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Breath of the Spirit
Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.
Breath of the Spirit is our electronic spiritual and liturgical resource for our members and potential members. Nothing can replace your chapter or other faith community but we hope you will find further support here for integrating your spirituality with your sexuality and all the strands of your life.
Though we believe “all things work for good for those who love God,” that only happens to those who give themselves over to dying and rising with Jesus – the price God demands.
JULY 30TH, 2017: SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
I Kings 3:5, 7-12
Author and speaker John Shea frequently reminds his audiences that the historical Jesus’ ministry revolved around three questions. What do you want out of life? Where do you get it? How much does it cost?
This Galilean carpenter certainly wasn’t the first biblical person to get involved with those three topics.
In our I Kings passage, Yahweh asks Solomon what he wants out of life. Surprisingly the king responds, “Give your servant an understanding heart.” Should Yahweh have problems with the term, Solomon quickly defines such a heart. It’s the ability “to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”
Scholars who deal with biblical Wisdom Literature – Psalms, Proverbs, etc. – contend that those with understanding hearts are wise in the scriptural sense. They can perceive God at work in their world, and know how they should respond to his/her presence. Three thousand years ago, our sacred authors believed people thought not with their brains, but with their hearts. (Their emotions, on the other hand, originated in their kidneys, not their hearts. That’s why, for instance, lovers referred to one another as my “sweet kidney” and gave kidney shaped boxes of chocolates on Valentine’s Day.) Truly wise persons have geared their hearts to think the way Yahweh wants and expects them to think.
In some sense, that’s how the evangelist Matthew conceives of himself. He actually shares an Alfred Hitchcock moment with us in today’s pericope. Just as the famous director suddenly shows up in almost all his movies, so Matthew shows up in his gospel. He’s the “. . . scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven . . . the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”
As a good Jew, his storeroom of faith overflows with the “old,” as a good follower of Jesus, he’s also involved with the “new,” constantly experiencing the “kingdom of heaven” in his everyday life. Finding the risen Jesus working effectively in all he does and everyone he encounters can only be compared to discovering a buried treasure or coming upon a pearl of great price. Both fulfill the dreams of a lifetime.
Yet even when we eventually surface that “thing” for which we’ve spent our lives searching, we still have to deal with the price for acquiring it. Paul pulls no punches when it comes to the cost. In today’s second reading, he reminds the church in Rome that we have to be “. . . conformed to the image of God’s Son.” In other words, in order to be “justified,” we must become other Christs. That’s the only way we can be certain we’re doing what God wants us to do, that we actually have an understanding heart. Though we believe “all things work for good for those who love God,” that only happens to those who give themselves over to dying and rising with Jesus – the price God demands.
Among other things, that means we have to commit ourselves to working with a “mixed net;” we can’t just work with those who, like us, are trying to do what God expects us to do. But we’re not only to just work with the “wicked,” we’re to constantly give ourselves to them. It doesn’t matter if our love is returned or rejected, it must always be given. That’s part of the cost of conforming ourselves to the image of God’s Son.
Obviously paying such a price isn’t something we take care of once a lifetime, then forget about it. We not only pay it every day, we discover it changes every day. On the other hand, we also discover a new treasure every day, a constantly changing treasure.
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