Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

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Daniel J. McLaughlin, O.S.A.
Our Lady of Good Counsel Friary
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Readings
1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12
Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130
Rom 8:28-30
Mt 13:44-52

Young Solomon is anointed King of Israel and sits on the throne of his father, David, who was a man of great reputation. Solomon contemplates the enormity of the challenge of ruling the people. In a dream God speaks to Solomon and tells him he may make any request and it will be granted. Solomon asks for an understanding heart to judge God’s people and the ability to distinguish right from wrong. God approves the request because Solomon did not ask for riches, long life, or the life of his enemies. Moreover, he is promised that no one will equal his wisdom and understanding. People from many nations will visit Solomon to marvel at his God-given wisdom and the beautiful buildings of his kingdom. The final words of David to Solomon are that to be a successful ruler he must above all obey God and observe his Laws.

Solomon will build the Temple of Jerusalem, a very luxurious royal Palace, fortresses and other projects. To build them will require taxing the people and reducing them to near slavery during years of construction. More important is that Solomon will soon forget the God who blessed him. His many foreign wives will have him build altars for their gods. He, too, will worship at the altars built for his wives. Scripture tells us: the difficulties he and Israel experienced were caused by his lack of religious piety for which his foreign wives are to blame. Solomon will reign as king for forty years but his heart was no longer true to the Lord, his God; he will not be the same man as when God blessed him in a dream.

In the gospel of Matthew Jesus uses easy-to-understand images of what it is like to experience living in the kingdom of heaven. The discoverer of buried treasure or finder of an expensive pearl express great joy at finding things of almost unbelievable value. Their discoveries prompt them to sell everything they have to possess what they found. Another image Jesus uses is a dragnet. This is more instructional because it offers a warning: as fishermen discard what is not good, so it will be for humanity at the end age when the angels of God will separate people based on their good or bad behavior during their lifetime. We learn that the kingdom is a mixed body of saints and sinners with the final sorting out left to God and his angels. In the meantime, patient tolerance must guide the practice of those in it.

In these parables we hear Jesus repeat the call of God when he says to his disciples and us: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you…so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you” (John 15:16). We are reminded that as we are chosen, we must choose God as our Father, His Son and their Kingdom; in choosing rightly we find their treasures of understanding and wisdom promised in the readings today. To accept the gifts of God we must express zeal and a hunger for them that will not be satisfied until they are ours. The lucky treasure finder and the merchant were willing to sell all they owned. The disciples of Jesus dropped their fishing nets and left their former way of life to be his first Apostles. We are challenged in these examples to examine how eagerly we respond to the call of God and His gifts of guidance, faith, sacraments, one another, and in all we see and do in His name each day.