Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 24 2011
1 Kings 3;5, 7-12; Psalm 119; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52

For the last two weeks, Jesus has been telling parables about the kingdom of heaven in the heart of Matthew's Gospel. This week, Jesus tells three quick ones about  eager disciples' readiness to give fully to the kingdom. The first parable is of a person who finds a treasure buried in a field and then goes to buy the whole field; the second one is of the merchant who finds a pearl of great price and sells all that he has to buy it; and the third is of a fisherman with a dragnet who sorts out the good from the bad. In each of these, the main characters are relentless in their search for the prize, that is, the kingdom of heaven.
The action of the characters is the focus of the story. The hunter, the merchant, and fisherman encounter challenges along the way and they find clever ways to obtain what they seek. Their entire craft becomes dedicated to the pursuit of their treasure and they do it with great joy and enthusiasm. Jesus is affirming the wholehearted devotion to discipleship in these parables. A total 'yes' response is necessary for discipleship; partial acceptance of the words of Jesus doesn't make one a true disciple.

Half measures will not do for the kingdom of God. The kingdom is such a priceless treasure that a wise person would gladly give all for the chance to seize it. It is an opportunity of a lifetime and joy is the characteristic that shows one's good fortune. Patient tolerance is a result of joy. To see this chance in life, one must understand the words of Jesus to be a good disciple. Each of the characters in these short segments, including the Christian scribes, are ready to interpret the words of Jesus correctly. A Christian, therefore, must seek the wisdom that comes from belief in Jesus and an enlightened interpretation of scripture.
Solomon's wisdom from the first reading is paired with the disciples' understanding. In a dream, the Lord said to Solomon, "ask something of me and I will give it to you," to which he replied, "Give me an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong." This request warmed the heart of God who readily granted it and Solomon was rewarded with visitors from far and near that came to seek his advice.

We, too, seek an understanding heart with wisdom to choose rightly in a confusing world. Interpreting scripture in light of our cultural contexts can be rather daunting. New cultural assumptions often are not covered in scripture and we are left to interpret in the spirit of our faith's teachings. It doesn't give us the clarity we seek. The wisdom of an understanding heart goes a long way in helping us making the best informed choices we can. We want to see these characteristics in our church leaders. We want to know that they have pastoral concern for the struggles of their people. When they show warm care and compassion, patient tolerance, and an understanding of the plight of many, their wisdom will earn them respect from the faithful ones. We will strive together to eagerly seek the kingdom of heaven in our midst and we will celebrate in joy. We are better off doing it together and we have to be patient with those who are not yet able to demonstrate the priceless value of the kingdom.
Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Exodus, Moses would go to the meeting tent at the edge of camp to meet with the Lord face-to-face. Once he remained 40-days and 40-nights without eating as he wrote down the ten commandments given by the Lord. When we returned to the people, the skin of his face became radiant. The people held Moses in great reverence. Moses set up the Dwelling Tent for the Lord. When the Lord occupied the tent, the people would stay where they were; when the cloud lifted, the people would move forward. Moses announced the festivals to be kept in honor of the Lord:  Passover, the feast of Unleavened Bread, the Sabbath, the Day of Atonement, and the feast of Booths. All are to gather and listen to the story of the Lord. Every seven years, the people shall hold a jubilee year.

Gospel: Jesus explains the parable of the weeds in the field to his disciples: the Son of Man sows the good seed, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are children of the Evil One and the enemy who sows them is the devil. Angels are the harvesters at the end of the age. Jesus then says the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in  a field. It is so valuable that a person who discovers it buys the entire field because of its personal great value. The kingdom is also like a dragnet thrown into the sea that collects fish of every kind. Jesus finished his parables and went away from the people. The people came to tell Jesus that Herod arrested John the Baptist because his daughter requested his head on a platter to fulfill the evil desires of her mother. Sadly, Herod agreed and John was executed.
Saints of the Week

Monday: James, Apostle (1st century), is the son of Zebedee and the brother of John. As fishermen, they left their trade to follow Jesus. They occupied the inner circle as friends of Jesus. James is the patron of Spain as a shrine is dedicated to him at Santiago de Compostela. He is the patron of pilgrims as many walk the Camino en route to this popular pilgrim site.
Wednesday: Joachim and Anne, Mary's parents (1st century) are names attributed to the grandparents of Jesus through the Protogospel of James. These names appeared in the Christian tradition though we don't know anything with certitude about their lives. Devotion of Anne began in Constantinople in the 6th century while Joachim gained acclaim in the West in the 16th century. He was revered in the Eastern churches since the earliest times.

Friday: Martha (1st century), is the sister of Mary and Lazarus of Bethany near Jerusalem. Martha is considered the busy, activity-attentive sister while Mary is more contemplative. Martha is known for her hospitality and fidelity. She proclaimed her belief that Jesus was the Christ when he appeared after Lazarus had died.
Saturday: Peter Chrysologus, bishop and doctor (406-450), was the archbishop of Ravenna, Italy in the 5th century when the faithful became lax and adopted pagan practices. He revived the faith through his preaching. He was titled Chrysologus because of his 'golden words.'

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Jul 24, 1805. In Maryland, Fr. Robert Molyneux was appointed the first superior by Father General Gruber.
·         Jul 25, 1581. In the house of the Earl of Leicester in London, an interview occurred between Queen Elizabeth and Edmund Campion. The Queen could scarcely have recognized the worn and broken person before her as the same brilliant scholar who had addressed here at Oxford 15 years before.
·         Jul 26, 1872. At Rome, the greater part of the Professed House of the Gesu was seized and appropriated by the Piedmontese government.
·         Jul 27, 1609. Pope Paul V beatifies Ignatius.
·         Jul 28, 1564. In a consistory held before twenty-four Cardinals, Pope Paul IV announced his intention of entrusting the Roman Seminary to the Society.
·         Jul 29, 1865. The death in Cincinnati, Ohio of Fr. Peter Arnoudt, a Belgian. He was the author of The Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
·         Jul 30, 1556. As he lay near death, Ignatius asked Juan de Polanco to go and obtain for him the blessing of the pope.