Some thoughts on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A
1 Kings 3:5,7-12
In the first reading Solomon asks for and receives a "discerning judgement" - a "heart wise and shrewd as none before have had"
St Paul tells us that God cooperates with all those who love him. Such are these who will become "true images of His Son" and will inherit the Kingdom of God.
St Matthew, continuing the collection of Parables concerning the Kingdom, emphasises the value of the Kingdom by talking about the "Pearl of Great Price". Anyone who discovers this treasure will go to all possible lengths to hold it in their hands (statue).
Later in the mass we will say together, may I suggest with arms outstretched, the prayer of the kingdom - the "Our Father". It is a Jewish prayer which Jesus has given us as being the prayer above all prayers. All people can say it, regardless of their individual faith, without compromising anything they believe.
In it we pray that God's Kingdom might be fulfilled in our midst. The Kingdom which has begun with Christ's resurrection and will grow until he comes again to finally complete the reign of God - "on earth, as it is in heaven". Matthew talks about this also when he relates Jesus telling his disciples about the "angels who will appear to separate the wicked from the just".
In the Our Father we also pray: "forgive us our trespasses". We clearly want to be included in the "just", but we are undoubtedly not worthy - and indeed, but for the power, the word, of God we are not.
Remember the story of the Centurion who came to Jesus to ask for healing for his servant. Jesus makes to go back with the Centurion to heal the sick man, but the centurion stops him saying that he is "not worthy that you should enter under my roof, say only the word and my servant shall be healed."
In the New Translation starting in September, the words we will use as we approach the altar for communion will be: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but say only the word and my soul shall be healed." You can see that this - along with so many of the changes to the text - is a direct echo of scripture.
In the second verse of our Offertory Hymn today we will sing the following words, picking out the themes of Jesus' parables over the past few weeks:
"Take all that daily toil plants in our heart's poor soil
take all we start and spoil, each hopeful dream,
the chances we have missed, the graces we resist,
Lord, in thy Eucharist, take and redeem."
If you remember also the story of Emmaus, after the two disciples had recognised Jesus "in the breaking of the bread" they were so overcome with joy - "Were our hearts not burning within us" that they could not resist rushing out to share their experience with everyone else.
One of the set of words we will hear from the New Translation as we are sent out is: "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord"
Can we honestly say that our "hearts burn within us"? Can we honestly say that we will "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord"?
(c) Bob Birtles 2011