Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: “…The Wisdom to know the Difference”

Lectionary Readings: (taken from the Biblical Meditations of Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller)

  • 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12. Solomon prays: Give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
  • Romans 8:28-30. God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his decree.
  • Matthew 13: 44-52. The reign of God is like a buried treasure for which people sell all their possessions. Every scribe learned in the reign of God brings forth both the new and the old.

Thoughts for your consideration: By John Gonzalez

The Gospel passage for this week ends a series of parables offering teachings and instruction concerning the Kingdom of God. I personally find it interesting that after Jesus gives these series of parables he ask the question “Have you understood all this?” and the people respond back a resounding “Yes.” This surprises me. Have they really understood this instruction regarding the Kingdom of God that is based on the use of metaphors and symbols depicting so many different aspects of this fundamental teaching? Did the people have such clarity of thought? Even Jesus’ disciples at one point request an explanation about one of his parable but then Jesus goes on to offer these more enigmatic parables and now they declare their full and complete understanding. Have you ever been in a class or in training and realize that the topic being discussed is confusing but rather than ask for clarity you look to your peers and shrug your shoulder while hoping that as the lesson continues someone will ask a clarifying question or perhaps the instructor will offer a helpful example. I assume that Jesus had many such listeners with him that day.

Do these parables offer a clear understanding of what the Kingdom of God is? Hardly, but then again how are we supposed to learn about a mystical concept such as this? Jesus gives us these metaphors and images to offer us some ideas regarding our relationship with God but a full and complete comprehension is simply out of our reach. Knowing this Jesus wraps up his teaching with one final instruction. A scribe that is trained for the Kingdom of God must use all the resources of his or her faith tradition, new as well as old. The person who wishes to comprehend and understand the treasures of our faith must take the richness of our tradition and allow it to communicate and adapt to the new ideological and social developments. We tend to see tradition in competition with progress but Jesus offers this final lesson suggesting that wisdom happens when tradition is allowed to grow with the progress of human development. The pearl and the hidden treasure tell us that the new is not something we hide away from for the sake of that which we possess but instead we are to invest our traditional resources in the new from which we will find greater meaning.

But this process requires wisdom and the right use of wisdom will temper our judgment. The second reading from St. Paul uses a word that has caused much theological problems throughout the historical development of Christianity. Predestination is a concept that caused a severe rift between the ideals of freedom and grace. This rift was born between the theological arguments of Augustine and Pelagius and eventually was the theological point of contention that resulted in the split between Protestants and Catholics. The principle of predestination makes it sounds like God’s grace is in control of everything and that freedom in actuality does not exist. What is needed is wisdom to help offer the clarity that freedom does not compete with grace but is actually in relationship with it. Many of us our learning that freedom also belongs to God and that God has freely offered his love to His creation with the intent of respecting our freedom to engage in this universal divine love (agape). Freedom flows from grace and St. Paul can say that we have been predestined without limiting either our freedom or God’s freedom to grow into this mystical relationship since “we know that all things work together for good.”

But again what is needed is the gift of wisdom which Solomon recognizes as an essential quality for being a good king. Wisdom is an essential quality for us all. Going back to the idea of the new and old we must temper our desire to align ourselves as traditionalist or progressive without seeing the merit and necessity of engaging both elements for moving ahead with a faith tradition that speaks to a developing post-modern world. It never hurts to keep in mind a simple prayer that I like to use as a mantra for wisdom.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”


About jdgonzo73

I am a Catholic lay minister in the field of Christian ethics, Latino theology and Paulacrucian spirituality. I am currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Fordham, an ad-junct professor at Molloy College and St. John's University and the Project Coordinator with the Catholic Roundtable.
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