17th Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 25th 2020
In our first reading today from the First Book of Kings we hear words of praise for King Solomon because rather than asking something for himself, for his own benefit, he asks for the gift of wisdom so that he can rule wisely like his Father David. We know from reading the story that God Loved Solomon but if we were to continue to read the story the relationship takes an interesting twist. Solomon loses his desire to please God and he begins to long for power and for prestige. He loses sight of God. Today it is enough to know that Solomon desires to please the Lord in his actions and in his decisions.
In the Gospel we come to the end of the parables in chapter 13 of Matthew. There are three parables today – in the first an individual is strolling through a field and he accidently discovers a treasure – in response to this discovery, the person hides the treasure and then sells everything and buys the field.
In the second parable we are told the merchant is intentionally looking for fine pearls. He fines one and once again, is willing to sell everything just to obtain that pearl.
In the third parable we are told someone casts a net that draws in everything. At a certain point that which is caught is sorted – the good is kept and the bad is thrown away. The person must choose that which is of value and that which is not.
In our second reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans, Paul tells the Christians of Rome that those who love God are blessed. God transforms those who love God so that they become more and more like Christ. Those who love God are called, justified and glorified.
People often ask me if I believe in evil. I often give a quick answer – NO! They are often shocked. I tell them I BELIEVE IN GOD. I KNOW that evil exists – I spend my time trying to deepen my BELIEF in God – trying to express in my choices and in my actions, my commitment to God and the relationship I have with God.
The real challenge for us is not dealing with some outer/external evil wreaking havoc in the world; the real challenge for us is our inner desire to do what we want rather than surrendering our body, our mind, our heart and soul to God.
The early Christians had a hymn, it is found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:5-11), where they marvel that Christ did not deem equality with God as something to grasped at – but rather surrendered his will to that of the Father…
Today, we as men and women, grandparents and children – we continue to struggle with choosing between ‘my way’ (what benefits me) and ‘God’s way’ (what honors God and the common good).
We often choose friends not because they are good people, but because they make us feel good or look good; we buy things, not because we need them but because we want them; we vote for particular politicians, not because they have the common good as their focus and guide, but because of what we think they will do to benefit us. Often it comes down to money in my pocket.
I am not opposed to money, satisfying my wants and needs or feeling good. What I am concerned about opposed to and what God is concerned about and opposed to is putting the needs of the poor, behind my need for fame and fortune and feeling good.
Solomon does okay when he seeks to do what is pleasing to God. He runs into trouble when he loses sight of his desire to please God and instead seeks his own personal well-being and when he seeks to increase his power.
The parables encourage us to keep our eyes open for that which is good around us – the treasure – if we keep our eyes open we can see it in the course of our daily activities. The parables encourage us to wake up in the morning with the intention to seek that which is good – the fine pearl, and when we find it to make sure to do all that is in our power to hold on to it. The third parable tells us that at some point we are going to have to make a choice – sorting the contents of the net - between that which is good and that which is not good. Again, we must do all that we can to choose that which is good. Make no mistake this is hard work.
The kingdom of God is not about what I want or think I need. It is about what is good in the eyes of God. It is not always easy to recognize that which is good because we are often looking for what will benefit me! Sacred scripture encourages us to keep our eyes open so that we focus our resources – our time, our talent, our treasure, on that which is good.
Paul reminds the early Christians of Rome that love of God will never lead us astray. The more we love, the more we will become like Christ. Loving, becoming more and more like Christ will always lead us to God and it will lead us to justification and it will lead us to glory.
It is true, there is evil at work in the world. The source of that evil is good people who take their eyes off of God and focus their eyes on what is pleasant to them, ti what benefits them. Each of us is easily distracted by and attracted to things that please us. Each of us, and all of us are challenged every day to make sacrifices. We are challenged every day to choose that which is good and to reject that which is evil.
As summer stretches out before us and we take time to relax – let us keep our eyes focused on the common good, on what is pleasing to God. Let us not fall into the trap where I come first and others and God are left behind as I tend to my wants and needs, to what pleases me and gives me more power over others!
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI