Catholic Sunday Mass celebrated by Fr James Ralston O.M.I., recorded at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Durban, South Africa.
ENTRANCE ANTIPHON I have God for my help. The Lord sustains my soul. I will sacrifice to you with willing heart, God is in his holy place, God who unites those who dwell in his house; he himself gives might and strength to his people.
FIRST READING: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Psalm 119.
O Lord, how I love your law.
I have said, ‘O Lord, my portion is to obey your words’. The law from your mouth means more to me than large quantities of silver and gold. ℟
Let your merciful love console me by your promise to your servant. Show me compassion, that I may live, for your law is my delight. ℟
That is why I love your commands more than finest gold, why I rule my life by your precepts, and hate false ways. ℟
Your decrees are wonderful indeed; therefore my soul obeys them. The unfolding of your word gives light, and understanding to the simple. ℟
SECOND READING: Romans 8:28-30.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION: Alleluia, alleluia! Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom. Alleluia.
GOSPEL: Matthew 13:44-52.
SERMON: Fr James Ralston O.M.I.
Sunday 17 A
The images that the first two illustrations in today’s Gospel portray are of what dreams are made. Can you just imagine what it would be like after purchasing a property and beginning to dig the foundation for your new home and you caome across a chest containing ancient artefacts worth a fortune, so much so that you are able to build your house and retire in luxury for the rest of your life? Or, alternatively, prising oysters off the rocks between Knysna and Sedgefield and you discover once opened, as you are about to pop the contents of the shell into your mouth, that there is one enormous black pearl hidden under the flesh? I have not witnessed the pearl bit of the story, but in 1990, when visiting the city of Canterbury, I saw a large section had been blocked off because as excavation for a new shopping complex had begun, the remains of an ancient Roman settlement was unearthed. All building operations had to cease while archaeologists sifted meticulously through contents of the site. Similarly, when I was in Aix-en-Provence in 2018, building operations came to a halt as ancient ruins were discovered.
The last sentence of the Gospel passage from Matthew states, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the Kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasury what is new and what is old.” We are in possession of this sort of treasury: we, and by that I mean each and every one of us, have at our disposal this sort of treasury that contains priceless treasures old and new. This treasury would be referred to as Sacred Scripture and the inspired writings that have flowed in abundance from them.
Beside the historical, tutorial and ritual aspect of the books of the Old Testament there is wonderful wisdom available that has not been tarnished or diluted over the centuries, for example, in the opening phrases of the Book of Wisdom: “Love virtue, you who are judges of the earth, let honesty prompt your thinking about the Lord, seek him in simplicity of heart; …”(1:1) and again, “…power is a gift to you from the Lord, sovereignty is from the Most High; he himself will probe your acts and scrutinise you intention,” (6:3-4) From the Book of Proverbs: “My child, if you take my words to heart, if you set store by my commandments, tuning your ear to wisdom, and applying your heart to truth; yes, if your plea is for clear perception, if you cry out for discernment, if you look for it as if it were silver, and search for buried treasure you will understand what the fear of God is, and discover the knowledge of God.” (2:1-5)
The writings of the New Testament, particularly the four Gospels, giving us the recorded words of our Lord as recalled by the Evangelists Matthew, Mark Luke and John, bring us the wealth of teaching and encouragement that they contain. The inspired works of Saints Peter, Paul, James, John, Luke and the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, these works with which we become more familiar, all present to us the structure and substance with which to form and build our moral and spiritual lives. These treasures are always fresh, always new, always pertinent.
The inspired writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, those wise and learned men and women who, through their lives of reflection and meditation and their relationship with God, have brought us a continued supply of spiritual enrichment. Many extracts from these works are used in the Divine Office, the breviary which is prayed daily by priests and religious, as well many of the laity who choose to pray it. Among the earliest of these authors we have St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop of Antioch for four of Christianity’s most formative decades, vigorously fighting against the heresy that Jesus was not truly human and that he only seemed to possess a body, to suffer and to die. His purpose of action was to instruct the fledgling Church in holding fast to the teachings of the Apostles about Jesus. St. Justin Martyr among those early Christians who seems to have been a contradiction to the people, they were misunderstood by both Pagans and Jews and set out to reasoned explanation about Christian doctrine.
Saint Jerome and Saint Augustine ring in a slightly later era, after the Council of Nicaea: Saint Jerome defending the doctrine of the virginity of Mary, basing his argument of the Gospel of Matthew: Saint Augustine, giving us moral guidance and an in-depth and powerful synthesis on the Holy Trinity, a concept vital to our faith.
Taking a massive leap because of time constraints, to the Second Vatican Council and the documents which emanated; documents which continue to unfold and develop the realignment of our perception of faith and worship: documents compiled by several theologians who had prayed and meditated for hours before reaching consensus on the final product.
To return to more recent time, the Encyclicals, Apostolic Exhortations and letters of our Pontifical as well as Theological leadership, whose work continues to challenge, inspire, provoke, placate, encourage. All the previously mentioned sources are at our disposal and are for our moral and spiritual benefit. We conclude with words of King Solomon from the first reading of today from the Book of the Kings, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people that I may discern between good and evil…”
Wisdom and understanding, two of the greatest treasures one could wish to acquire. With God we shall do bravely!
COMMUNION ANTIPHON: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all his benefits.