Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (July 27, 2014)

Our first scripture is an excerpt from the First Book of Kings, a text from the Old Testament that describes the extraordinary events that led to establishment of the Kingdom of David.

Remember, the Kingdom of David was a royal dynasty that was founded by David. David lived about a thousand years before the birth of the Lord Jesus. Remember also that Joseph, the husband of the Lord Jesus’ mother, Mary, is identified in the Gospel as a descendent of King David. In this way, the Lord Jesus comes into the House and Family of King David.

David is the mightiest of all the Israelite kings and the one king whom the Bible records, that despite many failures, he sought to live in accord with the commandments of God. Unlike many other ancient historical texts, the Bible is completely honest about the rulers of Israel (and all worldly rulers as well!)- most of the Israelite kings were hardly up to the task and their infidelity, indiscretions, idolatry and egoism brought conflict and misery to the Israelites.

The Bible is both ambivalent and honest about kings, indeed all men and women who wield worldly power. Why? Because the Bible reveals that God is the world’s true king, and it is precisely when powerful men and women do not accept and understand this revelation that makes this world such a violent and sin-filled place.

David differed from his successors, not because he wasn’t himself guilty of infidelity, indiscretions, idolatry and egoism, but because he was honest about his failures, repentant and willing to make amends.

David had a virtue rare to be found among great men and women- humility.

Today’s scripture from the First Book of Kings is about David’s son, Solomon, who succeeds his father as ruler of the Israelites.

Solomon, is a man who has everything that the world considers to be important- wealth, pleasure, power and honors- but he is also the beneficiary of a heavenly gift.

The Lord offers Solomon the opportunity to ask him for anything, for the fulfillment of his heart’s deepest desire. God will give it to him. Solomon need only ask.

What can the man who has everything the world considers to be important ask for?

What more does the man who has everything want?

Solomon wants wisdom and manifests that he already is in possession of this gift in requesting it.

The scriptures praise the wisdom of Solomon, it is, after all, a good thing to be wise, even better to be a wise king.

But there is a sting in the tail of the Bible’s story of Solomon. At the end of his long reign, Solomon’s wisdom falters, and out of romantic affection and for the sake of political expedience, he commits the most grievous and serious sin- he worships false gods.

And this sets the stage for much misery, in fact, it will be idolatry that breaks the Kingdom of David and leads to its destruction.

The lesson?

Solomon was indeed wise (the Bible insists that he was the wisest of all) but worldly wisdom ultimately is not enough. Greater than worldly wisdom is fidelity to God, the humility to accept his commandments and practice those commandments with integrity.

And in this respect, we are compelled to look at our own lives, because in the end, when we meet the Lord face to face, our lives will not be measured by those things that the world considers to be important, but by the commandments of the Lord and our fidelity to him.

In the end, it is not our university degrees, business connections, bank accounts, political affiliations, or even our ethnic and family identity that matter. And this is important to remember, because far too often we make these things the measure of a person’s life and this is a terrible mistake. Why? Because all these things, like the wisdom of Solomon, reach their limit, fail us, even end up subverting us, and then, pass away. What matters the most, and what endures beyond all worldly things, is fidelity.

Our second scripture is an excerpt from the New Testament, an excerpt from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.

St. Paul speaks about what he calls “predestination” and insists that all all who have been baptized and have come to know Christ in his Church have been called, justified and glorified.

Sounds beautiful and important- but what does it mean?

When St. Paul says that we have been “predestined” it means that the fact we are Christians is not an accident, nor is it simply about a personal decision. Being a Christian is not like signing up for an email list or joining private club. Instead, anyone who is a Christian has been chosen for this identity by the Lord himself. Here, the words of Christ the Lord himself are worth pondering- “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you”.

God may have worked through some secondary cause, even through our own will, to bring us into relationship with him as a Christian, but ultimately he is the one who has called us and summoned us into a relationship with himself.

Being a Christian is not just a matter of personal choice or preference, but a recognition that God has chosen, God has decided, God has preferred, and that he has done so, is no mere accident.

But not only has God chosen us, he has also called us, justified us, and glorified us.

What does this all mean?

That he has called us means that he encounters us in a personal way as someone who can be known and who knows us. This is why God reveals himself in Christ, for in Christ, God shows himself to us, not as some idea or feeling or cosmic force, but as a living, divine person who becomes like us so that he can speak to us as one speaks to a person face to face.

In this way, in Christ, God calls us, but in calling us he also justifies us and this means that he sets us in right relationship with himself. Concretely, this means that he gives us a way of life by which we can know what he wants and live in such a way that our lives will be imbued with meaning and purpose.

To be justified means that you have accepted from Christ a new way of life and are faithful to the expectations and demands of that new way of life. To be justified is to live as a disciple of the Lord Jesus wants you to live. To follow his commandments and do what he asks you to do.

But we are not only chosen, and called, and justified, but we are also glorified.

When the Bible speaks about glory it is referring to God revealing his divine presence to us. So if we are being glorified, it means that is some way God offering his divine presence to us in such a way that his divine presence is becoming part of who we are.

How does this happen? It happens in the Sacraments.

What? How?

Consider this: when we are in relationship with Christ we can share in his divine life. When Christ says in the Gospel he has come to offer us his full and abundant life, this is what he means. He is going to give us something extraordinary- holy communion with his divine life!

This holy communion happens to us, not just in a heavenly realm after we die, but right now. How so? In the Sacraments. The Sacraments are not just faith based entertainment or quaint religious customs or symbols of Catholic culture. The Sacraments are privileged occasions when the divine presence of God in Christ meets us in forms what we can see, touch, even taste, and through these forms we are given a share in Christ’s own divine life!

The Sacraments are a personal invitation from God in Christ to know him and to have a relationship with Christ.

In it through our participation in the Sacraments that we are glorified!

Finally, there is Christ the Lord’s Gospel in which he speaks about the mysterious Kingdom of God, a reality so valuable that it is worth giving up everything we have so that we can share in its riches.

The temptation is to think of the Kingdom of God as a spiritual realm far, far away. It’s heaven or something like that.

That’s not what Christ the Lord is talking about. He is talking about something much closer to our lives and our experience. He is talking about a relationship with himself and the Kingdom of God is where this will happen- and this happens, not just in heaven, but even right now!

This relationship with Christ doesn’t just happen in your mind or in your emotions. So where does this relationship happen?

This relationship with Jesus Christ happens in your own life, in your own experience, in this world, right here and right now- in the Sacraments of the Church.

As I said, the Sacraments bear into your own life, indeed into your own body, the divine life and presence of Christ the Lord. Once, Christ the Lord revealed himself in the body of his Incarnation, but now, he reveals himself in the Sacraments of the Church.

The Sacraments are signs, revelations, of God’s Kingdom come- not just in heaven, but right here, right now!

And because these Sacraments are routes of access to the divine life and presence of the Lord Jesus himself they are literally, so valuable that they are worth giving up everything so that we can share in their riches.

Consider what we sacrifice, what we surrender for merely worldly things, things that will ultimately pass away, things that will ultimately fail us, even subvert us. How much we give up for the treasures of the kingdom of this world?

Ask yourself- what have you ever sacrificed, what have you ever surrendered for the treasures of the Kingdom of heaven?

How shrewd our investments are in regards to earthly treasures!

What can be said of our investments in the treasures of the Kingdom of God!

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