17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
July 26, 2020
First Reading (1Kings 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 - 130)

Refrain: Lord, I love your commands.

1) 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. (Refrain:)

2) 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. (Refrain:)

3) For I love your command more than gold, however fine.
For in all your precepts I go forward; every false way I hate. (Refrain:)

4) Wonderful are your decrees; therefore I observe them.
The revelation of your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple. (Refrain:)

Second Reading (Romans 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.

Gospel (Matthew 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."

(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.

The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)

At the Movies

In today's gospel, our Lord compares the kingdom of heaven to a treasure which someone found in a field. "Although this...sounds strange to us today, it would sound perfectly natural to people in Palestine in the days of Jesus. In the ancient world there were banks, but not banks such as ordinary people could use. Ordinary people used the ground as the safest place to keep their most cherished belongings. For example, in the parable of the talents, the worthless servant hid his talent in the ground, lest he should lose it (Matt.25:25). And there was a rabbinic saying that there was only one safe repository for money--the earth." (1)

The word in Greek for treasure is "thesaurus", the name chosen by Mr. Roget for his book of English synonyms. In the parallel text from his gospel, Luke adds the following phrase to this passage: "For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be". And I'm sure that none of us needs to be told how fascinated we all are with a treasure hunt. I remember watching a biography of Harrison Ford. According to this biography, probably the most famous character that he has portrayed in his career is that of Indiana Jones, the treasure hunting and adventure-loving swashbuckler. What's interesting to note about his movies is that two of the three revolve around religious treasures. Raiders of the Lost Ark focuses on Indy's search for the Ark of the Covenant. And in The Last Crusade, he seeks the Holy Grail, the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper.

Another actor who became famous for his portrayal of a handsome treasure hunter is Michael Douglas. Until he starred in the lead role of the movie Romancing the Stone in 1984, Douglas was more highly regarded as a producer than as an actor. However, his portrayal of Jack Colton, the amiably smug adventurer, was a superb delineation of a sort-of black sheep Indiana Jones and made him one of Hollywood's most sought-after leading men.

More evidence of our fascination with a treasure can be seen in the increased demand for lottery tickets as the jackpot hits eight figures. The higher the take, the more everyone wants in on the action. Why is this? It is, of course, because we all want to be in a situation where we can be financially secure and not have to worry where our next meal will be coming from. Perhaps we want to be able to say goodbye to our demanding jobs and spend our days lounging around the pool.

But the irony is that wealth never brings happiness. In fact, it may not even bring security. Oh yes, meals will be taken care of, but sometimes wealth brings those who have it only fear that others are trying to swindle them out of their money. This was the case, for example, with Doris Duke who inherited a fortune beyond our wildest dreams and yet led a solitary, lonely and insecure life.

In all of these examples, whether in the movies or in real life, the treasure becomes THE most important thing in their lives. As long as we're talking about movies involving treasure hunting, you might recall Jack Palance in the movie City Slickers holding up one finger and telling Billy Crystal about "the one thing" that needs to motivate each person's life and that each person has to find out what that one thing is for themselves.

Well, the treasure motivated the man in our Lord's parable too. After all, he went and sold "all that he had" and bought the field that contained the treasure. But the treasure that our Lord was talking about in the parable was not wealth or riches. So what is it?

A clue as it's true meaning can be found in today's first reading. Solomon didn't ask for wealth or riches or long life, things which would have benefitted only himself, but for wisdom to govern the people wisely. Near the end of the movie The Last Crusade, Jones must choose the real Grail from among an array of chalices. After making his choice, the knight who stands guard tells him "You have chosen wisely". So it is with Solomon. God was pleased with his request because it was focused outward on the needs of others.

So what was this wisdom of Solomon? It boils down to THE one commandment which our Lord taught us is above all others: love of God and love of neighbor. And, as Solomon's example points out, the best way to demonstrate our love of God is to love others. But all too often, we take others for granted. We fail to realize that nothing on earth lasts forever, including our lives and the lives of those around us.

I believe that one of the most important lessons in our gospel passage for us today is this: never, ever take your own life and the lives of those near and dear to you for granted. Any of us could be called from this life in less than a heartbeat. Place your treasure in a love of God and in a love of the things that will gain you an everlasting reward in heaven. And this includes most of all, a love of one another. Don't make the same mistake that the mother in our story did who regrets to this day that she didn't tell her son how proud she was of him while he was still alive. Parents, do as she says: when you talk to your children the next time, tell them how much they mean to you. Children, do the same: tell your parents how much you love them. And while we're at it, husbands turn to your wives and say those three little words that seem to always be so hard for us to say: "I love you". Wives, do the same. But no matter who you are, tell others how much they mean to you. But, for heaven's sake, don't wait. As the mother in our story has told us: Do it today. Because, as she found out, tomorrow may just be too late!

References

1. From The Gospel of Matthew, copyright 1975 by William Barclay. St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland. Used with permission.

2. Do It Today, copyright 1994 by Robert Reasoner. Reprinted in A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, copyright 1995 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. Used with the author's permission.

(Copyright 2017 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at deaconsil@comcast.net )

Treasure of the Heart

We've all heard it said that "where your heart is, there too will your treasure be". In this world that we live in, it is all too easy to put one's heart in material things. If we put ourselves in Solomon's place, would we respond as he did? If we had rubbed the proverbial bottle and out popped a genie willing to grant us any wish, would we ask for wisdom, or would we request some of the things which he did not ask for, that is, long life, riches or other material things?

We need to keep in mind that all earthly things are fleeting and short-lived. For instance, if you watch the news at all, you constantly see people being hit with all sorts of catastrophes, including the loss of possessions from fire, flood, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Our health is another fragile thing which shouldn't be taken for granted. So is power: one minute we're on top of the world in our job, overseeing others, being respected, admired, feeling secure, and the next minute we're unemployed. Who of us doesn't know someone in that sad position in this age of downsizing? What about beauty? Before we know it, age has taken its toll and then what are we left with? How many actresses can we think of who have despaired in such situations because beauty was their treasure?

And then we have wealth, probably the most tempting of all. Yet how many people who have apparently had everything they could ever want, were not really happy? Perhaps they lived in fear that others were out to get their money, or only cared for them because of it. In any case, their lives were anything but peaceful.

Among earthly things which are only temporary are our own lives, and those of people around us. So probably one of the things we are all most guilty of is taking one another for granted. (Insert story of some accident to, or death of, someone close to you which affected you.)

Another example which hits close to home to you here was the death of Tanya Nickens some years ago. I remember picking up the Asbury Park Press at work to read about what was happening in our soon-to-be new home of Point Pleasant. Her obit happened to appear that day and I recognized the name of her maternal grandfather as a former coworker. Not only that, but when he retired, I took over his work space in the office. In any case, here we have an example of someone in the prime of their lives, whom her parents felt would be safe in attending this party. I'm sure they never thought in their worst nightmare that when she left the house that evening, she would never return. We have to feel their loss even if we didn't know her, just because the same thing could happen to us at any time. So the lesson for us is that we need to appreciate one another while our loved ones are still with us.

We all have persons around us whom we should not take for granted. Their presence is God's gift of himself to us and that gift could be taken away at any time. There was a story that appeared in the newspapers recently which is very appropriate to this reading.

So whether it be parents, grandparents, spouse, children or friends, we should be thankful for every moment we have with them.

So what is the message here? It is that nothing in this world lasts forever. Things are merely a means to an end, not an end in themselves. If we look at them as such, we will be sorely disappointed. Solomon was wise enough to ask for wisdom first.

There is a song which speaks eloquently of the themes of today's gospel reading. Appropriately enough it is titled "I Found the Treasure". The words of the refrain are:

In the parable, the finder of the treasure went and sold all that he had to buy the field and the treasure it contained. God is not asking us to sell all that we own and live in poverty in order to possess the treasure of his word. But he is asking us not to be attached to our possessions, that is, to be poor in spirit. Once things become the reason for our living, then they control us, we don't control them.

So what is the treasure? One of the verses of the song puts it this way:

There is a restlessness in each one of us which can only be fulfilled by a treasure from another source, namely the kingdom of God in heaven. And the way to get there is by following the word of God revealed through his son. Things in this world will never really fulfill us. But if we follow God's word, as Christ as shown us, then we will find true fulfillment and inner peace and discover the true kingdom of God which "neither time nor death can steal".

And oh, by the way, (using my best Columbo imitation, for those of us who may still remember Peter Falk in that role) maybe before the day is done, we ought to turn to those we love and give them a big hug just so they know beyond a doubt how much we love them because, hey, you just never know...

References:

1. I Found the Treasure by Dan Schutte. Copyright 1986 by North American Liturgy Resources. Distributed by Oregon Catholic Press, Portland, Or., Catalog Number 5710.

(Copyright 2011 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at deaconsil@comcast.net )

Homiletic Ideas:

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

July 26, 2020

Penitential Rite

Lord Jesus, you are the Word of God made flesh. Lord, have mercy.

Christ Jesus, your Word will lead us to the kingdom. Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, your kingdom is the treasure we search for all of our lives. Lord, have mercy.

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

July 26, 2020

Prayers of the Faithful

Celebrant: Saint Paul reminds us that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him. With trust in God's providential care for us, we confidently bring our prayers to the Father.

Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, lead us to your Kingdom".

That the leaders of the Church will be living examples of the way to the Kingdom, we pray to the Lord.

That the leaders of the nations of the world will govern their people with wisdom and understanding, we pray to the Lord.

That the sick and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one may find peace in the knowledge of God's kingdom, we pray to the Lord.

That all those who are traveling and on vacation may return home refreshed in mind and body and renewed in Spirit, we pray to the Lord.

That those who are searching for the Kingdom of God may find in our faith community the treasures of healing and reconciliation, we pray to the Lord.

That the open arms of Christ will welcome all of our faithful departed to the eternal Kingdom that he has promised to all believers, we pray to the Lord.

That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.

For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.

Celebrant: Gracious Father, you sent your Son to teach us about your Kingdom. Grant us the wisdom of your Spirit to always seek the things that will lead us to the eternal life you created for us from before time began. And we ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.