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What Is Your Greatest Wish

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

Sunday, July 27, 2014
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Romans 8:28-30
Matthew 13:44-52 or 13:44-46

The interplay between the First Reading, the Gospel and our lives is apparent in today’s liturgy.

One of the wonders of “parable-thought” is that even the smallest events can direct us to the Lord and parables do not tell us details. We are free to supply them ourselves. Today’s parables of the treasure and the pearl are about the things that make us happy and what we are willing to give up for the joy of the kingdom. The person in the parable who finds the treasure is not even looking for it but is compelled to bury it lest it be stolen. This was the biblical equivalent to putting it in the bank. The merchant, on the other hand, seems to have been searching for that one pearl that would give meaning to his life. It makes no difference whether the discovery was a matter of happenstance or the result of a lifelong search; the individual was willing to give up everything for the joy of having it.

Then there is Solomon. In his dream, Yahweh offers him whatever he most wants and he asks for a “wise and understanding heart” rather than any material possession. 1 Kings goes on to tell us that Solomon received in his reign what he was promised in the dream.  Solomon’s reign in juxtaposition with the Gospel reminds us of the Kingdom. When we hear the First Reading, we learn what Solomon most wants and it is natural that we should contrast the deepest desires of our hearts with Solomon’s choice.

Like most good storytellers, Jesus wants to be certain that his listeners have heard his message. “Do you understand?” he asks. He is assured that they have. Then Jesus explains why they understand his message. His listeners bring to the story all that they know, their religious learning and their experience. Jesus’ teaching illumines all the religious learning that they have had in the past.

We, too, bring our past understandings and the experiences of our lives to the Word of God. I seldom long for the Wisdom of Solomon since I have no need to make monumental decisions.  Instead, I look for things that will make life less tedious, less burdensome, and more joyful. We should not be shamed that we do not have the power to change the course of history. We have, instead, the ability to direct our own lives. We are wise enough not to give up this greater power for a lesser one. We would not trade friendship for money or integrity for good fortune. We use the small gifts that are ours to purchase the greater things. What these are is determined by our vision of the future. The riches of life can be found in a future directed toward the Kingdom.    

Today we are called to turn our talents toward the Lord. In exchange for this, the Father allows the Christian community to purchase the gift of its future. At this liturgy, the Church remembers its future and offers its present in exchange for an unending eternity of love and praise in the Kingdom.

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