The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – 26 July 2020
Lectionary Readings: 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12; Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-130; Rom 8:28-30; Matt 13:44-52
Theme: What is most important to us?
What is most important to us? What are our priorities? These seem to be the questions being posed in our readings today. In 1 Kings, Solomon is still worshipping at the forbidden “high places” and not in Jerusalem. In Gibeon, one of these high places, God speaks to him in a dream, inviting him, “Ask what you would like me to give you” – and Solomon asks for wisdom which in the Hebrew Scriptures is God’s gift: “For the LORD himself is giver of wisdom” (Proverbs 2:6). Solomon has clearly made the right choice and God gives him even more besides.
The same stress on what is most important is shown in the scattered verses we read from Psalm 119, the longest of the psalms, a prayer for God’s blessing by observing God’s Law, the expression of God’s will and love for Israel. The psalmist rightly says that God’s Law “means more to me/than silver and gold.” In the same vein, he goes on to say, that the Law is his delight: “That is why I love your commands/more than finest gold.”
Objects of great value such as silver and gold figure in Jesus’ parables of the kingdom in Matthew’s Gospel. The kingdom of heaven is likened to “treasure hidden in a field” and the “pearl of great price”. The merchant, looking for such a pearl, is willing to sell everything he has to buy it. The priority is to seek God’s kingdom, which is more precious than everything else. In his poem, “The Bright Field”, R.S. Thomas expresses this beautifully:
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, does not promise that only good things will happen to “those who love God”. In the larger context of this passage, what is meant here is that the troubles of the present time and the suffering of persecution in particular, cannot thwart God, who uses even these to accomplish God’s divine purpose.