Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 30, 2017 — Do You Listen With Your Heart? — Do You Have a Desire to Please God? — Therein lies the secret to success in life.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 109

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The Dream of Solomon. circa, 1693 by Luca Giordano (1632 – 1705)

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.”

Or  MT 13:44-46

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.”

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Reflection From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Kingdom of Heaven!  Today the Gospel of Matthew gives us a small understanding about the Kingdom of Heaven.  Most of us today don’t think in terms of kingdoms, but we could rephrase the Kingdom of Heaven as all who belong the Lord.  It is we who form one people, one grouping, one body in Christ.  Individualism has dominated so much of our thinking, yet our Scriptures are clear:  we go to the Father as a people, as a community of people, not just as individuals.

Our first reading today is from the First Book of Kings.  In this passage, King Solomon asks for wisdom in order to be able to guide the people of his kingdom.  The surprise is that King Solomon does not ask for strength, nor for riches, nor for a good life for himself, nor for triumph over his enemies.  Instead, King Solomon seeks wisdom to serve the people.

What do we seek in life?  What do I seek in life personally?  These are natural questions after hearing about King Solomon.  What do I want in life:  Money?  Power?  Control over others?  Relationships?  Triumph over my enemies?

Instead, the Kingdom of God is like a wonderful gift of love for all others and should overcome in us all the desire to have things just for myself or for my loved ones.  Rather, the Kingdom of Heaven pushes me to want to good of the other person and the good of all.

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Romans.  In this letter, we discover that “all things work for good for those who love God.”  When we begin to live in God, our way of seeing the world and what happens to us and to others in a new way.  Always we trust that what happens is in the hands of God.  We don’t understand His ways but we understand that He loves us.  God wants to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  God will conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  This is God’s work.  Our work is simply to accept God’s work within us and to allow God to work within us.

This brings us back to the Gospel today, from Saint Matthew.  God brings about His Kingdom and God will take out of His Kingdom all that does not belong to His Kingdom.  You and I must be purified of all that is in us and which is against the Kingdom.  We should not fear this purification.  Rather we should recognize that purification is necessary so that we can be with God completely and always.  Let us pray for the purification!  Once we see the immense value and joy of the Kingdom, it is all we shall want.

Your brother in the Lord,

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection on Solomon’s Dream By Charles E. McCracken

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Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? I KINGS 3:9

Shortly after David’s death, the Bible records the new king traveled to sacrifice at the Tabernacle site. Solomon’s journey to Gibeon some seven miles northwest of Jerusalem was not a private event. A parallel passage records, Then Solomon, and all the assembly with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon (1 Chr. 1:3). (1) The event apparently lasted several days with 1,000 sacrifices provided by Solomon for the offerings during the gathering.

Although not specifically stated, Solomon’s purpose behind the pilgrimage to Gibeon was to seek God’s blessing on his reign. In what seems to be God’s response to the multitude of sacrifices, the Lord said to Solomon in a dream, Ask! What shall I give you? (1 Ki. 3:5) Solomon’s answer to the Lord within the context of the dream is not only enlightening, but also crucial to our understanding of the event.

Solomon began by recounting elements of the Davidic Covenant—it was God who promised David a perpetual dynasty, an everlasting kingdom and an eternal throne. God chose Solomon as David’s successor—the next in the familial line of Messiah. Solomon’s restatement of God’s promises demonstrated profound gratitude for all God had done in fulfilling the covenant made with his father.

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God already pledged to establish his kingdom; and, in genuine humility Solomon confided to the Lord, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in (1 Ki. 3:7). The phrase “to go out or come in” is taken from God’s appointment of Joshua to lead the people (Nu. 27:15). It refers to administration, decorum and leadership in shepherding the nation of Israel. Solomon was simply acknowledging his inexperience (1 Chr. 22:5; 29:1).

Basing his request on what God had already promised, Solomon asked God for, an understanding heart to judge Your people (2 Sam 7:13-16; 1 Ki. 3:9). The phrase “understanding heart” is literally “hearing heart,” a heart attune to God’s word. Interestingly, the words “hear” and “obey” have the same Hebrew root (shema). An obedient heart is a hearing heart; a hearing heart is an obedient heart. Solomon acknowledged that successful leadership of Israel required wisdom only God could give.

God was pleased. Solomon’s request demonstrated humility rather than self-aggrandizement—a willingness to submit to God’s authority rather than selfish ambition.

God granted his request. Solomon would indeed be wise, not just wiser than his predecessors, but the wisest king on the earth (v. 12; 4:29-31).

In addition, Solomon would be granted riches and honor to the extent, that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days (v. 13). In all that God promised, there was only one condition, if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days (v. 14). If Solomon faithfully adhered to the will of God and obeyed the Law of Moses, God would extend his life.

Thankful for God’s promises, Solomon and his court returned with joy to Jerusalem where he offered more sacrifices before the Ark of the Covenant and prepared a feast for his servants (v. 15).

Like Saul and David, his father, Solomon was exalted in the eyes of the people at the beginning of his reign. Saul and David were given military victories that bolstered their reputation among the people. God gave Solomon a judicial challenge to demonstrate his wisdom.

Two mothers came to him with two babies—one alive—the other one dead. They both claimed the dead child belonged to the other having been switched during the night. In a classic demonstration of justice, Solomon called for a sword threatening to give each mother half of the living child. He wisely identified the woman pleading for the child’s life as the real mother. His first act of jurisprudence was only the beginning of Solomon’s multi-faceted career as king.

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In an era, when aggressive self-promotion bordering on narcissism is encouraged as a virtue in nearly all sectors of our society, the way to please God remains unchanged. We, like Solomon, must come in humility seeking God’s wisdom and blessing.

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Solomon demonstrated godly character, genuine humility and a desire to please God. And, therein lies the secret to success in life. God rewarded him with the judicial wisdom he solicited, but also included unprecedented wealth and fame—two things most men crave, but rarely attain.

ENDNOTE:
1) Since the Ark of the Covenant had not been housed within the Tabernacle for more than 100 years, God permitted other localized worship centers throughout Israel. The Tabernacle containing the original objects of worship including the altar created by Bezalel remained the primary location (“high place”) for sacrifice (Ex. 31:2; 1 Samuel 7:11; 1 Chr. 1:5-6).

https://charles-e-mccracken-ministries.org/2016/02/09/solomons-wisdom/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

30 JULY, 2017, Sunday, 17th Week, Ordinary Time

A DISCERNING HEART


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 KGS 3:5,7-12ROM 8:28-30MT 13:44-52 or MT 13:44-46 ]

Everyone seeks happiness in life.  No one wants to suffer.  We seek the things that can make us happy; pleasure, comfort, love, unity and peace.  But what brings us misery is the means by which we use to achieve our desires.  Many of us mistake the means for the ends.  As a result, some of us are consumed by the means and forget the real objectives we seek in life.

Indeed, many of us think that money is everything when money is only a means to provide comfort and security.  But money cannot buy love or peace.  In fact, too much money causes us as much worry as one who lacks money.   The desire for wealth is the cause of much division, corruption, cheating, dishonesty and even killing.  It is the same for the desire for power.  We all desire security and we think that power can give us security when in truth the more powerful we are, the more insecure we become.  Rich and powerful people are the most insecure people in the world and that is why they need lots of security around them.

What we need is a discerning heart to know what is truly good for us, to distinguish the means from the ends.  What is the use of having the means when the end is not attained?  What is the use of having lots of money when the family is alienated and we are distant from each other because we have no time for one another? What is the use of power and fame at the expense of our freedom to be who we are and what we are, to go where we like?  Indeed, it is the lack of discernment that causes us to suffer much in life.  We make the wrong decisions.  We choose the wrong things in life.  Most of us tend to choose what is obvious or pleasing to the eye and heart without considering the long term implications.  This is the foolishness of the world today; the world of consumerism, the world of immediate gratification.  People today cannot wait.  They must get what they want in an instant.  So many of the policies that are put in place today are to satisfy the wants of the people but we do not think of the long term implications for our children, the future generation and the future of humanity.  Whether it is the question of euthanasia, divorce, same-sex union, promiscuity, and all the other bio ethical issues, and the effects of globalization and migration, ecology, we never really give serious thought to the implications of such trends.

The art of discernment is the theme of all the scripture readings today.  King Solomon, when invited to ask a gift from the Lord asked for a discerning heart.  “Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?”  So too in the gospel, Jesus spoke of the parable of the dragnet.  “When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use.”  Judgment is inevitable.

When we know how to make proper discernment, we will find ultimate happiness.  The Lord was pleased with Solomon.  “’Since you have asked for this’ the Lord said ‘and not asked for long life for yourself or riches or the lives of your enemies, but have asked for a discerning judgement for yourself, here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you.’”  Truly, when we make right choices, the rest would also be given to us.  We protect the other things of life as well, such as wealth, status and power.  When we use them wisely for the good and service of all, we preserve what we have and even increase them all the more.  Wise judgement will spare us the time to repair damages caused by imprudent decisions.

How, then, do we make proper discernment? Judgement on objective matters is much easier than matters of the heart.  King Solomon did very well as a king.  He was able to govern the people with wisdom, impartiality and justice.  Indeed, he was a very capable king and was able to unite the kingdom.  It was during his reign that the kingdom became prosperous, strong, united and famous, so much so that the Queen of Sheba came to visit him.  (cf 1 Kgs 10:1-13)

However, when it came to personal matters, Solomon made a mess of his life.  He did not know how to handle his personal affairs.  He had everything cut out for him.  He received a sound religious education from his father, King David.  He was a promising youth and intellectually brilliant.  He completed building the temple of Jerusalem for his father.  But what caused his downfall was his self-indulgence, his sin of the flesh.  Morally, he was weak and fell into the sin of lust.  He failed to listen to the prophet on avoiding bad companions.  He took in foreign wives that did not share his faith.  He turned to other gods as well, influenced by his pagan wives.  His wealth also became a source of temptation for him.  He was too extravagant and that led to increased taxation and suffering for the people.

How true for us too!  We can be successful in our career and in our work but when it comes to running the family, including our marriage, we are a failure.  We cannot live in peace and love with our spouse.  We are always fighting with each other, arguing and cannot agree on anything.  Instead of being a support and helpmate to each other, we become a checkmate and a judge.  We are not on good terms with our children and in-laws as well.  We do not have enough time to spend with them.  The relationship becomes distant and so we are strangers to each other.  We no longer enjoy each other’s company and we avoid each other more and more.  Very soon, from strangers, we become enemies of each other.   So what is the use of our success?  Successful in work and business but failure in famly life! This is the greatest form of failure and the cause of misery and loneliness!

How then do we discern?  We must put God first in our lives.  This is what the two parables of the pearl and treasure seek to teach us.  The first man discovers the treasure that is hidden in a field and he goes off to sell everything to buy it. He would pay anything to buy that treasure. This treasure meant everything to him.  The other merchant found a pearl of great value.  He too went and sold everything to buy it.  Such was the price they were willing to pay to obtain what they discerned to be the ultimate happiness in their lives.  Is God our treasure of all treasures?  Is Christ the Word of God and the Wisdom of God in person for us?  If so, then Jesus says, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  (Mt 6:33)

To seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness is to live like sons and daughters of God.  As St Paul reminds us, “They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.”   We are called to live the life of Christ which is a life of love, service and compassion, for the glory of God and for the good of our fellowmen.

Consequently, as children of God, we live by the will of God.  When we put God as the ultimate treasure in our lives, all that we do will be subordinated to the rule of God in our lives.  Our measure of judgement will be the measure God judges us with.  The psalmist says, “you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.”  (Ps 51:4)  The responsorial psalm urges us to take the laws of God as our guiding principles in life. “Lord, how I love your law!  My part, I have resolved, O Lord, is to obey your word.  The law from your mouth means more to me than silver and gold. That is why I love your commands more than finest gold, why I rule my life by your precepts, and hate false ways.”

Indeed, if we cooperate with the will of God, then He will ensure that everything will turn out for our good.  This is what St Paul says.  “We know that by turning everything to their good, God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose.”   He will give us the necessary means, as He gave to Solomon the wisdom that he needed to guide his peoples, but He asks for our co-operation.  It is not enough to pray for the gifts of God, if we do not use them accordingly in our daily life.  Unless we use it well, we will only destroy ourselves and those under our care.  But if we do, then we will find ultimate happiness and joy in life.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

Careful readers of the works of the young Saint Augustine will recall that he bargained with God.

“Please help me God. I know I am not living the life you want me to lead and I must reform. BUT NOT YET!”

We all hold back. Even Saint Augustine held back. But not forever. Our task is to develop a trusting relationship with God. He is obviously worthy of our trust: but are we worthy of His?

Some of the greatest spiritual writers encourage us to give ourselves unreservedly to God. St. Augustine, St. Francis de Sales, and many other tell us to abandon ourselves to God.

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

The first time I became completely confused by my Vietnamese family, the only helper I could think of that might have a solution was the Vietnamese priest.

When I explained at length my dilemma, he gave me the best four word advice I’ve ever heard:

“Listen with your heart,”  he said.

I had no idea my heart had ears. In fact, I’d pretty much forgotten about my heart entirely (a common American illness).

So now, I give that advice out to others, like me, who sometimes forget why they are hear on this earth. We’re here to serve others.

And to get them what they need, we need to listen with our heart.

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My Creator, I am now willing that You should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that You now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do Your bidding. Amen

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Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751), advice on people having great troubles, anxiety, depression:

“They have only to fulfill the simple duties of the Christian Faith and of their state of life, to accept with submission the crosses that go with those duties, and to submit with faith and love to the designs of Providence in everything that is constantly being presented to them to do and to endure, without searching for anything themselves.”

From: “Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence,” (also sometimes called “The Value of the Present Moment”), TAN Books edition, 1987.

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Related:

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The Road to Hope by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan

Many of  Nguyễn Văn Thuận letters, prayers and sermons have been preserved and published — most are available at fine bookstores and from Amazon.

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Book: Joseph’s Way: The Call to Fatherly Greatness – Prayer of Faith: 80 Days to Unlocking Your Power As a Father by Devin Schadt
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For MEN: Be still and pull the mule —
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As no sensible person would make a long road trip without first consulting a map, so the person intent upon gaining Heaven should turn to a competent guide to reach that most important goal. An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) is addressed as a personal letter to Philothea, the “lover of God.” This book instructs us in our approach to God in prayer and the Sacraments, the practice of 16 important virtues, remedies against ordinary temptations, and becoming confirmed in our practice of devotion. TAN-CLASSICS Edition; paperback.

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One Response to “Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 30, 2017 — Do You Listen With Your Heart? — Do You Have a Desire to Please God? — Therein lies the secret to success in life.”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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