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July, 22 2014

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Rev. Timothy P. Schehr

I Kings 3: 5, 7-12 Romans 8: 28-30 Matthew 13: 44-52

          At the end of the gospel for this Sunday Jesus asks his disciples if they have understood his parables about the kingdom. They say yes, probably because they want to make a good impression on their Lord. We know better from their choices later on in the gospel. But eventually the apostles proved that they were learned in the kingdom of God. And like the head of a household they did bring out the new athe old to teach us about Jesus.

            Matthew was an especially good head of household. By tradition he had been a tax collector. He understood the value of earthly things. But in time he became a disciple of the Lord.  In his gospel he included unique material from his former life to teach something about the new life he discovered in Jesus. The gospel for this Sunday includes examples of this.

            Only Matthew includes the comparison of the kingdom of God to a buried treasure and a valuable pearl. In his former life as a tax collector Matthew would have valued such things. But they cannot compare to the kingdom of God. We have the distinct impression that Matthew is telling us that the world he once new cannot compare to the world Jesus introduced to him. In both parables someone sells everything to gain something else. That is how it must have been for Matthew.

            The final parable compares the kingdom to large net bringing things up from the sea. Once on land everything is sorted out. They throw away what they cannot use; they keep what is worthwhile. Jesus wants his listeners to be among those who will be judged worthy at the end of time. They should take full advantage of the present to make sure that happens.

            In the first reading, King Solomon displays his worth. It is still early in his reign. In a dream Solomon is invited to request anything at all from God. It is a golden opportunity for him. Lesser kings would have asked for the standard things: long life, wealth, victory in battle. But Solomon is special. He understands he is God’s servant serving God’s people. Kingship in Israel is unlike kingship in other nations. In Israel the Lord is King. David and his successors are privileged to serve God’s interests. And that means they should do all they can to steer the people in the right direction, teaching them to live by the standards of heaven which includes distinguishing right from wrong.  Solomon understands that he can carry out such a formidable task only with God’s help. So Solomon asks for the wisdom to serve God’s people well.

            God is so pleased with Solomon’s request that God grants him everything else besides. Clearly service to God is the key to so many other advantages for a king of Israel. Unfortunately most of the kings of Israel did not recognize this. Even Solomon drifted away from this ideal later in his reign.

            In his letter to the Romans Paul speaks excitedly about saving will of God. He is convinced God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him. This is the same message in the parables in this Sunday’s gospel; it is the same message Solomon hears from God is the first reading. God invites everyone to walk the path of life. Paul feels strongly about this; he wants his readers to follow the Lord and thus enter into the family of God among whom Jesus is the firstborn.

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