The two books of Kings are what might be called religious histories of the rulers of the chosen people; they draw from available documentation whatever impinges on religion whether it is the state of or change in religious practice or the personal religion of the king as chosen by God. We might say that history is not so much to learn about the past as to learn from it. David the most lauded of kings was held up as an ideal for the expected coming of a perfect one anointed as king (messiah is the word for the anointed one). But in the section our reading comes from, David is old and ailing and needs to be replaced; this could be by the David’s choice, by successful rivalry of those with royal blood or by a call from God through a prophet. Solomon was so chosen and was anointed king by Zadok the priest. Solomon is noted chiefly for his gift of wisdom. Our reading tells of his acquisition of this gift from the Lord in a dream – a common method for describing this interaction with God in those days. But the really interesting aspect of this account is that Solomon was already wise, wise enough to put aside requests for other gifts other than wisdom. As in this case when we ask God for the right things we find that they have already been gifted to us!
Paul wrote his letter to the Romans to try to show to them the remarkable wonder of his and their faith viz. understanding and cooperating in God’s relationship with them in their Christian communities at that time through the reality and work of the Son and the Spirit. It is quite remarkable that this letter has become part of the Christian Bible and is read by us today so as to become involved in this visionary enterprise of God’s for the world. The three verses we read today follow on from last week’s selection; in that we learnt that we really don’t know what to pray to God for, but the Spirit within us communicates secretly and God responds to that. Although we ourselves have this incompetence, ‘yet’ today’s reading begins “we do know that for those who love God everything cooperates for the good.” Paul’s ancient message is as valid for us today as it was for the Christians of the 1st century: God has our life planned out along the lines of the life of Jesus, our prototype. In this way we are seen by God as in good standing with Him and hence are called to glory.
Chapter 13 of Matthew’s gospel is a collection of parables, some of which we have had for readings over the last few weeks. Some of the material is copied from Mark’s gospel and some is unique to this gospel. The words of Jesus would have been spoken to a mostly Jewish group in their own land (although governed by Rome) and of course at a time prior to Christianity and even before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Later, His disciples recalled Jesus’ sayings but in the telling of them, adapted them to the post-resurrection era and for non-Jews as well as Jews. The followers of Jesus’ Way later began to have some organisation and structure, and Matthew’s gospel was written with the new leaders of these communities in mind. So, our reading for this day comprises parables retold to illustrate the need for total commitment from believers, some of whom may have chanced upon Christianity incidentally whereas others have found in it a meaning to life for which they have been searching (like the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price). Even within the communities there are people with different degrees of commitment (like the different fish in a dragnet). And a final word is given to the present leaders (sometimes called scribes) that they must draw on the best of the past but also be prepared to accept new ideas and new ways of following the Way of Jesus.
see Jeffs Jottings – Fr Brown