01Aug 01 August. Wednesday, Week 17

1st Reading: Jeremiah (15:10, 16-21)

Jeremiah’s lament and God’s encouraging reply

Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me. Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.

I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice. Under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail.

Therefore thus says the Lord: If you turn back, I will take you back, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth. It is they who will turn to you, not you who will turn to them. And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the Lord. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

Responsorial (Ps 59)

R./: God is my refuge on the day of distress

Rescue me from my enemies, O my God;
defend me from those who attack me.
Rescue me from evildoers;
from bloodthirsty men save me. (R./)

See, they lie in wait for my life;
powerful men come together against me,
For no offense or sin of mine, O Lord
for no guilt of mine they accuse me
. (R./)

O my strength! it is to you that I turn;
for you, O God, are my stronghold,
As for my God, may his mercy go before me;
may he show me the fall of my foes. (R./)

But I will sing of your strength
and revel at dawn in your mercy;
You have been my stronghold,
my refuge in the day of distress. (R./)

O my strength! your praise will I sing;
for you, O God, are my stronghold,
the God who shows me love! (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (13:44-46)

Give everything, to find the buried treasure and buy the priceless pearl

Jesus said to his disciples, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. And again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”


Radical Choices

At crucial transitions in our life, and certainly at our point of death, we have no choice but to let go of our possessions. Today’s gospel clearly calls for total consecration, and Jeremiah reflects this sense of total commitment. It’s good to have saints like him who help us put our life into perspective and appreciate what is of ultimate value. During a bleak stretch of his life, Jeremiah composed his famous confessions. Today’s consists of a lament, which bringing his tragedy to God for a solution. Jeremiah even curses the day of his birth, “Woe to me, my mother, that you ever gave me birth.” When God replies, it is not to apologize for piling so much upon the back of the prophet. Rather, after wrestling with God as Jacob had wrestled with the angel, Jeremiah gets a wonderful promise of ongoing support: “I am with you to save you and deliver you” says the Lord.

When Jesus wants us detached from all else for the sake of the one really valuable thing, he is asking for a radical choice in our lives. The most difficult moment for some might come in parting with the last of our possessions: our sense of success, our reputation for holiness, the control of our future. But without some parting and detaching, we cannot move on to the next stage in our lives.

Unexpected treasure

We could have the experience of stumbling upon something of value even when we have not been looking for it. A precious gift comes our way unexpectedly, without our having done anything to make it happen. It might be someone who crosses our path and has a huge impact for good on our lives. It might be an important insight that suddenly comes into our mind when we are sitting back relaxing and thinking about nothing in particular. In a sense, that was the experience of the poor day labourer in the first parable of today’s gospel reading. He was being paid to dig up someone’s field when suddenly he hit upon buried treasure. He sold the little he had to buy the field and gain that unexpected treasure.

There is a different kind of experience where we find something very valuable after a great deal of searching for it. We keep on looking, and, eventually, after a lot of effort we find what we have been looking for. That was the experience of the wealthy merchant in the second parable who kept searching for the finest pearl of all, until, finally, he found it and, then, sold everything to purchase it.

Jesus seems to say that the kingdom of God is like both of those human experiences. There are times when God graces us out of the blue. The Lord suddenly blesses us at a moment in life when we are least expecting it, as happened to the poor day labourer. The Lord is always taking some gracious initiative towards us if we eyes to see and ears to hear; he seeks us out. When it comes to the Lord, there is also a seeking involved on our part. Jesus calls us to keep on seeking, to keep on asking, to keep on knocking, like the rich merchant in the second parable. When we are graced by the Lord, because of his initiative towards us and our searching for him, then, like the two men in the parables, we must be ready to give up whatever is necessary to hold on to that grace, that gift of the Lord, the gift of the kingdom. [MH]

(Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, bishop and doctor of the Church)

Alphonsus (1696-1787) from Marianella near Naples studied law and practiced as a lawyer until the age of 27, when he began studying for the priesthood. After ordination at the age of 30 he lived his first years as a priest working with the homeless youth of Naples. His preaching often succeeded in converting people who were alienated from their faith. In 1732 he founded the congregation of the Redemptorists, intended mainly to preach in the slums of cities and other poor places. Against his will, was made bishop of Palermo at the age of 66. He wrote many works on moral theology and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1871.

One Response

  1. Brian Fahy

    My father once quoted to me the saying that Alphonsus Liguori took a vow not to waste a moment of time. Dad was puzzled I think by this notion. It sounded too tense for living a pleasant life. Dad had been a miner and a soldier in the war and a miner again and a father of four. He liked to follow the gee-gees and enjoyed a quiet pint. Maybe he thought these occupations might be regarded by the pious as wasting time. No such thing! As St Paul reminds us, whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God, and then all life is lived well.

    Alphonsus was a highly gifted person and was devoted to the gospel. He found relaxation in music but not many other diversions. He was a very intense man and I often wondered what he would have been like to live with. He was greatly revered by people for his kindness and compassion and his insight into life. As Rousseau said, what wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?

    However Alphonsus was not very kind on himself and suffered greatly from scruples. But to his credit he always turned to his spiritual counsellors and was guided by them. That is a great lesson for us today. We can do so much for one another by our wisdom and kindness. We can see and help another in a way that another cannot do for self. Equally we need the help and guidance of another to help us see our own way clear. In this way life is kind and well lived and never a waste of time.

    As a Redemptorist of many years, and on this feast day of Alphonsus, I offer this thought today. When kindness guides our day, nothing is ever wasted.

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