SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR A

Wisdom

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INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR

The theme of this liturgy is wisdom. To be wise has little to do with being intelligent, and nothing to do with being smart. It means knowing what is right from God’s point of view. But we all act foolishly at times. [Pause]

Let us confess our sins of foolishness to God, who is all-wise and all-understanding.

Lord, you came to teach us what is important in life, namely, to do the will of the Father. Lord, have mercy.

You came to open our eyes to the world of the invisible and the eternal. Christ, have mercy,

You are our leader and guide along the path of life, a path that leads to the Father’s Kingdom. Lord, have mercy.

HEADINGS FOR READINGS

First Reading (1 Kings 3:5.7-12). King Solomon was told by God that he could have anything he wanted. All he had to do was ask. Solomon asked God for the gift of wisdom so that he could govern well.

Second Reading (Romans 8:28—30). In this reading we are told that those who love God can turn everything to their spiritual advantage.

Gospel (Matthew 13:44-52). What God offers us is worth everything we have. The question is: are we prepared to pay the necessary price for it?

Reading 1 1 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.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

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 2 ROM 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.

Alleluia CF. 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.

Gospel MT 13:44-52

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.”

HOMILY

The theme of today’s readings is that of wisdom. Wisdom, however, is not to be taken to mean worldly wisdom. It is something deeper and infinitely more precious. It means to be able to see life from God’s point of view. Christ said this wisdom is worth more than all our other possessions together. Solomon realised this, and when God gave him a choice of anything he wanted, he put wisdom at the top of his list. How much we need this wisdom. Look at all the futile, purposeless, silly, and misguided things people do.

Once upon a time there was a farmer who owned a small farm of land. The land was stony but he worked hard, and for a while he was blessed with a certain happiness and contentment. But then he began to feel that there was something missing in his life, and he felt empty as a result. One evening a stranger passed that way and asked for a night’s lodgings. The farmer was only too glad of his company, for he was pining for excitement and distraction.

Around the fire that night the stranger began to talk about diamonds. He told the farmer that if he could find a diamond, even one no bigger than the nail of his little finger, he would never have to do another tap of work. The farmer was very impressed. He didn’t get a wink of sleep all the night thinking about diamonds.

Next day the stranger departed leaving the farmer more than a little unhappy. As the days went by he got more and more restless. He began to neglect his farm. Finally he sold it cheaply, and went off roaming the world in search of diamonds. He travelled far but found none. In the end, overcome by despair, he committed suicide. Meanwhile, the man who bought his farm was out ploughing. One day the plough turned up a stone which shone in the sunlight. It turned out to be a very valuable diamond. When he went back to the spot he found lots more. It turned out to be one of the richest diamond mines ever found.

While we cannot help feeling sorry for the farmer, we have to say that he was a very foolish man. Had he persevered with what he had, he would undoubtedly have found the mine himself. Yet he is typical of a good many people. In many cases it’s not that people are afraid of hard work and sacrifice. It’s just that they lack wisdom. They don’t know what is important. They pursue the wrong goals. They look in the wrong places. They sell their birthright.

The lives of many today are purposeless and empty. Without the soap operas of television they wouldn’t know What to do with themselves. They are no longer able to distinguish what is important in life, and have to content themselves with a diminished and distorted picture of the world, which results in suffering and impoverishment.

They return again and again to the same old wells of pleasure, wells which they know will never quench their thirst. They search and search. Though they see that there is nothing there, they still go on searching. They go to great trouble to possess satisfactions which don’t last an hour, and which often bring misery in their wake.

They pile up more and more goods when they already have more than enough to be happy. ‘Men,’ said the Little Prince, ‘rush about in express trains, but they do not know what they are looking for. They raise five thousand roses in the same garden, and they still do not find what they are looking for. Yet what they are looking for could be found in a single rose’.

It takes us so long to see what is so clear and obvious. Thus. instead of making straight for the object, we allow ourselves to be diverted and fling ourselves on trifles instead of the important things. How quickly we forget what is most precious or exchange it for something else. Of what use is it to have a full freezer if one’s heart is empty?

There are so many influences and pressures on us which lead us to put ‘making a living’ before ‘living’. Our chief task in life is not to be successful, or happy, or fulfilled. It is to live well. For a Christian this means to put our hope in God and his Kingdom, and to live according to his will. What if we miss out on the other things? They are only trifles. What if we have to make sacrifices? Happiness, wisdom, and harmony are not to be found along smooth paths. The best things in life have to be paid for. But beyond suffering lies the calm water that makes life meaningful and death easy.

May heaven help those people who not only have not found the ‘pearl of great price’ but who don’t even know where to look for it. Christ offers us the pearl of great price. He invites us to enter the Kingdom of God. Only God can quench our thirst for happiness. Only God can satisfy our hunger for meaning and love. If we lose God, we lose all. If we find God, we find all.

Wisdom is a gift of God. It means that we put our trust in his word rather than in human wisdom and human experts. It gives us an understanding, a vision of life that cannot be bought. In this sense then, wisdom is the pearl of great price. Our tragedy as believers is not that we cannot find the pearl (for it is offered to us in the Gospel), but that We are unwilling to pay the price for it. Christ’s two parables underline the fact that wisdom calls for our total response and full-hearted action. They reveal our hesitancy and half-heartedness. We continually hold back, trying to have it both ways, thus compromising God and mammon. The pearl is offered to those who open their hands, letting go of all other things, and embrace it.

‘Tell me what you are busy about and I will tell you what you are’. (Goethe).

‘A great way to find out what you want from life is to write your own epitaph’. (Proverb).

PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL

After the example of Solomon, let us ask God for the gift of wisdom. R. Lord, that we may see.

For the followers of Christ: that they may never exchange what is lasting and priceless for what is passing and cheap. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.

For all government leaders: that they may govern with wisdom so that the world may enjoy justice and peace. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.

For all those who live only for material things: that they may see the primary importance of the things of the spirit. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.

That we may know the will of God and have the strength to do it. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord. ’

For local needs.

Let us pray:

Lord, in facing life’s problems, in making difficult decisions, give us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the courage to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

COMMUNION REFLECTION

Sadly, I am often tempted to postpone life.

I refuse sympathy and intimacy with people,

as if expecting a better intimacy to come.

But whence and when?

I am thirty-four years old.

Already my friends and fellow workers are dying from me.

I rarely see new people approaching me.

I am too old to bother about fashion;

too old to expect the patronage of the powerful.

Let us therefore suck the sweetness

of those affections that grow near me,

which divine Providence offers me.

I pluck golden fruit from rare meetings with wise men.

In the intervals I can well abide alone,

and the fruit of my own tree

will have a better flavour.

The days come and go like muffled figures

sent from a distant friendly land.

If we do not use the gifts they bring,

they carry them as silently away.

EMERSON