Branching Out Blog

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Seventeenth Sunday of the Year

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 29, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the first Book of Kings

(Chapter 3:5, 7-12)

Have you ever heard the phrase “the Wisdom of King Solomon”? This is where it originated.

“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, ‘Give your servant … 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, not for riches, not for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right—I do what 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.’”

Solomon could have asked for anything, but he asked for the one really important quality that would make him a great ruler, the wisdom to serve the people.

When you pray, what do you ask of God? Is it a series of things that seem important at the time, or is it what is truly important in your life and in the lives of those around you?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130)

“Lord, I love your commands.” Really? Do we always love God’s commands—not only the Ten Commandments but personal callings from God at different points in our lives?

A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans

(Chapter 8:28-30)

There is a provocative statement in this reading: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.” Do you believe that? Always? Sometimes, the “good” is hard to see in the moment, but eventually, you get it or at least accept it. But there are other things, other occurrences that you never seem to understand. Why did this person that you loved die at such a young age? Why were you treated so unjustly at work? Why did a person that you loved leave you? How can a horrible disease like cancer be a part of God’s plan? What good can come out of it?

Where is God amid so many disappointments and tragedies? God is always there, somehow, somewhere, in the love of supportive people, in the wisdom and care of people who somehow appear in our lives at crucial times, in our conversations with the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Yes! “All things work for good for those who love God.” The road is often bumpy and the journey painful, and still we travel on our everlasting journey into the mystery of God’s everlasting love.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 13:44-52)

Jesus preached a Kingdom but not of this world. To explain it, he used parables that the people could understand. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and then 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.” Jesus also talks, in this discourse, about fisherman separating the good fish from the bad.

The point of all these parables is that the kingdom of heaven is a gift to each of us, not something we have earned. We need to accept the gift and experience it as what is most important in our lives. Let us behold the gift of new life, eternal life, that we have been given and live and share it joyfully, especially in our times of greatest challenge and need.



Image: The parable of the hidden treasure (left) paired with the parable of the pearl on a stained-glass window in Scots' Church, Melbourne 

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: Bill Ayres, parables, parable of the pearl, parable of the hidden treasure

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