23 July 2011

Dominica Septimadecima Per Annum

First Reading, 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Solomon’s unselfish and humble prayer is unique because it is not the norm of other ancient kings. Solomon was about twenty years of age at this time and his prayer shows a level of maturity far beyond what he calls “a mere youth”. In the Hebrew text, an “understanding heart” really means a willingness to hear God and obey God. God promises Solomon a heart that is wise and understanding; so much so, that there has never been anyone like him nor will there ever be anyone like him. Solomon’s governance indeed far excelled any of the kings of Israel. Moses and the apostles of Jesus, however, did have a more extensive understanding of the mysteries of God. As far as any future leader never being as wise as Solomon, prompts the question: What about Jesus? Certainly Christ is wiser than Solomon but we have to exclude Him because Jesus is God in Whom all the gifts of wisdom are contained and He is the Word Who made these promises to Solomon. Many of us at some point in our lives will be in positions of authority: pastor, committee chairperson, CEO, supervisor, teacher, principal, student body president, mom or dad, etc. Solomon’s prayer for an understanding heart is surely appropriate for any one serving our Lord in authoritative professions or vocations.

Second Reading, Romans 8:28-30
For all the trials that are faced in this life, how important it is to keep the opening verse of this Reading etched in our hearts. The Latin Vulgate translates a bit differently and perhaps gives a slightly better understanding of the fruits of loving God: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God,” -- “iis qui secundum propositum vocati sunt sancti -- to such as according to [His] purpose are called to be saints.” Sainthood or taking up permanent residency in heaven is our hope. We are predestined to conform to Christ by following His example, His teachings, and by our patient endurance in suffering. Saint Augustine explains God’s foreknowledge: “This foreknowledge of God is not merely a foreseeing of what men will do by the assistances and graces of God’s ordinary Providence, much less a foreseeing of what they will do by their own natural strength; but it is a foreknowledge including an act of the divine will and of His love towards His elect servants; God therefore has foreseen that these elect, by the help of His special graces and by the cooperation of their free will, should be conformable to the Image of His Son, that so His Son, even as Man, might be the first-born, the Chief, and the Head of all that shall be saved.”

Gospel, Matthew 13:44-52
Unlike the past couple of weekends, Saint Matthew, in this weekend’s Gospel, does not record the meaning of these parables. The meaning, however, is clear. They teach that the Kingdom of heaven is far more valuable than worldly possessions and is worth the sacrifice of all material riches. The morality of the characters in these parables is irrelevant to the point of these parables and thus need not be reflected upon. The teachings and example of Jesus Christ is the buried treasure. Our own free will determines exactly how valuable that treasure is to each of us. Studying the Gospels, responding to the call of evangelization, daily prayer, and regular Mass attendance speaks volumes of how important that treasure is to us. Evangelization is a hot topic in today’s Church and the reason is simple: As God’s created humanity, we have eternal value. Our souls will not perish with the gifts of this world. And if the Gospel of Christ is our hidden treasure, then that has to mean that you getting into heaven is as important as me getting into heaven. In other words, I must be as concerned for your soul as I am for my own soul. And how clearly was this truth acted out by our Lord when He became the sacrificial Lamb! To close, let us reflect on these words from Saint Teresa of Avila: “Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.”