Thứ Bảy, 29 tháng 7, 2017

JULY 30, 2017 : SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 109

Reading 11 KGS 3:5, 7-12
The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. 
God said, "Ask something of me and I will give it to you." 
Solomon answered:
"O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king
to succeed my father David;
but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. 
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. 
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. 
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?"

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request. 
So God said to him:
"Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches, 
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested. 
I give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now, 
and after you there will come no one to equal you."

R. (97a) Lord, I love your commands.
I have said, O LORD, that my part
is to keep your words.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
For I love your command
more than gold, however fine.
For in all your precepts I go forward;
every false way I hate.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Wonderful are your decrees;
therefore I observe them.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.
R. Lord, I love your commands.

Reading 2ROM 8:28-30
Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose. 
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers and sisters.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

AlleluiaCF. MT 11:25
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
for you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls. 
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. 
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind. 
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets. 
What is bad they throw away. 
Thus it will be at the end of the age. 
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

"Do you understand all these things?" 
They answered, "Yes." 
And he replied,
"Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household
who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old." 

Jesus said to his disciples:
"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls. 
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it."


17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that passage.

1st Reading - 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12

The books of Kings are the fourth part of what tradition calls the Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1st & 2nd Samuel, 1st & 2nd Kings). The division between the books of Samuel and the books of Kings is arbitrary and varies in ancient manuscripts. The division between 1st and 2nd Kings is even more arbitrary, disrupting the account of the reign of Ahaziah of Israel. In fact, 1st and 2nd Kings form one continuous work.

It has become standard in scholarly studies to refer to the Former Prophets as the “deuteronomistic history” and to deem it the product of a single school, if not a single author. It is not a work of political or social history, however, but of theological history. It recounts, from a consistent theological point of view, Israel’s life in its own land from the occupation under Joshua to the Babylonian exile. It is less interested in accurately chronicling events, no matter how important they may seem to the modern historian, than in explaining the tragic fate of Yahweh’s people. The sources used by the sacred writer(s) are many and varied, ranging from popular tales (1 Kings 3:16-27), and miracle stories (2 Kings 2) to archival records (1 Kings 4:7-19). In Kings, the sacred writer(s) cite three sources by name and repeatedly refer the reader to them for further information: The Acts of Solomon, The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah, and The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. Unfortunately, all three sources are now lost.

It is not certain when the sacred writer (s) compiled the sources into the theological narrative we have today. The final version is believed to date from between 560 and 538 B.C.

Our reading today comes from the beginning of Solomon’s reign as king and it tells us that Yahweh is pleased with Solomon.

5 [T]he LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.

Revelation by dream has an extensive biblical and extra-biblical background.

God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” [Solomon answered:] 7”O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.

Literally, “not knowing at all how to go out or come in” which is a Hebrew phrase to express all that a man does.

8 I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.

He prays for judicial wisdom; the ability to judge well when cases are appealed to him as supreme arbiter of justice in the kingdom. “Heart” in Hebrew usually connotes mental rather than emotional faculties (the gut or bowels).

For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?” 10 The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request. 11 So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this – not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right – 12 I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

Because Solomon’s request is an unselfish request – one which serves for the benefit of the people, God grants his request. In the verses immediately following today’s reading, God, as reward for Solomon’s unselfish request, also grants him two of the three things he hadn’t asked for: riches and honors above all other kings, and long life; on the condition that he follow the faithful example of David.

2nd Reading - Romans 8:28-30

As we continue our study of the Book of Romans, begin where last week’s reading ended. Recall that this is Saint Paul’s description of the future glory that awaits those who live the Christian life empowered by the Spirit

28    We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

God cooperates in all things with those who love Him; this is the realization of His loving plan of salvation. God’s purpose and plan are what is really behind all that happens to Christians, for He is really in control.

“To be called according to God’s purpose is to be called according to the will. But is this the will of the one who calls or the will of those who are called? Naturally, every impulse which leads to righteousness comes from God the Father. Christ Himself once said: >No one can come to me unless the Father draws him’ (John 6:44). Nevertheless it is not wrong to say that some are called according to God’s purpose and according to their own intentions as well.” [Saint Cyril of Alexandria (A.D. 430), Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 8,29]

29    For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

The doctrine of predestination is: “God, by His eternal resolve of will, has predestined certain men to eternal blessedness.” This doctrine is based on our reading today. This doesn’t mean that those so favored cannot cast aside their salvation if they so will, and/or that those not so favored cannot still be saved.

God desires the salvation of all mankind. This is shown in the beginning of the Book of Genesis where the man and the woman are in the garden, able to speak to God face-to-face. This is the destiny which God wants for us all. Like our first parents, we also have a free will to choose to obey Him or not. God doesn’t interfere with that choice. This is why Saint Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12 “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (KJV). God has given each of us a free will, and He will do nothing to interfere with it.

The Catholic teaching on predestination is in direct contrast to the teaching of Protestant reformer John Calvin which is described in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536):

“God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he wills to become of each man... eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others. Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death.”

As can be seen from the following quotation from one of the Early Church Fathers, the teaching of Calvin was not the understanding of the Early Church:

“Those whom He predestined, those also did He call; and those whom He called, those also did He justify; and those whom He justified, those also did He glorify. Those whose resolve He foreknew, He predestined from the beginning. Predestining them, He did also call them. Calling them, He justified them by Baptism; and justifying them, He glorified them, calling them sons and bestowing on them the grace of the Holy Spirit. But no one would say that His foreknowledge is the cause of this: for His foreknowledge does not accomplish such things as these. Rather, God, since His is God, does see from afar those things that are going to be. ... The God of the Universe, since He is God, sees all things from afar. Assuredly this imposes no necessity on anyone of practicing virtue, nor on anyone of doing evil. For if a man be compelled to either course, it is not right that he be either praised and crowned, or condemned to punishment. If God is just, as just He be, He encourages to those things that are good, and dissuades from the contrary; and He praises those who do good, and punishes those who voluntarily embrace evil.” [Theodoret of Cyr (ca. A.D. 440), Interpretation of the Fourteen Epistles of Paul Romans 8:30]

Gospel - Matthew 13:44-52

For the past two weeks we have heard Jesus teaching in parables. We have heard of the mustard seed, the sower (with different types of soil), the weeds among the wheat, and the leaven. The roots of the parable as a literary form lie in the Old Testament; particularly in the wisdom literature, and also in rabbinical literature (some two thousand have been counted). The fictitious anecdote leads the listener to concede a point that he does not immediately recognize as pertaining to himself. The story also sharpens the curiosity and attracts attention. The rabbinical parables are told in answer to a question and show that the scope of the answer is broader than the one who asked the question perceived. These purposes are all apparent in the parables of Jesus. Today we complete Jesus’ telling of parables in chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew with the parables of the Hidden Treasure, the Pearl, and the Net.

[Jesus said to his disciples:] 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again,

Ever wonder how the treasure got there? In the ancient world there was always danger of invasion or plundering. Many householders buried their savings in the hope of returning after the danger had passed. Some didn’t return.

and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

The kingdom of God is such a priceless treasure that a wise man would gladly give all for the chance to seize it; it is the chance of a lifetime. Half measures will not do for the kingdom of God. Jesus passes no judgment on the ethics of the finder, but uses his avarice as an example of the zeal with which the believer should pursue the reign at any price.

45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 46 When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.

The pearl merchant similarly puts all his possessions in the one investment that he knows will repay him most handsomely.

47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. 48 When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. 49 Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

This parable is very close to the weeds and the wheat which we heard last week. The Church is not entirely a community of the elect; it has unfaithful members. God will tolerate such members in the Church as he tolerates them in the world at large; but the judgment will determine the final destiny of the righteous and the wicked.

51    “Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.”

In Matthew, understanding is a characteristic of a good disciple.

52    And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

The scribe who has become a disciple will employ both the old, the Law and the Prophets, and the new, the gospel. Neither is sufficient without the other; the gospel is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.

St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org


Meditation: The surpassing treasure of God's kingdom
What do you treasure the most and how do you keep it from being lost or stolen? In a peasant community the best safe was often the earth. The man in the parable (Matthew 13:44) "went in his joy" to sell everything. Why? Because he found a treasure worth possessing above all else he had. He did not, however, have enough to buy the treasure. Fortunately, he only needed enough to buy the field. In a similar fashion, God offers his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17) as incomparable treasure at a price we can afford! We can't pay the full price for the life which God gives us; but when we exchange our life for the life which God offers, we receive a treasure beyond compare.
Obtaining the greatest possible treasure
The pearl of great price also tells us a similar lesson. Pearls in the ancient world came to represent the supremely valuable. Jesus remarked that one should not cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). Why would a merchant sell everything for a peerless pearl? No doubt because he was attracted to what he thought was the greatest treasure he could possess. Discovering God's kingdom is like stumbling across hidden treasure or finding the one pearl of great price.
When we discover the kingdom of God we receive the greatest possible treasure - the Lord himself. Selling all that we have to obtain this incomparable treasure could mean many things - our friends, job, our "style of life", what we do with our free time. Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. In this parable what does the treasure of the kingdom refer to? It certainly refers to the kingdom of God in all its aspects. But in a special way, the Lord himself is the treasure we seek for. If the Almighty is your gold and your precious silver, then you will delight yourself in the Almighty (Job 22:22- 23). Is the Lord the treasure and delight of your heart?
God draws us into his kingdom
What can a story of a dragnet and a great catch of fish tell us about God's kingdom? The two most common ways of fishing in Jesus' time was with a casting-net (or hand-net) which was thrown from the shore and the drag-net or trawl which was let down or cast into the waters from a boat. As the boat moved through the waters the drag-net was drawn into the shape of a great cone which indiscriminately took in all kinds of fish and flotsam and jetsam swept in its path. It usually took several men to haul such a net to shore.
What is Jesus' point here? Just as a drag-net catches every kind of fish in the sea, so the church acts as God's instrument for gathering in all who will come. Just as the drag-net does not or cannot discriminate, so the church does not discriminate between the good and the bad, the useless and the useful. God's kingdom is open to all who will accept and believe. But there will come a time of separation, at the close of the age, when the angels will send the good and the bad to their respective destinations. Our task is to gather in all who will come. God, in the end, will give the good (those who accept and follow Christ) and the bad (those who refuse Christ) the reward they deserve. God offers the treasure of his kingdom to all who believe in Christ. Do you hunger for God and for his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy?
Training for God's kingdom
When Jesus had finished speaking about his parables, he turned to his disciples and asked them, "Have you understood all this?" (Matthew 13:52). Jesus asks us the same question. If we want to understand the meaning and significance of the parables for our daily lives, then we must reflect and think through what the Lord is saying to us through his instruction. The Holy Spirit is our guide and teacher who helps us to grow in understanding of God's word in the Scriptures.
Importance of readying and studying God's word
What is the point of Jesus' parable about a "scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 13:52)? Scribes were specially devoted to the study and practice of God's word entrusted to Moses (the first five books of the Bible) and in instructing others in how to live according to it. In the Old Testament Ezra was called "the ready scribe of the law of the God of heaven" (Book of Ezra 7:6,21). He received this title because he "had prepared his heart to seek the law of the L
ORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments" (Ezra 7:10). Ezra's heart was set on the kingdom of heaven because he revered God's word and he taught others through example and instruction to love and obey God's word.
The old and new treasures of God's word
Why does Jesus compare a "trained scribe" with a "householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old" (Matthew 13:52)? Some people love to store up old prized possessions along with their newly acquired prizes. Others are eager to get rid of the old to make room for the new. So why does Jesus seem to emphasize keeping the old along with the new? Why not replace the old, especially if the new seems to be better or more useful? Wouldn't a person want to throw away an old pair of shoes and replace them with a new pair - especially if the old pair became well-worn or torn beyond repair? But, who in his right mind would throw away an old precious jewel or some old gold coins simply because they were ancient and maybe tarnished a bit? Precious gems and gold do not lose their value with age!
Like choice vintage wine they increase in value. Jesus' parable of the "old" and the "new" certainly points to the "older covenants" which God made with his covenanted people of the Old Testament, beginning with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with Moses on Mount Sinai, and with King David the precursor of the Messiah (Psalm 89:3 and Psalm 110:1). Jesus' parable also points to the "new covenant" which he came to establish through the shedding of his blood on the cross and the anointing of his Holy Spirit who seals the new covenant on the day of Pentecost. Jesus did not come to abolish the Old Covenant but to fulfill it. The Lord calls us to treasure all of his word - all of his commandments, promises, precepts, and teaching (Psalm 119:14,72,127,162). Do you promise to keep all of God's commands? The Lord gives strength, blessing, and joy to those who treasure all of his word.
We would be impoverished today if we only possessed the treasures of the word of God in the "Old Testament" Scriptures or if we only knew the treasures of the "New Testament" Scriptures. Both the Old and New Testament Scriptures are given by the same eternal Father, inspired by the same eternal Holy Spirit, and fulfilled by the same eternal Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and who was sent from heaven to take on human flesh for our salvation (John 1:1-3,14).
Unity of the Old and New Testaments
There is a profound unity between the Old and New Testaments. Both are divinely inspired by one and the same Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16). The Old Testament prepares for the New and the New Testament fulfills the Old - the two shed light on each other. The Old Testament prepared the way for the coming of Jesus Christ as the redeemer of all who would be saved through his sacrifice on the cross. The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New. That is why Jesus interpreted the Old Testament Scriptures for his disciples and explained how he came to fulfill what was promised and foreshadowed in the Old (Luke 24:27). That is why we read the Old Testament in the light of Christ’s saving death and resurrection. Do you revere the word of God in the Scriptures - both old and new - and see their fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ?
"Lord Jesus, may your word take deep root in my heart and transform my way of thinking, discerning, and acting. May your Spirit open my ears to hear and understand the word of God in the Scriptures that I may revere and treasure both the Old and the New Testaments which God has prepared for all who desire to enter his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. Help me to be a diligent student and faithful disciple of your word."
Daily Quote from the early church fathersThe surpassing gift of love, by John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is said to be like a merchant who is seeking fine pearls. He finds one really precious pearl, and, having found it, he sells everything he has in order to buy it. In the same way, he who has a clear knowledge of the sweetness of heavenly life gladly leaves behind all the things he loved on earth. Compared with that pearl, everything else fades in value. He forsakes those things that he has and scatters those things that he has gathered. His heart yearns for heavenly things, and nothing on earth pleases him. The allure of earthly things has now dissipated, for only the brilliance of that precious pearl dazzles his mind. Solomon justly says of such love, 'Love is strong as death' (Song of Solomon 8:6 ), because just as death destroys the body, so ardent desire for eternal life cuts off the love for material things. For love makes insensitive to extraneous earthly desires the person whom it has swept off his feet." (excerpt from FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 11.2.1)

SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
SUNDAY, JULY 30, MATTHEW 13:44-52 or 13:44-46

(1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Psalm 119; Romans 8:28-30)

KEY VERSE: "The kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind" (v 47).
TO KNOW: Jesus taught his disciples about the mystery of God's reign by means of parables (Hebrew, mashal). As future leaders of the Church, Jesus' disciples must interpret these ancient truths in the light of the gospel, and proclaim the eternal reign of God. Sacrificing everything for the sake of the kingdom was central to Jesus' teaching in Matthew's gospel (Mt 6:33). The world attracted with its artificial "treasures" -- wealth, power and prestige, but these would eventually pass away. Jesus' disciples were to "store up treasure in heaven," that which was of inestimable value and would last for eternity (6:19-20). Wherever their "treasure" was, there also was their hearts (6:21). Jesus also compared God's work to a dragnet cast into the sea, which brought forth both the "worthwhile" and the "useless." Likewise, God's judgment would ultimately reveal what was good and evil in the world.
TO LOVE: What do I most esteem as my treasure?
TO SERVE: Lord Jesus, help me to discern between the world's lures and the values of your kingdom.​

Sunday 30 July 2017

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Week I Psalter.
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12. Romans 8:28-30. Matthew 13:44-52.
Lord, I love your commands — Psalm 118(119):57, 72, 76-77, 127-130.
The hidden treasure. The pearl. The net.
Do the parables make it easier for us to understand what heaven is like? Metaphors can help clarify a subject. The kingdom of heaven is a mystery to the crowds surrounding Jesus, but he tries to help them grasp its reality by explaining situations they, and we, can relate to.
We would ‘sell everything’ to claim the greater hidden treasure or the precious pearl. The net separates good from evil.
These images represent heaven as the most exquisite discovery, supreme wealth, profound joy and absolute justice.
Jesus, you are the master teaching your children. No sophisticated equipment—just simple stories about our eternal homeland.
We may catch sporadic moments of heaven on earth, but every person yearns for more.
We want to become citizens of paradise!

ST. PETER CHRYSOLOGUS

On July 30, the Catholic Church celebrates Saint Peter Chrysologus, a fifth-century Italian bishop known for testifying courageously to Christ's full humanity and divinity during a period of doctrinal confusion in the Church.
The saint's title, Chrysologus, signifies “golden speech” in Greek. Named as a Doctor of the Church in 1729, he is distinguished as the “Doctor of Homilies” for the concise but theologically rich reflections he delivered during his time as the Bishop of Ravenna.
His surviving works offer eloquent testimony to the Church's traditional beliefs about Mary's perpetual virginity, the penitential value of Lent, Christ's Eucharistic presence, and the primacy of St. Peter and his successors in the Church.
Few details of St. Peter Chrysologus' biography are known. He was born in the Italian town of Imola in either the late fourth or early fifth century, but sources differ as to whether this occurred around 380 or as late as 406.
Following his study of theology, Peter was ordained to the diaconate by Imola's local bishop Cornelius, whom he greatly admired and regarded as his spiritual father. Cornelius not only ordained Peter, but taught him the value of humility and self-denial.
The lessons of his mentor inspired Peter to live as a monk for many years, embracing a lifestyle of asceticism, simplicity, and prayer. His simple monastic life came to an end, however, after the death of Archbishop John of Ravenna in 430.
After John's death, the clergy and people of Ravenna chose a successor and asked Cornelius, still the Bishop of Imola, to journey to Rome and obtain papal approval for the candidate. Cornelius brought Peter, then still a deacon, along with him on the visit to Pope Sixtus III.
Tradition relates that the Pope had experienced a vision from God on the night before the meeting, commanding him to overrule Ravenna's choice of a new archbishop. The Pope declared that Peter, instead, was to be ordained as John's successor.
In Ravenna, Peter was received warmly by the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III, and his mother Galla Placidia. She is said to have given him the title of “Chrysologus” because of his preaching skills.
Throughout the archdiocese, however, he encountered the surviving remnants of paganism along with various abuses and distortions of the Catholic faith. Peter exercised zeal and pastoral care in curbing abuses and evangelizing non-Christians during his leadership of the Church in Ravenna.
One of the major heresies of his age, monophysitism, held that Christ did not possess a distinct human nature in union with his eternal divine nature. Peter labored to prevent the westward spread of this error, promoted from Constantinople by the monk Eutyches.
The Archbishop of Ravenna also made improvements to the city's cathedral and built several new churches. Near the end of his life he addressed a significant letter to Eutyches, stressing the Pope's authority in the monophysite controversy.
Having returned to Imola in anticipation of his death, St. Peter Chrysologus died in 450, one year before the Church's official condemnation of monophysitism. He is credited as the author of around 176 surviving homilies, which contributed to his later proclamation as a Doctor of the Church.

LECTIO DIVINA: 17TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (A)
Lectio Divina: 
 Sunday, July 30, 2017

Three parables of the Kingdom of God
Discovering the signs of God in daily life
Matthew 13:44-52
1. OPENING PRAYER
Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.

Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.
2. READING
a) A division of the text as an aid to the reading:
Matthew 13:44: The parable of the hidden treasure
Matthew 13:45-46: The parable of the merchant looking for precious pearls
Matthew 13:47-50: The parable of the dragnet cast into the sea
Matthew 13:51-52: A parable to conclude the discourse of the parables
b) A key to the reading:
On this 17th Sunday of ordinary time we meditate on the three parables that make up the final section of the Discourse of the Parables: the hidden treasure, the merchant of precious pearls and the dragnet cast into the sea. Jesus’ parables help us adjust our sight to better see the presence of the Kingdom of God in the most ordinary things of life. As we read, it would be good to keep in mind the following: “What is for me a hidden treasure, a merchant of precious pearls or a dragnet cast into the sea? How does my experience help me understand the parables of the treasure, of the pearl and of the dragnet?”
c) The Text:
44 'The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off in his joy, sells everything he owns and buys the field. 45 'Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; 46 when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it. 47 'Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet that is cast in the sea and brings in a haul of all kinds of fish. 48 When it is full, the fishermen bring it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in baskets and throw away those that are no use. 49 This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the upright, 50 to throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.
51 'Have you understood all these?' They said, 'Yes.' 52 And he said to them, 'Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom new things as well as old.'
3. A MOMENT OF PRAYERFUL SILENCE
so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
4. SOME QUESTIONS
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What part of the text struck me most? Why?
b) In my experience of life, what do I understand by a hidden treasure, a merchant of precious pearls, or a dragnet cast into the sea?
c) How does this experience of mine help me understand the parables of the treasure, the pearl and the dragnet?
d) What difference is there between the parable of the treasure and that of the pearl?
e) What does the text say about the mission to be carried out as disciples of Christ?
5. FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO GO DEEPER INTO THE THEME

a) The context of the parables told by Jesus:
The Gospels contain many parables of Jesus. Matthew even says: “All these things Jesus said to the crowd in parables and did not speak to them unless in parables” (Mt 13:34). This was a common method of teaching used in those days. It was in this way that Jesus made himself understood by the people. In the parables, he starts from very ordinary things of life and he uses them as terms of comparison to help people better understand the less known things of the Kingdom of God. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus starts with three well-known things in the lives of people: the treasure hidden in the field, the merchant who seeks pearls and the dragnet that fishermen cast into the sea.
b) A commentary on the text:
Matthew 13:44: The parable of the hidden treasure
Here the term of comparison used to shed light on the things of the Kingdom of God is the treasure hidden in the field. No one knows that there is a treasure in that field. By chance, a man finds it. He did not know he was going to find it. He finds it and rejoices and gratefully welcomes the unexpected. The discovered treasure does not belong to him yet, it will be his if he succeeds in buying the field. Such were the laws in those days. So he goes, sells all he owns and buys that field. By buying the field he also acquires the treasure.
Jesus does not explain the parable. The same applies here as was said on previous occasions: “He who has ears to hear let him hear” (Mt 13:9.43). Or: “The Kingdom of God is this. You have heard. Now try to understand!” If Jesus does not explain the parable, nor will I. This is the task of each one of us. But I would like to offer a suggestion beginning from what I have understood. The field is our life. In our lives there is no hidden treasure, no precious treasure, more precious than all else. Will anyone who comes across such a treasure give away everything that he or she owns in order to buy this treasure? Have you found it?
Matthew 13:45-46: The parable of the merchant of precious pearls
In the first parable, the term of comparison is “the treasure hidden in the field”. In this parable, the accent is different. The term of comparison is not the precious pearl, but the activity, the effort of the merchant who seeks precious pearls. We all know that such pearls exist. What is important is not to know that they exist, but to seek them ceaselessly until we come across them.
Both parables have some common and some different elements. In both cases, it is about something precious: a treasure and a pearl. In both cases there is a finding of the object desired, and in both cases the person goes and sells all he owns so as to be able to buy the precious thing found. In the first parable, the finding is by chance. In the second, the finding is the result of the effort of seeking. Here we see two basic aspects of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom exists, it is hidden in life, waiting for those who will find it. The Kingdom is the result of a seeking (obtaining). These are the two basic dimensions of human life: gratitude of love that welcomes us and comes to meet us, and the faithful observance that brings us to meet the Other.
Matthew 13:47-50: The parable of the dragnet cast into the sea
Here the Kingdom is likened to a dragnet, not any kind of net, but a net cast into the sea and that gathers fish of all kinds. It is something typical of the life of those who were listening, most of whom were fishermen who lived by fishing. This is an experience they are familiar with, the casting of the net that gathers all, some good and some less good. The fisherman cannot prevent the less good fish to enter the net, because he cannot control what happens in the deep waters of the sea where he drags his net. He will only know when he pulls up the net and sits with his mates to sort the fish out. Then they will separate what is worthwhile from what is worthless. Again, Jesus does not explain the parable. He just gives a hint: “This is how it will be at the end of time”. Then the good will be separated from the evil.
Matthew 13:51-52: Conclusion of the discourse of parables
In Matthew’s Gospel, the discourse of parables ends with a brief dialogue between Jesus and his listeners and that acts as a key to the reading of all the parables. Jesus asks, “Have you understood all these?” The people reply, “Yes!” Then Jesus concludes with these very beautiful words, “Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom new things as well as old”. These closing words are another parable. “The things new as well as old that the householder brings out from his storeroom” are the things of the life that Jesus has just suggested in the parables: seeds cast in the field (Mt 13:4-8), the mustard seed (Mt 13:31-32), the leaven (Mt 13:33), the treasure hidden in the field (Mt 13:44), the merchant of precious pearls (Mt 13: 45-46), the dragnet cast into the sea (Mt 13:47-48). Each person’s experience of these things is his or her treasure. It is in such experiences that each person finds the term of comparison that will permit him or her to better understand the things of the Kingdom of God! Sometimes when the parables do not mean much to us and do not yield their message, the cause may not be a lack of study, but a lack of experience in life or a lack of depth in one’s life. Those who live superficially without any depth of the experience of life, have no storeroom from which to bring out things new as well as old.
c) A deepening: The teaching of the parables
The parables of Jesus are a pedagogical device that uses daily life to show us how the things of daily life speak to us of God. The parables make reality transparent and reveal the presence and action of God. They transform one’s sight into a contemplative gaze. A parable is about the things of life and thus is an open teaching that involves us. We all have experience of the things of life. The teaching in parables begins with a person’s experience of common things so as to be able to understand the Kingdom: seed, salt, light, sheep, flowers, woman, children, father, net, fish, treasure, pearl, etc.
Jesus did not usually explain his parables. Generally he ended with this phrase: “He who has ears to hear let him hear!” (Mt 11:15; 13:9.43), or, "That’s it. You’ve heard! Now try to understand!” Jesus left his parables open ended, he did not finish them. This is a sign that Jesus believed in the ability of people to discover the meaning of the parable starting from their own experience of life. Occasionally, at the request of his disciples, he would explain the meaning. (Mt 13:10.36). For instance, verses 36-43 explain the parable of the wheat and the weeds. It is also possible that these explanations are the reflection of the catechesis given to the communities of first Christians. The communities met and discussed the parables of Jesus, seeking to understand what Jesus meant to say. Thus, gradually, the teaching of Jesus started to be assimilated into the catechesis of the community and this then becomes an explanation of the parable.
6. PALM 19,7-14
The Law of Yahweh is perfect
The Law of Yahweh is perfect,
refreshment to the soul;
the decree of Yahweh is trustworthy,
wisdom for the simple.
The precepts of Yahweh are honest,
joy for the heart;
the commandment of Yahweh is pure,
light for the eyes.
The fear of Yahweh is pure, lasting for ever;
the judgements of Yahweh are true,
upright, every one,
more desirable than gold,
even than the finest gold;
his words are sweeter than honey,
that drips from the comb.
Thus your servant is formed by them;
observing them brings great reward.
But who can detect his own failings?
Wash away my hidden faults.
And from pride preserve your servant,
never let it be my master.
So shall I be above reproach,
free from grave sin.
May the words of my mouth always find favour,
and the whispering of my heart,
in your presence, Yahweh,
my rock, my redeemer.
7. FINAL PRAYER
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.