July 26, 2020 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Andy Upah

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 1 KGS 3:5, 7-12

The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.
God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
Solomon answered:
“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.
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
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?”

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
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—
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.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

R. (97a) Lord, I love your commands.
I have said, O LORD, that my part is to keep your words.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
For I love your command
more than gold, however fine.
For in all your precepts I go forward;
every false way I hate.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Wonderful are your decrees;
therefore I observe them.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.
R. Lord, I love your commands.

Reading 2 ROM 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
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 and sisters.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

Alleluia CF. MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
for you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 13:44-52 

Jesus said to his disciples:
“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.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”  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.”

Homily for Nativity Mass on the Seventeenth Sunday Ordinary Time 7/26/2020

Another week, another three parables about the Kingdom of Heaven.  Once again, in each of these, we can easily see Jesus Christ as the Kingdom of Heaven: Jesus is the buried treasure, Jesus is the pearl of great price, Jesus is the net thrown into the sea.

With the treasure and the pearl, Jesus shows His disciples that He is to be the most important thing in their lives, Jesus should be put before anything else.

Once someone has found Jesus, out of joy, they go and sell all they have in order to acquire Him.  Now, obviously we can’t acquire or possess Jesus per se, but we can acquire and possess a relationship with Him and prioritize that relationship above everything else in our world.

Using money here is a great example.  Typically, what we spend our money on shows what we love the most.  Think about people’s hobbies - often they are quite expensive.  Boats, golf, vacations - are people more willing to give money to these than they are to the Church?

I know I sure was.  I was willing to spend a lot of money on those types of things, hesitant to give to the Church, but would spend any amount of money to go see the Cubs. This year I can't spend any amount of money to watch the Cubs play!

In my life there were two turning points when it came to money and the Church.  

The first was when I realized that God loved me and that the Church was my mother, here to protect me, doing good things for me but also for the world.  At that point, I began to give between 5% and 10% of my income to the Church, and the remainder to charities to make a full 10% tithe.

When I look back at it now, it seems this was when I began to truly live my faith.  I began to realize I was part of supporting the mission of the Church, and I did that out of joy, not out of obligation, but out of joy for the appreciation of the blessings I had been given in knowing God.

The second turning point was when I realized it wasn’t enough to just give money, that God was asking me to give my life.  I was living in West Des Moines, I had just turned 30, and my salary was over six figures.  That was nearly ten years ago, if I was still there, I’d be making a quarter of a million annually. 

But, I sold all so to speak, I walked away from a great job and the money to go back to school for six years, even though I knew I would never make much money as a priest.  

Then again, I have found my pearl of great price, I've acquired the land with the hidden treasure, I’ve acquired a deep relationship with Jesus that allows me to share Him with others.  That’s the most important thing to me.  

What is the most important thing to you?  See, everyone, well, most everyone wants to go to Heaven.  People say they want to go to heaven.  But heaven isn’t ultimately a place that we are good enough to get into or do enough stuff to earn or deserve, heaven is a person, the most important person, with whom we need a friendship.

Jesus gives these parables to show how He is the most important thing in any of our lives.  More tangibly, receiving Jesus in the Eucharist should be the most important thing, the pearl of great price, the hidden treasure. 

To be honest, the Eucharist - for me to be able to consecrate Jesus in the Eucharist for all of you, was the biggest reason that I became a priest.

So I’ve been frustrated recently because I hear people say, “oh Father, it’s just too dangerous to go to Mass.”  But these same people are fine going to the Supper Club and sitting shoulder to shoulder at the bar without any masks.  Sure seems like going out to eat is more important than Jesus, huh?

So think about it in those terms, Covid terms.  Here’s the scenario - You have to make a calculated risk and you can only go out to one place each week - what is the most important, where do you choose to go?

Talk about preaching to the choir, you all are here, and thank you for that.  But your friends that aren’t yet will still go out to eat, shame on them. Where is their pearl of great price? What is the most important thing?

Now don’t hear what I’m not saying, if people are being really cautious and they truly aren’t going anywhere, then by all means, don’t come to Mass either.  

But if people are going out to eat all the time, going to sports, going to grad receptions… well then, let’s be honest with each other, those things are simply more important to them at this time.

So we need to show that Jesus is the most important, and we do that in a variety of ways...

When we prioritize Mass before anything else on Sunday we show Jesus is the most important to us.

When we sacrifice something, offer up some suffering for God, we show God is the most important to us.

When we make time, every single day, for our relationship in prayer we show our relationship with God is the most important to us.

Prayer is the basis of our relationship with God, and these things I just suggested are all related to prayer.  I’ve spoken about this relationship many times over the last several weeks, but we can’t have the relationship without prayer, and as in any real relationship, we need to be able to have a conversation.

If conversational prayer is unfamiliar to you, I’d like you to just try something today.  Tonight, when you are ready for bed, in bed or out doesn’t matter, just review your day. 

First, review the blessings that occurred in the day, then thank God for the blessings, for what He has given you.

Second, think about what you could have done better.  Usually it has to do with how you loved someone, either someone else or yourself even, and ask God for forgiveness and for the grace to do better tomorrow.

That’s it, that’s all, a start of a daily conversation with just gratitude for blessings today, and reflection on how you can do better with God’s help tomorrow.

God has predestined us for a relationship with Himself which we have through prayer. That’s what the predestined means in that second reading, not predestined to heaven or hell, it’s predestined to this most important relationship, living and growing as a disciple of Jesus among many brothers and sisters.

May God bless you as you grow in your faith, showing your relationship with Jesus is the most important thing in your world.