July 28, 2023

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe First Book of Kings is the source of the first reading for Mass this weekend. As might be supposed, the two books of Kings deal heavily with the kings of unified Israel: Saul, David and Solomon. But while these two books concentrate on these three kings, the books are not political histories.

The authors of these inspired books were not interested in politics, except when politics furnished some religious consideration or another.

For the authors, religion was the most important consideration in life. The Hebrew religion was the way by which God related to the people and they 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, who continued his father’s religious policy, was regarded as the wisest of men.

Under David and Solomon, at least in the estimate of the Hebrews, 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 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 passage begins with a verse long 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 Christians of Rome as they faced the scorn of the culture of the time. Indeed, they also faced increasing pressure from the political authorities.

The 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 that are found in Matthew alone.

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

The Gospel reading presents the kingdom of God and life with him as an extraordinarily valuable pearl. If we are wise, we will put everything else aside and seek the pearl that is the kingdom.

“Put everything else aside” is the operative phrase. We must invest every part of ourselves in our quest for God. We must “sell everything,” so to speak, to be true disciples (Mt 13:46).

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


This Liturgy of the Word confronts us directly with the fact that the kingdom of God to which we belong is not of this world, just as Jesus insisted before Pilate that the Redeemer’s kingdom was not of this world.

We see this fact in many ways, today, as much as ever. The world is experiencing intense, historic heat waves. People suffer. Lives are interrupted. Quite possibly the food supply will be affected, as crops wither.

Despite all our knowledge, we are helpless. But we can control our own behavior. We can uplift human life by serving others. God’s grace helps us do the right thing by following Christ. We are not without power after all. Sadly, we so often refuse “to put everything aside” and live for the Lord.

Count earthly gains and focus earthly ambition on building and living in God’s kingdom that will never go away. It is God’s kingdom of peace and justice.

The Criterion will not have an issue next week due to its summer schedule. The reflection of Msgr. Campion for Sunday, July 9, will be posted at www.archindy.org/campion.

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