Scripture Studies, July 30, 2017

July 30, 2017 Seventeenth Sunday In Ordinary Time

This Sunday we celebrate the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. In the first reading Solomon prays for and is granted wisdom. In the scriptures, wisdom is not an abstract quality but rather it is a very practical gift which enables a person to do things well in life and to judge correctly. The contrast between wisdom and the other things that Solomon might have asked for connects this reading with the Gospel reading. In the gospel, Jesus tells us two short parables that point out the exceedingly great value that we must place on the Kingdom. There is also another parable (dragnet) that repeats the message of the parable of the weeds in the wheat. In the second reading, Paul reminds us that ultimately God’s plan for our salvation will come to completion. God is in control of things and His plan will succeed.

First Reading: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12

5 In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, "Ask something of me and I will give it to you." 6 Solomon answered: "You have shown great favor to your servant, my father David, because he behaved faithfully toward you, with justice and an upright heart; and you have continued this great favor toward him, even today, seating a son of his on his throne. 7 O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. 8 I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?"

10 The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request. 11 So God said to him: "Because you have asked for this–not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right–12 I do as 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.

NOTES on First Reading:

* 3:4-15 Here Solomon’s love for Yahweh which was mentioned in verse 3 is dramatized in a dream. This section serves two functions in the narrative. It attests to the new king’s devotion to Yahweh and it begins the transfer of the place of sacrifice from the high places to Jerusalem. Although the high places were never God’s preferred places of sacrifice they were often used before Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem.

* 3:5 God gives Solomon a wish.

* 3:6-9 Here Solomon answers God with a prayer containing a three part structure. It speaks of the past (God’s goodness and love for David), the present (Solomon’s inadequacy to replace David), and the future (Solomon’s request for wisdom to rule well). In verse 9 Solomon asks for an "understanding mind" and discernment. The first of these in
Hebrew was expressed literally as a "listening heart." In Hebrew, the heart is the seat of mental rather than emotional faculties.

* 3:10-14 Yahweh’s answer to Solomon has four parts: Solomon is praised for not requesting long life, riches or victory over his enemies. (verse 11) Solomon’s request is granted; he is given "listening discernment" and "a wise and discerning." (verse 12) He is given two of the three things that he was praised for not requesting. (verse 13) He is promised the third thing provided he remain faithful as David was. (verse 14)

Second Reading: Romans 8: 28-30

28 We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

NOTES on Second Reading:

* 8:28 [28-30] These verses outline the Christian vocation as it was designed by God.

* 8:28 There are at least three ways of translating this verse depending upon whether "ho theos" which is missing in some manuscripts is read or left out and on whether the verb, "synergei" is taken as a transitive verb (with an object) or intransitive verb (without an object). Without getting into the details, each interpretation says that God’s purpose and plan stand behind all that happens to Christians because ultimately God really is in control. He even uses the evil that comes our way to accomplish good.

* 8:29 Paul’s version of predestination is not the same as the theological system that was erected later. Paul’s view of predestination is a much more corporate concept rather than acts of individual salvation that were described later. He uses this language to stress God’s previous provision for the process of salvation in the community. His redemptive action on behalf of the believers has been in process before the beginning of the world. Those whom God chooses are those he foreknew or elected.
We are called to be conformed to the image of his Son, who is to be the firstborn among many brothers.

* 8:30 God’s ultimate plan involves a final destiny of glory for all who put their faith in Christ. Those who are called are predestined or predetermined. These expressions do not mean that God is arbitrary. Rather, Paul uses them to emphasize the thought and care that God has taken for the Christian’s salvation.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:44-52

44 "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 46 When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. 47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. 48 When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. 49 Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

51 "Do you understand all these things?" They answered, "Yes." 52 And he replied, "Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old."

NOTES on Gospel:

* 13:44-46 The first two parables of the discourse have the same point. In each case a person has stumbled upon a great treasure and will sell all that they have to acquire these finds. In the same way, the one who understands the supreme value of the kingdom gives up whatever he must to obtain it. The joy with which this is done is made explicit in the first parable, but it may be presumed in the second also.

* 13:44 In Palestine in Jesus’ time, it was not unusual to guard valuables by burying them in the ground.

* 13:47-50 The concluding parable of the fishnet resembles the explanation of the parable of the weeds with its stress upon the final exclusion of evil persons from the kingdom.

* 13:51 In Matthew’s Gospel understanding is a characteristic of the good disciple. The old in this verse has been interpreted as Old Testament or as Old Testament plus Jesus’ teaching and the new as Jesus’ teaching or as the future events.
In a sense this verse is a metaparable about making parables. In fact, it invites the hearers to make up new parables. In some ways it is a self-portrait of Matthew.

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