The Prudence of Choosing Christ: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 27, 2014 (Year A)

net thrown into the sea

Fiona French’s “The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind”

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: The prudence of choosing Christ. Doctrine: The virtue of prudence. Practical application: Growing in prudence.

To view Lectionary 109, click here.

Central Idea: The prudence of choosing Christ

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.”

  • The LORD says he will give Solomon anything he asks for. Solomon does not ask for a long life, or riches, or the life of his enemies, or any of the other valuable things people want.
  • Instead, he asks for prudence so he can govern Israel. That is what he means by “an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” He means practical wisdom, the cardinal virtue of prudence.

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

R/ 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.

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.

For I love your command
more than gold, however fine.
For in all your precepts I go forward;
every false way I hate.

Wonderful are your decrees;
therefore I observe them.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.

  • God’s words reveal God’s will. In loving God’s commands, the Psalmist, traditionally King David, Solomon’s father, has reached a level in his spiritual life we should all aspire to.
  • At first, virtually no one fully welcomes God’s will. The reason is our concupiscence or inclination to sin. This attraction will put us in conflict with God’s will in at least one way and for most of us in many ways. Therefore, the first victory of the human being over himself is to say yes to the will of God. That is a first positive level of the spiritual life and it is good. It is good to say yes to God’s will and no to your own when the two conflict.
  • But the Psalmist not only accepts God’s will, he loves it. He sees God’s will as not only right because God commands it but precious, a delight, desirable, and wonderful.

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.

  • Following Christ can cost us a great deal. But St. Paul assures us that no real evil can come to us, only surpassing good because we are predestined, called, justified, and glorified according to the image of Christ.
    • “All things,” even suffering, “work for good for those who love God.”

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.”

  • The kingdom of God, the salvation Christ has won for us, Christ himself, is of unsurpassed value.
  • The most prudent thing anyone can do who gets a glimpse of it is to put it first in one’s life, like the person who discovered the treasure buried in the field or the jeweler who discovered a pearl of great price.
  • At the same time there is an urgency in doing so, because we will all be judged at the end of our lives and either be approved or condemned.

Doctrine: The virtue of prudence

  • Prudence, or practical wisdom, or sound decision-making is one of the most important virtues anyone can acquire. It is the ability to know what to do in any situation and to act on that knowledge.
  • Solomon had enough prudence to ask God for more of it.
  • To obey and to love God’s will is great prudence.
  • To realize that God will judge me for the good and evil I do in this life is the beginning of prudence if it will move me to repent of the evil and to do good.
  • St. Thomas Aquinas identified three steps or activities within making wise decisions about what to do. They are counsel, judgment, and decision.
  • Counsel means to deliberate about what to do, to think it over, to pray about it, to ask for advice, to use your intellect to try to discover the best thing to do with the time available.
    • The man who discovered a treasure buried in a field could not ask other people what might be the best to do, so he had to counsel himself.
  • Judgment means to decide what among the many possibilities is best, meaning both what will be both moral and likely to be effective. In some cases, the most prudent thing is to do nothing.
    • The man who found the treasure reasoned that the best course of action was to sell everything he had and buy that field. That way, perhaps, no one could accuse him of stealing it from someone else.
  • Decision means to take action. Based on what your reason tells you is best, you then tell your will to do it.
    • The man did sell his worldly possessions and buy the field and so got the treasure.

Practical application: Becoming more prudent

  • Prudence is necessary for us to be good citizens of this earth and to prepare to be good citizens of heaven.
  • We are faced with choices every day and from time to time with very big decisions.
  • The most prudent thing children can do is obey their parents and teachers.
  • The most prudent thing a teenager can do is to have a close relationship with God and to discover his divine vocation.
  • The most prudent thing an adult can do is always to ask, “What does God want me to do?” God will always want what is moral and what will be effective.

 

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