We have a negative phrase which we use now and then to describe certain characters in our community. “Over-including” means something such as “doing or trying to do too much.” They are persons who do not wish to miss an opportunity for involvements, service of others, or just where the action is or might be when they get there.
As we attempt to live the Eucharistic mission of sharing what we have received, we might pray this week with the process of including and excluding. We can pray with the tension which is caused by our good desires meeting our limited resources of time and talents. We might have to pray with a little humility as we discover again our limitations. Jesus did much with five loaves and two fish; he can do much if we don’t burn out the bread and fish. Over-including might have elements of pride and self-centered energy packed in together. Generosity is a great virtue, we might have to pray our way into saying “No”.
Jesse’s son, David, was chosen from among his brothers, by God directly to be the king and leader of Israel. As David is about to die, he chooses his son Solomon to be the next king. In the previous chapter there is a ritual, passing over the power and God-given authority to govern Israel.
What we hear in today’s First Reading is one of those famous “biblical dreams”. God asks Solomon to request something for himself. He asks for the spirit or gift of discernment. He knows the vastness of God’s people and how is he to know what is right and just.
The dream continues with God’s not only granting what Solomon asks for, but more. He has not asked for selfish gifts of riches, a long life, nor the death of the enemies of Israel. So as a second gift God will give him these as well. More precious than these is the gift of a “wise heart” with understanding. There is also the promise that there will never be any other known to be wiser and discerning than Solomon. This authority or wisdom is tested soon after the dream ends when the two women come with their problem about whose child is the one they are presenting. It is this story which creates the famous phrase, “Having the wisdom of Solomon.”
The wisdom of Jesus which He is calling the “Kingdom of Heaven” penetrates today’s Gospel. These parables are directed more to the scribes and Jewish leaders who are becoming, or being tempted or invited to become disciples of Jesus. There is the common thread in these little pictures of change, or exchange. The “treasure”, the “Pearl”, the “netted fish”, and the “old for the new” all describe conversion or decision.
Those religious leaders who have profited from the teachings, laws and customs of Judaism are invited to discover the values contained in the personal teachings and mission of Jesus.
Jesus is the new “treasure” buried in the field of humanity. Once a person understands the value of the relationship which Jesus offers, that person lets go of all that gave him or her value before and buys, (now this is very important) buys the “field” with the “Treasure” buried in it. It is similar to a young man who wishes to marry his true love. She is found within her family of origin. He must buy into her family with all its earthliness. At least this, she will carry that family-earth into the marriage. So he buys the whole field, at least in the ideal.
Those following or buying into Jesus cannot abstract Him from His earthliness and His earth-bound, flesh-bound mission.
The “Pearl of Great Price” parable advances the call a little farther. If one discovers Jesus as of ultimate value, then everything else upon which one relies for his/her value, and identity must be laid aside. Those things and relationships do have value, but Jesus is to become ultimate and all else retains its value in and with and through Him. It would be like the young man about to marry his love, his previous relationships remain important, but because of his love for his wife, they change in importance.
The third parable moves even more deeply. The net thrown into the sea brings in all kinds of fish. What fish are good and which ones are to be thrown away calls for some sense of value or taste. Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven will be populated by those who have bought into the field and purchased the Pearl of Christ. They will be put into the heavenly bucket and the “bad” will be fried in the hellish cooker. This sums up the parable section of Matthew. Jesus asks the disciples whether they understand and they do, especially with the image of the eternal frying pan in their minds.
Jesus closes his teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven by reminding the disciples that the old or former or ancient revelations by God of God were of great importance and value. God as the Great Householder does not hold anything back. The “new” or Jesus, fulfills, highlights and continues the “old”. The goodness of God is everlasting and that goodness wants to be presented constantly and accepted freely.
“O bless the Lord, my soul, and remember all His kindness.” Ps. 103, 2
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