17th Sunday Ordinary Time A

The Little Girl Who Prayed

Archbishop Keough of Baltimore used to tell of a remarkable little girl he knew who had come down with a usually fatal malady. An operation offered some promise, although it was a slim hope. The surgeon came in to tell her that he was going to operate, but would first have to put her to sleep. “If I am going to sleep,” she answered, “then I must first say my prayers.” So she knelt up on her hospital bed, joined her hands, and recited her night prayers very fervently.

The operation failed, and the child died a few hours later. But the whole incident made a lasting impression upon the surgeon. Although he had been raised a Catholic, he had not been practicing his faith for thirty years. He was so touched by the sight of the little patient saying her prayers that he himself returned to the ways of grace.

“We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who have been called according to his decree.” (Romans, 8:28, Second Reading)

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q329: Isn’t today’s Second Reading (Rom 8:28-30) proof of Calvin’s protestant doctrine of “predestination”? St. Paul says, “those he foreknew he predestined.”

Calvin’s 16th century false doctrine says that God is going to send you to heaven or hell, no matter what you do with your life. For example, if you go to hell, Calvin would say that it is only because God caused that to happen, even though you may have lived your life as a saint.

Long before Calvin departed from many teachings of the Official Magisterium during the Protestant Reformation era, the united Catholic bishops had met in Council in Mainz, Germany in the 9th century. They condemned as pure heresy the idea that God “predetermines” your soul’s destiny regardless of your response to His grace. Instead, the Council taught (and the Church still teaches as dogma) that each person has a free will, and can choose to reject God’s gift of salvation.

Divine predestination does not mean God chooses one in advance and rejects another. Instead it means “God knows in advance” how we will use our free will. Therefore, God’s “knowing” simply reflects one’s freely chosen destiny (i.e., one’s acceptance or rejection of His freely offered grace). As St. Paul teaches, we must “work out our salvation” day by day (Phil 2:2).

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Calvin’s doctrine breaks down quickly, because it claims that Jesus died just for some, the “elect,” and not for all. The Catholic Church constantly teaches that Christ died for all men, without exception (CCC#605). Another bishops’ Council in Quiercy, France in the 9th century taught that “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.”(ibid.) God willed that man should be ‘his own free agent’, and of his own accord seek God and freely attain perfection through Him.(cf. Gaudium et Spes 17; CCC#1730).

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Q486: Buried treasure, expensive pearls, dragnets full of fish — are these parables (Matt 13:44-52) about getting rich?

Yes, but not in the way your question implies! Jesus tells his disciples about the man who found a buried treasure. It is really all about Discipleship, and when you have the opportunity, you have to do everything that is necessary to possess it. It’s a very subtle point, but notice that the owner of that field isn’t aware that he has a Great Treasure within his grasp! Matthew’s community needed to hear this parable because they were being ostracized by the Jewish community, and had to give up family and friends to be disciples of Jesus. But if you want the treasure, you have to be willing to pay the price!

The pearl of great price story sounds like it is the same thing as the buried treasure, but again Matthew has introduced another subtle difference. The man who found the buried treasure was surprised when he accidentally found it, and gave up all he had to buy the field where the treasure was located. But in the case of the pearl of great price, the merchant had been seeking that pearl for a long time; his was a deliberate search. Nevertheless, his response was the same: he gave up all he had to possess it. The message to the hearers of Jesus, and to Matthew’s community fifty years later, was the same. Discipleship will cost you! Following Jesus will cost you! But the rewards are incredible!

And finally, there is the parable of the dragnet. The message to the disciples is encouraging, one they needed to hear. “Don’t worry about the opposition to your discipleship. Jesus will do the sorting out come judgment day.” And you will notice, when you read that parable, that the bad fish are not returned to the sea; they are “thrown away,” which means they will die.

If you have ears to hear, then hear!

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Jesus’ parables ask us to make a radical choice: give up everything to gain the kingdom (CCC #546). The Holy Spirit has guided the Catholic Church to recognize the “treasure” we have in the seven sacraments (CCC #1117). Use them!

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Give Me Wisdom

Remember the stories about the genie in the bottle who gives three wishes. The finder usually asked for some kind of fame and fortune . Sometimes they don’t think before they ask and get more than they bargained for. Solomon didn’t find a genie, but God found him and offered him what ever he would ask for. Solomon thought first and recognized his own limitations, so he asked for wisdom, not the power of abstract thought or infinite learning, but the ability to know how to do things well, to judge correctly. He asked for the gifts he would need to be a good king for his people. In the gospel Jesus offers us the gift of the kingdom of God and reminds us that it is worth anything we many have to pay for it. But those who pay the price will be able to bring forth things both old and new. with the wisdom to know what is needed and what can be dispensed with.

Lord, send forth on us the Holy Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of courage and love that we may better understand your will. Enable us to make the choices that lead us to follow in your footsteps and advance the kingdom which you proclaim.

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