July 24, 2020

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe First Book of Kings is the source of the first reading for Mass this weekend. As might be supposed, the two books of Kings deal heavily with the kings of unified Israel: Saul, David and Solomon. But the books are not just political histories. The authors of these inspired writings were not interested in politics, except when politics furnished some religious consideration.

For the authors, the Hebrew faith was the most important consideration in life. For them, it was the faith by which God related to the people and they to God. Nothing else in the long run made any difference.

David and Solomon were almost magical figures in the ancient Hebrew mind. David was the king who confirmed his own and the nation’s covenant with God. Solomon, who continued his father’s religious policy, was regarded as the wisest of humans.

Under David and Solomon, at least in the estimate of the Hebrews themselves, the unified kingdom of Israel had status among the nations of the ancient Middle East.

In this weekend’s reading, Solomon realized that, despite his own intelligence and access to power, God alone was truly all-knowing. The king asked God not for power or wealth, but for the wisdom to govern well. Again to emphasize the place of religion, governing well-meant bringing the people to God and God to them.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans furnishes the second reading. The reading begins with a verse long a favorite source of consolation for Christians. “We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him” (Rom 8:28). Paul wrote this epistle in part to encourage the Christians in Rome as they faced the scorn of the culture of the time and increasing persecution from the political authorities.

This reading calls for strong faith and for commitment to the fact that earthly life is not the be-all and end-all for humans.

For its last reading, the Church offers a reading from St. Matthew’s Gospel. The reading contains three short parables. These parables are only found in Matthew’s Gospel.

Key to understanding the message is in noting the eagerness of the pearl merchant to possess the truly precious pearl. He sells everything in order to buy it.

The Gospel presents the kingdom of God as an extraordinarily valuable pearl. If we are wise, we will put everything else aside and seek the pearl that is the kingdom.

The reading further shows that saints, as well as sinners, indeed all people at times struggle in life on Earth. God, and only God, is the standard by which the good, the perfect and the desired must be measured.

Reflection

Ninety years ago, Catholic newspapers worldwide reported a “love story.” Crown Prince Leopold of Belgium, a Catholic, and Princess Astrid of Sweden, a Lutheran and a niece of the Swedish king, wished to be married. Religion was the problem. Belgians did not want a Protestant queen in their future.

The couple insisted. They were married. A priest advised Leopold’s Catholic relatives not to pressure Astrid into converting.

For several years, she remained a Lutheran. Then she asked to be received into the Catholic Church.

She said that she made her decision after watching Leopold when he received holy Communion at Mass. Something happened to him, she noticed. Somehow, he intensely felt that God was with him. She wanted to share the experience.

Her husband became King Leopold III when his father died. Astrid was queen of Belgium. Then, tragically, accidentally, she was killed. The king died many years later.

Things indeed happen to believers when they sense an encounter with God. It is a moment more precious than the finest pearls. †

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