Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 23
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
I had a conversation with a group of colleagues who also happened to be parents of young children, and we were sharing stories of various parenting techniques that we observed. A couple of techniques and characteristics stood out as both exemplary and very effective. “The Look” was high on our list.
Having just observed “the Look” used by a young mother of four during Mass, I could describe it well: Whenever one of her brood became disruptive, she simply fixed her eyes on him or her with an expression that could have meant anything from “You know that there will be severe consequences for your behavior when we get home” to “I’ve taught you how to behave appropriately in church, and I’m really disappointed in you right now” to “I know you’re hungry/tired/need to go to the potty, but I’m sure you’re capable of lasting a while longer!”
Sometimes “the Look” was accompanied by a raised eyebrow, a gentle touch on the shoulder or a whispered word, but there was never any question about who was in charge.
Whatever unspoken family “code” had been established, there was an obvious, underlying assumption of parental authority that was calmly communicated, justly applied and gently enforced. It also indicated that Mom was fully aware of each child’s unique limitations and capabilities and was prepared to respond accordingly to each one’s age-appropriate need.
Although she must have had her moments of fatigue and frustration (she was human, after all), there was no drama, no flare of temper, no demonstrated resentment. From my vantage point in the pew behind them, I was duly impressed.
Today’s readings convey these same unmistakable messages of God’s just, yet gentle, treatment of all his children, regardless of our individual capabilities and deficiencies. God’s lenience is also God’s strength. God compensates for our inadequacies in prayer. When the seeds of goodness in our lives are contaminated by sin or evil influences, God doesn’t petulantly overreact or intervene prematurely, but he patiently entrusts us with the time and encouragement that we need to learn from our mistakes — albeit with the assurance of our eventual accountability.
It’s the constant, unwavering “look” of love that gives us, God’s children, “good ground for hope.”
QUESTIONS: In what specific way(s) has God dealt leniently with you? How has God’s example of kindness and justice taught you to treat others, especially those who are entrusted to your care?
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 30
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Psalm 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130
Matthew 13:44-52 or 13:44-46
God desires our friendship. So much so that Jesus, the Son of God, willingly accepted suffering and death on a cross to reconcile the world to God.
I know this is the central belief of Christian faith. But do I really believe God wants to be “my” friend? Do I desire God’s friendship as much as God desires “my” love?
This Sunday’s readings invite us to reflect on our heart’s deepest desires and longings. We might ask, How would I answer the question that God poses to Solomon in the first reading? “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
As a powerful king of Israel and son of David, Solomon could have easily asked for wealth, long life, justice against enemies or more power. Instead, Solomon acknowledged, in humility, his utter dependence on God.
Convinced that a life of peace, justice and true happiness flows from doing what is right, Solomon prayed for understanding, for wisdom to know the right path in life. Wisdom was his treasure, his pearl of great price.
To understand and to live by God’s commands is to love God, as the psalmist prays in the responsorial psalm: “The law of your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Solomon pleased God who granted his heart’s request with the invaluable treasure of exceptional wisdom.
There is a treasure hunter in all of us. We love to find a good deal, a bargain value, a unique prize or long-lost treasure, whether these show up in our attics, basements, yard sales, discount stores or personal belongings.
In the Gospel, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a treasure buried in a field that a person finds and hides again, then out of joy goes and sells all he has to buy the field. The kingdom of heaven, says Jesus, is like a merchant searching for fine pearls and when he finds a pearl of great price, he sells all he has to buy it.
Faith introduces us into God’s kingdom. Faith that leads to friendship with God and neighbor is an invaluable treasure, a pearl of great price. For by faith we see ourselves and the world as God sees — with love, compassion and mercy.
With eyes of faith we see, like Solomon, that the most important things in life are not power, prestige and possessions, but persons — God, family and community.
So, what am I searching for in life? In the face of God’s relentless offer of friendship, will we respond in faith saying, “Speak to me, Lord”?
Reflection Quote: “Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift. ... To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be ‘working through charity,’ abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the church.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 162)