Reflection on the Readings at Mass for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A. The Liturgical Sense of the Scriptures Podcast, by Catholic Author and Theologian David L. Gray. READINGS: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12, Romans 8:28-30, and Matthew 13:44-52. (Watch on YouTube)
The Liturgy of the Mass Creates in us a Servant’s Heart
King Solomon asked God to make him a better servant, and God blessed him for asking for the blessing to serve him greater. Today’s First Reading for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A from 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12 is one of those narratives from the sacred Scriptures that comes to interrogate us. In giving us this example of a young King Solomon to compare ourselves with, the Holy Spirit is asking us for an invitation to search our hearts to teach us something.
If God came to you in a dream at night, as He did with Solomon, and said to you, “Ask something of me, and I will give it to you,” what would you ask for? Consider that the reason why God was pleased with Solomon’s request is because Solomon was a very young man when he had been ordained King of a vast number of people; a people whom he had not found for himself to lead, but whom God had chosen, and all Solomon wanted was “an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” Yet, inasmuch as he only asked for the gift of understanding, God also gave him the gift of wisdom – he had asked for one thing, and the Lord gave him two, saying, “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.”
We can take a couple of other insights from this exchange between God and King Solomon. First, we might contrast Solomon with Eve, the firstborn woman who fell so far into the temptation of selfishness and desire to be like God in having knowledge of good and evil that she acted upon that temptation by sinning against God. Indeed, selfish people cannot be at the service of others because they are too busy serving themselves. In this way, Eve was not rare at all; rather, she was just like most other people, and she was so ordinary as a fallen sinner that the results of her life were also ordinary. Now, consider Solomon, whose humility before God filled him with a desire to have knowledge of good and evil only so that he might rightly govern as King of God’s people. For this, God made Solomon unique to all humans before or after him.
While gifts of wisdom and understanding may have filled the capacity of Solomon to such an extent that there has never been another one like him who was as wise and understanding, it is also true that we are greater than Solomon because the promise from God in this New Covenant is that we do not have to wait for Him to come to us in a dream and ask us what we need from Him to help us be better servants, because Jesus taught us in John 14:13-14, “. . . whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” In other words, the teaching is that we were called to serve God so that God might be glorified, and that teaching is affirmed in today’s Second Reading from Romans 8:28-30, with the Apostle Paul writing, “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.”
Moreover, while we will not receive our glorified body in this life, we will still be called to do the work that glorifies God, which leads to our glorification. The gifts of the Holy Spirit; wisdom, understand, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord, that enable us to do the work of our calling well is what Solomon had to pray for and what the liturgy of the Catholic Mass prepares us for and teaches us how to accentuate more fully. For Solomon only received two gifts of the Holy Spirit, but those who have been Baptized and Confirmed have received the fullness of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Holy Trinity dwelling in them, and with the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ the Holy Eucharist, for those who have worthily received Him.
In today’s Gospel Reading from Matthew 13:44-52, our Lord presents three different similitudes, saying the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, and like a merchant searching for fine pearls, and like a net thrown into the sea. Truly, our earthly pilgrimage is as simple and as easy as making a similitude. We are simply people whom God created to search for Him, but it is the easiest game of hide and seek that we will ever play because the object of our search is hiding in plain sight. We are a chosen people who are not accidentally, but actively searching for the objective good and, for this reason, we know it when we find it. Just as the men who were actively in the field looking for a treasure, a pearl, and a catch of fish, rejoiced when they found that for which they sought, so too do those who have discovered the essence of the liturgy of the Catholic Mass abound in joy. We know the immutable essence of the liturgy is objectively good because it is a person named Jesus Christ, and we know He has called us to the liturgy according to His purpose to fill us with the gifts of service to His Father so we might glorify Him, and that He might find us worthy to be glorified at our resurrection.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.