17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A Homily - A Cycle - 2004-2005

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First Reading - 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 119:57, 72, 76-77,
97a, 127-128, 129-130
Second Reading - Romans 8:28-30
Gospel - Matthew 13:44-52 or 13:44-46

Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

"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."

If we had to pick one word to best describe the recurring theme in today's first reading and Gospel, it would have to be: wisdom.  And at the beginning of any discussion of wisdom, we need to make an important distinction between worldly wisdom and divine wisdom. Worldly wisdom can be a good thing - we usually attribute worldly wisdom to those who have more life experience - those who have "been around awhile." 

Worldly wisdom helps us to avoid repeating mistakes, to invest our money prudently, to say the right words, etc.  All of these are good, but not as end unto themselves - they are only good insofar as they lead us to our true end - heaven.

Divine wisdom operates on a higher plane.  Divine wisdom is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which we received at baptism which helps us to recognize the ultimate emptiness of worldly things and to see that God and spiritual matters should be our first priority.  Without divine wisdom, we become indifferent to spiritual things and we begin to avoid any form of mortification because we begin to believe that self-denial has no spiritual value.

Solomon, the wise king of Israel, was well aware that divine wisdom is a gift.  He knew that it was not enough to rely on worldly, natural wisdom.  Solomon, given his training in the royal court, probably could have governed well without divine wisdom, at least on a natural plane.  And yet, he saw his role as king as something much more profound - kings were the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people at this time.  And so, he begged God for the gift of divine wisdom and it was granted.  Interestingly, the desire to ask God for divine wisdom was already a movement of grace in Solomon's soul.  In other words, his request was already moved by divine wisdom, even before he asked for it.  It means that God is ever ready to give us what we need to become holy.

The images in our Gospel today - the person who sells all that he owns to buy the treasure buried in the field and the person who sells all that he owns to possess the pearl of great price - lead us down a related, albeit different path in regards to how we should understand divine wisdom.  The two images force us to ask two basic questions.

First, "Am I willing to pay the price to be truly wise according to the ways of God and His Church?"  In other words, we ought to ask if we are willing to make those sacrifices in order to not only mortify ourselves but to seek God's will through prayer, study and good works.  Are we willing to obey the wisdom of Christ's Church in all things and not only with areas we find easy or convenient.

Are we willing to obey the wisdom of Christ's Church in all things and not only with areas we find easy or convenient.  Is our faith relegated to an hour on Sunday or do we do more than what is merely required because we love God.  Do we desire to be consumed by doing His will in our lives and learning more about Him so that we can know Him more intimately?

We all talk about wanting to go to heaven but are we willing to do what it takes to get there?  Are we willing to detach from material things which tie us down to earthly concerns?  Are we willing to stop sinning and to give our lives over to God totally, within our state of life? 

The degree to which we hesitate is indicative of how much farther we have to go to truly possess divine wisdom.  We may think ourselves wise in the ways of the world, but our worldly ways will not get us to heaven, unless they are directed by divine wisdom, which emanates from Christ, the source of all wisdom.

The second question is related to the first, "Am I willing to re-prioritize my life so that God and spiritual matters come first?"  Or, "Am I content in maintaining my  spiritual life as one among many areas or facets of my existence?" 

The two persons portrayed in the Gospel today, sold everything in order to possess something of earthly value.  Suddenly, only one thing was truly important to them.  If our interior lives, which are based on our relationship with Jesus, do not dictate and animate the rest of our interests and duties and work, then our relationship with Jesus will end up competing with our hobbies, our social lives, our financial concerns, even our family life. 

Jesus comes first - no exceptions.  Even our family concerns must be guided by our love of the Lord and His will.  Any yet, we observe that God can often be no more important to us than the things of this world and its concerns.  With this kind of disposition, how can we honestly expect God to be merciful to us?  And yet, mysteriously so, He is - in spite of ourselves.

Lastly, we ought to consider the fact that the price to pay in order to be truly wise is the Cross - an obstacle to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, says St. Paul.  The suffering of this life is a great teacher of wisdom for it should automatically remind us that God is ultimately in charge of our lives and that without Him, we falter. 

Our Lord Himself is described as Wisdom Incarnate - wisdom made flesh.  This wisdom incarnate is made possible through the Seat of Wisdom, The Blessed Virgin Mary.  Without her "fiat" - her "yes" at the Annunciation - wisdom remains only an idea.  Thanks to her, however, wisdom is now a person.  It is impossible to speak of Christ as Wisdom Incarnate without reference to the woman who gave him human flesh.  Let us approach the Seat of Wisdom to ask her to grant us the grace to be truly wise so as to ever rejoice in the consolation of her Son, the destiny and the hope of humanity.

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