17th Sunday in Ordinary Time | July 26, 2020

Today’s Readings

Lucy and Connor share a book called “This Is THE Day” by Amy Parker and Leeza Hernandez. Whenever one of them brings it to me, I can’t help but smile. It’s one of those books you’re glad your child likes because you get to read it over and over again. The story recounts Psalm 118, the psalm from our wedding Mass: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Like many children’s stories, I’ve found its message to be a balm for all stages of life. We are never too old to be reminded that each day is a gift, both personally and communally.

While the psalm stands alone, it also offers us a framework. It sets a tone that influences the entirety of our day. To approach each day as a gift from God, that it is another time and place God has chosen to create and participate in, suggests something about the very nature of God and in turn the kingdom. It is joyous. It is given. It is here. And we are invited to its creation at the dawning of each day. I will be the first to admit that there are mornings that invitation is daunting or unwelcome or even confusing, but it is also never rescinded.

For those drawn to the pragmatic, to details and planning and organizing and action, these past few weeks of Jesus’ parables of the kingdom can also be frustrating. Clustered together, Jesus’ unusual storytelling sometimes feels like a riddle. Interpreting the parables requires a sort of posturing of the soul or an openness to discovery. “Whoever has ears ought to hear,” Jesus reminds us. The parables ask us to uncover the sacramental character of the world hidden all around us or, as the theologian David Tracy wrote of extensively, engage our analogical imagination.

In Go and Do Likewise: Jesus and Ethics, a text by William C. Spohn, the author speaks of the kingdom of God as both a metaphor and an analogy. As a metaphor, it “frames the disciples’ world view,” offering a framework for God’s reign ushered forth at the Incarnation. It creates context and helps us understand our place in it. As Spohn continues, “It is the horizon within which everything else is apprehended” (67).

As an analogy, Jesus’ parables of the kingdom disclose something about God and our response to that knowledge. Oftentimes, the aim is to shift the popular narrative or challenge the status quo. “The surprise that parables evoke is the disclosure that ordinary life is cracking open to reveal One we never thought was there” (68). Spohn writes, “…the analogical imagination highlights relevant aspects of the parables and infers distinctive behavioral consequences. If we imagine that the reign of God is like reading the sky for signs of impending weather, it encourages us to pay attention to the extraordinary action of God in the daily routine” (68). It is not prescriptive so much as it is descriptive. “The kingdom of God” as an analogy functions as a foundation. It asks us, the Body of Christ, to build upon it, often as individuals, sometimes in community, and always through love. It consists of a blueprint only inasmuch as it describes God’s reign by likening it to unlikely scenarios: a treasure buried in a field, a pearl of great price, and the weighty sacrifice made to obtain them. It is ours to discern right action contextually, a sensitive pressure point for many of us right now.

I find it comforting to have a friend in King Solomon in this, precisely because it is that kind of understanding that God bestows on him in our first reading from 1 Kings. When God offers a gift to him, Solomon replies, “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?” He doesn’t ask for money or power or health. Rather, his response has an external focus. Solomon was sensitive to his sense of place within his community and responded accordingly. Unknowing and unsure, he turned to the Lord for guidance. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7). And while Solomon emphasizes his youth in asking for wisdom, he is another example that people of all ages should take notice of. We are never too old or too experienced to turn to God in prayer and ask for help.

Lucy and Connor’s book follows the story of a day from beginning to end. It builds enough structure without rigidity, or a framework, much like our own lives. We have expectations, things we can hope to accomplish, but there is also much uncertainty. The unplanned — both good and bad — is acknowledged, and agency is upheld as a means for serving others: “And when all is happy and bubbly and bright, find that person who needs God’s bright shining light.” Again, like the example of Solomon, life in Christ is framed as a one in service of others.

In the quiet of the evening, the story also brings me back to what is most precious. My pearl of great price isn’t buried in a field but is lounging sleepily in my lap, ready to toss this book over our Great Pyrenees footstool upon completion. Control, in this case demand for another book, is intoxicating to a child. I’ve found great joy in sharing God’s love with our students. That joy in revealing beauty to someone, to playing a central role in illuminating Love for another, has only magnified since having children. There’s nothing better than sharing that with your child. When I think of the sacramentality of my present, this is what comes to mind. God is often disguised by stubborn pouts or tired tears or bedtime delaying tactics, but nothing of our senses truly diminishes that real presence.

Meg Costantini | Campus Minister