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Seventeenth Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: I Kgs 3:5-12; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52
1/ Reading I: RSV 1 Kings 3:5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “Thou hast shown great and steadfast love to thy servant David my father, because he walked before thee in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward thee; and thou hast kept for him this great and steadfast love, and hast given him a son to sit on his throne this day. 7 And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And thy servant is in the midst of thy people whom thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this thy great people?” 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “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, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. 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.
2/ Reading II: RSV Romans 8:28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. 51 “Have you understood all this?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
I. THEME: How to choose wisely?
If someone puts in front of us one hundred thousand ounces of gold and the Book of Scripture and tell us to choose, what shall we choose? Certainly many of us shall choose the former! Why do we choose it? Because we shall become very rich, it is equal to one hundred million dollars without doing anything. On the other side, if someone chooses the Book of Scripture, he doesn’t know what to do with it. He doesn’t have time to read it. Even if he has time, it isn’t guaranteed that he shall understand what he reads.
In today first reading, there is a person who made such a strange decision. When God told him in a vision that whatever he asks, shall be granted for him. King Solomon didn’t ask for any worldly things, but asked for the divine wisdom. He has valid reasons to make such a wise decision. In the second reading, St. Paul told the Romans that if they want to make wise decisions, they have to base their decisions on the ultimate purpose which God predestines for human beings; that is, to live happily and eternally with Him in the heaven. In the Gospel, Jesus gives us a hint that if we want to make a wise decision, we must know the values of things we choose. If we don’t know their values, we shall not choose them even though they have invaluable values.
1/ Reading I: The importance of wisdom
1.1/ Why did King Solomon ask for wisdom, not other things? There are at least four reasons:
(1) Firstly, he knew if he has wisdom, he shall have everything. The wise know how to acquire what they want. If the wise can foresee future, he shall become rich; for examples, Joseph and King Pharaoh of the Egypt (Ex. 41:15-49) or the queen of the South brought many precious things to give King Solomon in order that she could learn some wisdom from him (1 Kgs 10:1-10).
(2) Secondly, material things can disappear because they are outside of the owner; but wisdom can’t be lost because it is inside and shall follow its owner forever. For examples, many children, though inherited great inheritances from their parents became poor because they didn’t know how to invest them, only to waste them. Many well-known athletes signed big contracts that worth hundred million dollars, but become dirt poor only a few years after their retirement.
(3) Thirdly, material things don’t bring happiness while wisdom is the principle that brings happiness for people. Many people lost their inner peace and both individual and familial happiness after they became rich. Many of them confessed if they know their life and family turn out to be such wretched state, they shall never want to be rich or to hit the jackpot!
(4) Lastly, material things shall not be lasted forever. Jesus called people who store up them only as, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Lk. 12:20). Or, “For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” (Mt. 16:26). There are many rich persons in history but people don’t know them because they left nothing for humankind; but many leave their names forever because of their teachings and discoveries.
1.2/ Why did King Solomon ask for wisdom? First of all, to govern God’s people, a king needs to have wisdom to differentiate good from evil. This is the most important requirement for leaders of a nation because they have to establish basic laws to protect their people. How can they establish laws if they can’t make a difference between good and evil? Next, King Solomon understood that God gave him His selected and crowded nation to govern, and he must be responsible before God these people. He can’t govern people by himself; he must choose others leaders to co-govern with him. In the Israelites’ history, there existed many unjust and irresponsible kings, instead of governing people in justice and mercy, used their power to maltreat people and led them to be slaves for foreigners.
King Solomon’s request pleases God because it shows the king is matured and understanding. He didn’t ask for a long life, richness, or victories over his enemies because he knew all of these are supplement comparing with wisdom. To live long but not happy is only to prolong a miserable life. To be victorious over enemies isn’t also difficult if one possesses wisdom, and especially he must also control himself. He only asked for wisdom to differentiate between right and wrong things. Therefore, God granted what he asks so that none like him has been before him and none like him shall arise after him.
2/ Reading II: The difference between the divine and the worldly wisdom
The divine wisdom isn’t any kind of worldly wisdom but exceeds all of them. The divine wisdom helps people to understand everything in the light of the ultimate destination and God’s plan of salvation.
2.1/ The ultimate goal of our life: There are three questions that people of every generation and of all places always ask: Where do people come from? What do they live this life for? And where do they go after their death? People can’t find correct answers for these questions if God doesn’t reveal for them; and people can’t understand the answers if God doesn’t bestow His wisdom on them. St. Paul in today passage also confirmed, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” According to God’s revelation, people come from God and will go back to God. The purpose of this life is to live in a way that people shall be worthy with God’s kingdom.
2.2/ God’s plan of salvation: To know our ultimate destination isn’t enough, but we must also know how to reach this destination. St. Paul gives a sketch of God’s plan of salvation as follows, “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom He predestined He also called; and those whom He called He also justified; and those whom He justified He also glorified.”
Many people take this passage to prove the determinism. This isn’t correct because salvation is granted for all people; but people have freedom to accept or to reject it. St. Paul only wants to emphasize on the point that God foreknows everything because all things happen to Him as in presence. God foreknows who accept or reject His salvation.
3/ Gospel: The wise want to sacrifice all things to acquire the kingdom of heaven.
Before we get into the four cases which Jesus mentions in today Gospel, we need to understand the process of making a decision. To choose wisely, one needs to follow this process:
(1) He must know all results of his choice: When one makes a decision, he must accept all of its results. If he chooses the kingdom of heaven, his joy shall be to live happily with God forever. If he chooses mammon of the world, his joy is to have money as many as he wants; but money only has a temporal value as long as he lives and he shall not enter the heaven.
(2) He must know how to achieve his goal: If he chooses the heavenly kingdom, he must live according to the heavenly standards which mean he must give up his will, do God’s will and carry his cross daily to follow God. If he chooses mammon, he can live according to worldly standards: he can do what he wants, eat good food, wear fancy clothes and enjoy life to the maximum. He doesn’t need to worry about the next life.
(3) He must have courage to choose: After knowing results of his choice and ways to reach his goal, he must have courage to choose one choice. He can’t catch a fish with both hands—he can’t choose both God and mammon, both the eternal life and this present life. If he does that, he shall lose both this life and the next life.
3.1/ In the first parable, a man found out a treasure which was buried in a field; he comes back home and sells all what he has to buy the field. In order to do this, he needs to realize that all things he has can’t be compared with the treasure in the field; therefore, he needs to make his decision right away. He can’t keep what he has and the treasure in the field. Similarly, if we don’t recognize the important value of the heavenly kingdom, we shall not sacrifice all things for it. The martyrs shall not volunteer to sacrifice their life if they don’t know the value of the heavenly kingdom.
3.2/ In the second parable, a merchant found out a precious pearl, he comes home and sells all other pearls to buy that precious pearl. The merchant must have experience to recognize the real value of that precious pearl; if not, that pearl is also normal as other pearls. In other place, Jesus also recommends not to put a pearl in front of a swine because it doesn’t know the value of it. To a swine, only bran has the value. Similarly, the merchant can only choose one of the two solutions.
3.3/ In the third parable, a fisherman lowered his net and caught many fish; he sits and makes his selection: the good fish he puts into his basket, the bad fish he throws back to the sea. God’s angels shall do the same on the Last Day. The wise know with certain that this Day shall be happened; they don’t want to be bad ones and be thrown out but to be good ones and be gathered in heaven. At that time, it is too late for people to repent; they shall understand the meaning of Jesus’ saying, “For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?”
3.4/ Jesus concluded, “Therefore, every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” The wise are those who know to evaluate right both new and old things. He shall not be too modern to discard all old things because he knows the new things sometimes aren’t good as the old ones. He isn’t too conservative to keep only the old things because he knows the new ones are improved from the old ones. Some biblical scholars understood as Jesus mentioned the values of both Old and New Testament.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We often underestimate wisdom and overestimate richness, fame and power. This is the reason why we don’t spend time to study, to acquire necessary knowledge, and especially to study and to meditate God’s words.
– When we have wisdom, we have everything. Wisdom not only helps us to live happily, peacefully and joyfully in this life, but also helps us to reach our destination in the next life.
– When we don’t know the value of the kingdom of heaven, we shall not dare to sell everything we have to purchase it; but satisfy with what we possess in this world. Only when we ascertain that the Last Day shall come, we can change our life and observe carefully God’s commandments.
– Parents are also in the position of leaders; they also need to have wisdom as King Solomon so that they know good from evil things and lead their family to walk firmly according to God’s way.