Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 26, 2020
Today, in Mercy, we pray with young Solomon, as God asks him to carry the weight of leadership. Of all that Solomon might have asked from God, he requested only wisdom, which is described in James 3:17. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, teachable, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” We pray for wisdom for ourselves in the discharge of our responsibilities. We pray for this gift for all who hold power in our world.from 2017 – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 119, the longest psalm, and a meticulously constructed poem. It is one of about twelve acrostic poems in the Bible, employing the twenty-two characters of the Hebrew alphabet to teach a lesson about love of the Torah, the Law.
Acrostic poems have been popular throughout history because they let the reader examine a theme from multiple, memorable perspectives. Although often tricky to compose, they are simple to read, and sometimes so commonplace as to be transparent.
Here is an example of an acrostic poem from 19th century America
So why did the psalmist take the trouble to compose a complicated verse like Psalm 119? The answer seems apparent, I think. The love of the Law was that important to the writer. It was the one true treasure, and he wanted others to share the treasure.
The theme of “treasure” ties together all of our Sunday readings.
In our first reading, young Solomon could have asked God for anything. But Solomon already treasures the Wisdom of God:
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.
Our second reading confirms that those who love God, like Solomon did, are blessed with the treasure of confidence and peace:
We know that all things work for good
for those who love God.
Matthew’s Gospel tells us to seek that treasure buried in the field of our lives. When we find it, we should give everything to make it our own:
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Praying Psalm 119 allows us to appreciate the treasure of God’s Law, God’s heartbeat, in our lives. It holds the Word up before us, facet by facet, the way we would lift a diamond to the Light. When we come to love Wisdom/Word/Law as Solomon did, we give everything to possess it fully.
Poetry: Last Hike Before Leaving Montana by Patricia Traxler.
In this poem, the poet is ostensibly talking about a bear, but listen a little deeper and she is talking about God.
Late winter, almost spring. It's like finding a diamond; now I don't want to leave. I sit in the dirt and put my hands in your tracks. For the first time in a long time I don't doubt. Now I know I always knew you were here. You are the beginning of disclosure, the long-felt presence Suddenly incarnate. Behind me my friend warns, If we see the bear, get into a fetal position. No problem, I tell her, I'm always in a fetal position—I was born in a fetal position. Did you know, she says, the body of a shaved bear looks exactly like a human man? I skip a stone, feel a sudden bloat of grief, then laugh. I ask her, Who would shave a bear? We climb Farther up Rattlesnake Creek, watch winter sun glitter off dark water. No matter how high we go I look higher. Sometimes absence can prove presence. That's not exactly faith, I know. All day, everywhere, I feel you near at hand. There's so much to understand, and everything to prove. Up high the air is thin and hard, roars in the ears like love.
Music: Lord, You Are More Precious Than Silver – Divine Hymns