17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A. Bible Study: 1 Kings 3:5-12, Psalm 119, Romans 8:28-30 and Matthew 13:44-52
“Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold… I give you a wise and discerning mind so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.” (1 Kings 3:11-12).
Our opening prayer at mass this morning summarizes our readings for today and gives us something to reflect on. In this prayer which is similar to that which Solomon prayed in the first reading, we said to God: “… Grant that with you as our ruler and guide, we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure…”
This prayer draws a distinction between good things that pass away and good things that endure forever. God asked Solomon to ask for anything. I guess if we were in the shoes of Solomon, we would have asked for the 3 P’s which have characterized most of our prayer today: Power, Prosperity and Pleasure.
Power makes us famous and gives us control over others and things but it must surely pass away. We cannot remain in power forever. Prosperity makes us rich and wealthy but again wealth depreciates with time. Pleasure makes us forget our worries but as fast as it comes so does it disappears. None of these things bring us true satisfaction. The question now is: ‘What should we ask for?’ This brings us to our lessons today:
Lesson 1: Seek First God’s Kingdom.
Instead of asking for good things that pass away, Solomon asked for good things that actually endure: wisdom and an understanding mind. The fact that God was so impressed with the prayer of Solomon shows that inasmuch as God wants us to ask freely for our needs, He wants us to give proper priority to things that are of true value.
In our Gospel passage, Jesus explains the value of the kingdom of God by comparing it with a man who sold everything he has in other to purchase it. Knowing God and loving God is much higher than the sum total of all our earthly possessions. No wonder Jesus tells us: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:33).
Lesson 2: Everything else will be yours as well.
Here comes the twist. When we seek first God’s kingdom, all these other things begin to come to us. God said to Solomon: “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right… I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.” (1 Kings 3:11-13).
This is the inner meaning of the parables of Jesus in our Gospel passage. The man who found the treasure buried it, then sold all he had to buy the whole field. If the owner of the field knew there was such a treasure in his field, he would never have sold it because the treasure is priceless. He who has God lacks nothing. He who has God has everything. Our Psalmist today beautifully puts it: “The Law from you means more to me than large quantities of silver and gold… That is why I love your commands more than the finest gold, why I rule my life by your precepts and hate false ways.”
Lesson 3: Many are called but few are Chosen.
In comparing the kingdom of God to a dragnet which catches all kinds of fish, Jesus reminds us of the theme of our Gospel passage last Sunday. Although the farmer planted wheat on his farm, an enemy sowed weeds while he was sleeping but he would not allow the servants to remove the weed until harvest time.
In the same way, at harvest time, the angels will sort out the good from the bad in this dragnet. The sheep will be separated from the goats, the five wise virgins will be admitted and the five foolish ones will be kicked out. Once again, Jesus is not speaking in parables when He speaks about Hell, the furnace of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It is not enough to simply identify as a Christian. Are we really living out the values that we profess? Do our actions especially in secret proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour?
Lesson 4: Never be discouraged, God is working things out in your favour.
Our final lesson today comes from our second reading. St. Paul tells us that “in everything, God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). When we seek first God’s kingdom and begin to walk in holiness, truthfulness and righteousness, there is a tendency for us to fear that by so doing, we would lose money, friends, connection and even our job.
Being a true Christian especially in our world today is like walking through the valley of the shadow of darkness; it is carrying a heavy cross along a narrow and difficult road. Satan will do everything to discourage us, to make us change our minds and begin to pursue these passing things, like the man who went to sleep after planting good seed in his farm, Satan will tell us to relax. You often hear phrases like “Na you holy pass?”
In all of what we have to go through, never look back, never be discouraged. Even your present seemingly negative experiences are working for your good. God is a good shepherd who knows how best to take care of his children. He will never leave you forsaken. Jesus was not lying to us when He says: “all these things shall be yours as well.”
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, when I am down, give the courage to move on. Amen.
Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you.