Deacon Cornell's Homily


1 Kings 3:5, -12
Romans 8:28-30
Matthew 13:44-52


July 26-27 , 2008, Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary TIme, Cycle A

Solomon was very young when his father, King David passed on the kingdom of Israel to him. As often happens with the major characters in the Bible, Solomon is renowned throughout the known world for the wisdom we hear him ask for in today's first reading, and at the same time his later life is depicted as one of extreme foolishness as he dissipated the peace and prosperity of the kingdom his father had passed on to him through stupid choices.

Wisdom in general, but certainly in the culture of the middle east, is not so much high intelligence or nimble wit, as it is the ability to make the right choices. And unlike Solomon, who had it handed to him in one fell swoop by God at a young age, for most of us wisdom comes with age, after we have made many, many choices, some good and some bad, and learned from each one of them.

Solomon was given wisdom and for a while he used it to wisely govern the kingdom he was responsible for. We are told that his judgements and insights were so wise that people came from all corners of the earth to listen to them. The book of Proverbs, chock full of rich insights into human behavior and rules of living is attributed to Solomon. But throughout the little that Scripture tells about Solomon we hear very little of his ability to love. In contrast to the passionate love his father David had for God, Solomon's life seems very sterile. The very depressing Book of Ecclesiastes is attributed to Solomon by tradition. There the wisdom that made Solomon famous has degenerated into cynicsm. Everything is vanity; nothing changes; if you work hard and gain much, when you die it goes to others who may squander it. In the end, Solomon makes choices that lead to the breaking up of the kingdom his father David had built, and the loss of peace and prosperity.

As I mentioned, so much of real wisdom comes from seeing things in the right perspective. For many of us, we learn this right perspective the hard way, by making many mistakes. We get the right perspective only after seeing what happens when we make choices out of the wrong perspective.

This is very true in our faith life. It is so hard these days to have the proper perspective on religion and faith, primarily because we are bombarded on all sides by people pushing the wrong perspective. Like Solomon in his old age, we have become cynics who scoff at anything that we can't prove. We persist in thinking that religion is about earning God's love or approval or entry in to heaven, and then look at the commandments and the beatitudes and the practices of the Church as burdens or tests.

The first two parables Jesus tells in today's Gospel are a good example. A few years ago, during a parent and child session for First Eucharist preparation session, we read this parable as part of the session. We first asked the parents to explain the parable: what is the great treasure or the pearl of great value, and who is the person or merchant who finds it, and what does it mean when Jesus says that they sold everything to purchase the treasure/pearl. Without exception, the parents gave the usual interpretation: the treasure or pearl is the kingdom of God or heaven, the one who finds it represents us, and the meaning of the finder selling all is that we are to give up everything in this world if that's what it takes to possess the kingdom of God.

Then the children joined us and we asked them the same questions. Almost unanimously they saw the finder as God, and us as the great treasure that God found, and the meaning of selling all to possess the treasure stood for the fact that God gave all he had, his only begotten Son, to possess us.

What a different perspective! Instead of giving everything up or seeing the possession of the kingdom of God as a terrible burden or test, the children instinctively saw that the kingdom of God is about responding to the incredible passionate love God has for us. Does a person in love consider anything they do for the one loves them a burden?

What does this different perspective mean to us? Do we look at our faith as a burden? As something that is a series of obligations we have to fulfill? Or do we plunge into our relationship with God because we realize how good it is to be so loved by someone that they would give up all they value to possess us? One measure of this might be how we participate in the life of the parish. Do we simply fulfill our weekly obligation to attend Mass? Or do we wholeheartedly contribute our time, treasure and talent to the building up of the kingdom of God because we want everyone to share in the wonderful relationship we have with this God who loves us?

Unless we become as little children, we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.