political authorities.

These verses in this readings call 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, belonging uniquely to Matthew. They do not appear in the other synoptic Gospels otherwise similar to Matthew.

Key to understanding the message of these parables is in their reference to the eagerness of the pearl merchant who discovers a truly precious pearl. He literally sells all that he owns to acquire this pearl.

Being truly wise, in the sense that wisdom means a clear understanding of life, and particularly of God’s place in our lives, is a treasure of unequalled value.

It also teaches us that we must invest every part of ourselves in our quest for God. We must “sell everything,” so to speak, retaining nothing of selfish appeal. We must devote everything to discipleship; otherwise, our discipleship will not succeed.

The reading reminds us further that the world, and even the kingdom of God on Earth, are peopled by saints as well as sinners. God, and only God, will balance the picture. Disciples must seek God on their own regardless of their peers.


This Liturgy of the Word calls us directly to face the facts that, as Christians, our kingdom is not of this world. This is a hard lesson. Jesus insisted before Pontius Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world. As followers of Jesus, as part of his mystical body, we are in the same situation.

Realizing that our kingdom is not of this world requires wisdom. Insisting that we belong to another kingdom and living by its standards will require determination on our part. We encounter rebuttals everywhere.

We must be determined to the point that we will give everything, our instincts, our comforts and our obsession with ourselves in order to be with God.

Our willingness will reveal our wisdom. The truly just are extraordinarily wise, and the truly just will be rewarded eternally. †

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