Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – 30 July 2023
Lectionary Readings: 1Kings 3:5. 7-12; Ps. 119:57. 72. 76-77. 127-130; Romans 8:28-30; Mt. 13:44-52
Theme: The Quest for Greater Value
Our readings this Sunday provide rich resources for reflection on the quest for greater value. As the passage from Matthew opens, the context has just shifted. Jesus has been seated in a boat by the shore of the Sea of Galilee, teaching large crowds (13.2, 34), using images of a sower, darnel (weeds), mustard seed and yeast. Then the crowd disperses, as Jesus leaves them and goes to a house nearby; there his disciples ask for an explanation of the parable of the darnel (36). That is the springboard for the three parables that the liturgy presents this Sunday: the treasure, the pearl and the dragnet. Prayer with this passage might well focus on those three elements and what they symbolize and inspire for the journey of faith. However, there might also be value in considering the agent in each of those brief accounts: the “someone” (44) who finds the treasure, the merchant (45) who discovers the fine pearl, and the fisherman (48) who sorts the content of the dragnet. In each case, the quest for greater value is achieved at some cost: the first two must sell everything they own in order to acquire the field in which the treasure is buried, or to possess the pearl of great value, while Levine and Brettler (JANT, 37) intuit that the fisherman knows that he must discard the whole non-kosher portion of his catch. Sensitive discernment enables each of those persons to gain what they seek. But then Jesus takes us a step further, reflecting on the end of time, when angels will discern the good from the evil, and cast the latter into the eternal flames. These parables subtly illustrate the importance of both discernment and the quest for the greater treasures – new and old – to which the life of faith calls us.
The passage from 1Kings features Solomon at the beginning of his reign, caught up in a dream of an encounter with God, in which he remembers fondly the faithfulness of his father David, in his years of service. For his own mandate as king, Solomon earnestly seeks the gift of “an understanding mind,” to govern the people of God and to discern between good and evil. God assures him, “I will give you a wise and discerning mind,” and acknowledges Solomon’s personal qualities and commitment: “no one like you has been before you; no one like you shall arrive after you.” Might we hear this addressed to us as well?
Writing to the Christian community in Rome, Paul proclaims his confidence in God’s purpose and plan and leading, through all that happens, for those who love God. Joseph Fitzmyer (JBC, 855) offers his understanding of Paul’s insight: in the process of salvation, the Christian reproduces an image of Christ by a progressive sharing in his risen life. That transformation requires our response to God’s call, election, predestination, and justification, aimed at the final destiny of glory, for all who put faith in Christ Jesus.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1) Recall a value that is important to you, on your journey of faith, and how that value has shaped your life to date. 2) Reflect on how you might live some new expression of it now.
Bibliography: Brown, Raymond E. et al., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1990); Levine, A-J. and Brettler, M. Z., The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford U. Press, New York, 2017).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Diane Willey, nds, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna 2005, 2006