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Sunday Homily: The Kingdom of Heaven

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

By Fr. Jason Mitchell LC

ROME, July 25, 2014 (Zenit.org) -

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1 Kings 3:5,7-12

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

Romans 8:28-30

Matthew 13:44-52

King Solomon, the son of David, was established in his kingdom and built the temple for God. The Book of Chronicles "portrays this as the culmination of biblical history, a recapitulation not only of the tabernacle built by Moses in the wilderness but also of creation itself. The Kingdom of Solomon is the new people of God, a liturgical empire called to bring the blessings of God to all nations through its temple and law" (S. Hahn, The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire, Baker Academic, 106).

As Solomon begins his reign, God comes to Solomon in a dream and tells him to ask something of him and he will give it to him. Instead of asking for a long life, riches, or victory over his enemies, Solomon asks for an understanding heart. Solomon knows that he is a servant of God and that he needs to be able to distinguish right from wrong in order to govern the people of God. God grants him his request and the words of the Psalmist are placed on Solomon's lips: "The law [of the Lord] is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces".

Solomon's life has a sad ending. The prudence and wisdom with which he governed the people at the beginning of his reign, failed him in his personal life towards the end. He allowed his heart to be turned to false gods. The Book of Sirach praises the wisdom of Solomon's youth, but points out the folly of his old age. The Kingdom was divided and a disobedient kingdom arose out of the North (Sirach 47:12-22). Solomon's son Rehoboam was ample in folly and lacking in understanding and caused the people to revolt. Jeroboam, the King of the North, caused Israel to sin.

After the exile of Israel and Judah, the prophets began foresee the restoration of the Kingdom promised to David. God will raise up a new Davidic king to lead the people out of exile and restore them in a unified Kingdom (Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11; Jeremiah 23:5-7; 30:9; Ezekiel 37:22).

Jesus, the son of David (Matthew 1:1), was anointed by the Holy Spirit in the Jordan and began his public ministry proclaiming that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus promises the Kingdom to the poor in spirit, to those who mourn, to the meek, to those who seek righteousness, to the merciful, to the pure, to the peacemakers and to the persecuted (Matthew 5:3-10). The greatest in the kingdom of heaven follow the law and the prophets and teach them to others.

Today, Jesus' parables of the kingdom compare it to a hidden treasure, a merchant in search of fine pearls, and to a net thrown into the sea. The first two parables encourages us to seek the kingdom tirelessly and sell everything we own to obtain it. We hear the words Jesus said to the rich young man: "If you would be perfect, go sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Matthew 19:21). The third parable tells us that good and evil will co-exist side by side until the end of time. There will be good wheat and bad weeds; there will be those who welcome the kingdom of heaven and those who reject it.

Saint Paul assures us today that God is watching over us during our time on this earth. God will lead us to the kingdom and brings us into the kingdom. First, Paul teaches that God knows each one of us from all eternity. His plan is to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things in earth. Second, God ordains (predestines) each one of us to eternal salvation. We have been destined in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ. His plan is that we live for the praise of God's glory. Third, the Father calls us and chooses us in love to be his adopted children.

Fourth, the Father justifies those who respond to his call and believe in his Son. The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and communicate to us the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ and through Baptism (CCC, 1987). We die to sin by sharing in Christ's Passion and we are born to new life through his Resurrection (CCC, 1988). The first work of grace is conversion; moved by grace, we turn toward God and away from sin. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man" (CCC, 1989) Finally, those he justifies by grace, he glorifies, for grace is the beginning of glory. In the Kingdom of heaven, we will contemplate the glory of the Trinity.

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Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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