Saturday, July 23, 2011

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A - July 24, 2011

Reading I: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him, ". . . . . 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.”
Responsorial Psalm: 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

R. Lord, I love your commands.
Reading II: Romans 8:28-30

We know that all things work for good for those who love God
Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52 or 13:44-46

The Gospel today tells us the “what” and the “worth” of the Kingdom of God, and gives us a “warning” that reminds us, we have a choice to make. 

The Gospel today asks a most fundamental question: “What is it that you most value?….What is it that you most want?” Now be careful to answer this question honestly. We tend to answer questions like this as we “should” answer them, rather than honestly. But when we’re with the doctor, (and Jesus is our doctor), the best bet is to answer honestly, so we can begin a true healing process. And the fact is, we all need a heart transplant. That is, we need a new heart, one that desires God and the things waiting for us in heaven, more than any earthly thing.
So let’s take a look at this Gospel that sets forth, in three fundamental movements, the “what” and the “worth” of the Kingdom of God, along with a “warning” that reminds us, we have a choice to make.
I. What - The Gospel uses three images for the kingdom, two of which we will look at here, and the third of which we will look at later. The first two images are that of the buried treasure and the pearl. Both these images have some significance elsewhere in the scriptures and studying them will be helpful in fine tuning our understanding of the gift of the Kingdom Jesus is discussing.
A. Buried TreasureThe concept of treasure (here buried treasure) is mentioned elsewhere by Jesus:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21)
Hence this image of treasure that Jesus uses today, is an image for the heart and for our deepest desires, for our treasure is linked to our heart. One of the greatest gifts that God offers us is the gift of a new heart. One of the most fundamental prophetic texts of the Old Testament announces what Jesus has fulfilled:
Oh, my people, I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
Thus, the great treasure of the Kingdom of God gives us a new heart, for by choosing this treasure, our heart is changed. To have a new heart is to see and experience our desires change. We are less desirous and focused on passing worldly things, and more on the lasting treasure of the Kingdom of heaven. We begin to love what, and who, God loves. We begin to love holiness, justice, chastity, goodness, righteousness, and truth. We begin to love our spouses, family members, the poor, even our enemies more as God loves them. Our hearts become alive with joy and zeal for the Kingdom of God and an evangelical spirit impels us to speak what we believe and know to be true.
Yes, the buried and hidden treasure of the Kingdom of God, unlocks our heart and brings new life coursing through our veins and arteries, through our very soul. In choosing this treasure we get a new heart. For where our treasure is, there also will be our heart.
B. PearlThe second image of the pearl is from the wisdom tradition where holy Wisdom is likened to a pearl. And here too is described one of the most precious gifts of the Kingdom of God: the gift of a new mind through holy Wisdom. And what is the new mind? It is to begin to think more and more as God thinks, to share in his priorities and his vision. It is to see, increasingly as God sees and to have the mind of Christ (cf 1 Cor 2:16). With this new mind, we see through and reject worldly thinking, worldly priorities and worldly agendas. We come to rejoice in the truth of God and to grasp more deeply its beauty and sensibility. What a precious gift the new mind is, to think with God and to have the mind of Christ.
So here are two precious manifestations of the Kingdom of God: a new heart and a new mind, which is really another way of saying, “a whole new self.” This then leads to the next movement of the Gospel.
II. Worth – What are these offerings of the Kingdom worth and what do they ultimately cost? The answer is very clear in this gospel, they cost, and are worth, EVERYTHING. Regarding the hidden treasure and the pearl, the text says that both men went and sold all they had for these precious offerings. They were willing to forsake everything for them.
Now, be careful not to reduce this Gospel to a moralism. Notice that these men were eager to go and sell, forsake, everything else. They did this not because they had to, so much as they wanted to. And they wanted to pay the price and were willing to do so, even with eagerness, because they were so enamored of the glory they found. And here is the gift to seek from the Lord, a willing and eager heart for the Kingdom of God, so eager that we are willing to forsake any, and everything for it.
For ultimately the Kingdom of God does cost everything, and we will not fully inherit it until we are fully done with this world and its claims on our hearts.
But the gift to seek from the Lord is not that we, with sullen faces and depressed spirits, forsake the world as if we were paying taxes. No! The gift to seek is that we, like these men, be so taken by the glory of God and his kingdom that we are more than willing to set aside anything that gets in our way, that we should be so eager for the things of the Kingdom that the world’s intoxicating and addictive trinkets matter little to us and the loss of them means little.
Do you see? This is the gift. The reception of heart that appreciates the true worth of the Kingdom of God, such that no price is too high. Scriptures says elsewhere:
  1. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Phil 3:8)
  2. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor 4:17)
  3. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Rom 8:18)
  4. No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9)
  5. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:13-14).
Yes, the Kingdom of God is more than worth any price we must pay, and ultimately we will pay all. Pray for an eager and willing spirit that comes from appreciating the surpassing worth of the Kingdom!
III. Warning – The final movement movement contains a warning about judgment. For, ultimately regarding the Kingdom of God, we either want it or we don’t want it. Hence the Lord speaks of a dragnet that captures everything (and this is the summons all have to come to the judgment). And those who want the Kingdom and have accepted its value and price will be gathered in. And those who do not want the Kingdom of God and do not accept its value will be escorted off.
For there are some who do not value the Kingdom. They may desire heaven, but it is a fake heaven of their own making, not the real heaven of the fullness of the Kingdom of God. The true heaven is the Kingdom of God in all its fullness and the Kingdom of God includes things like, forgiveness, mercy, justice, the dignity of life, love of the poor, chastity, God at the center (not me), the celebration of what is true, good and beautiful, and the love, even, of one’s enemy.
Now there are many who neither want nor value some or most of these things. When the net is drawn the decisions are final. And though we may wish a magic, fairy tale ending where suddenly the opponents of the Kingdom love it, God seems clearly to say that, at the judgment, one’s decision for or against the Kingdom is final and fixed forever.
An old song says, “Better choose the Lord today, for tomorrow, very well might be too late.” Thus we are warned, the judgment looms and we ought to be earnest in seeking a heart from the Lord that eagerly desires the Kingdom and appreciates its worth, above all others, and all things. In the end you get what you want. You will have either chosen the Kingdom or not.
So pray for a new heart, one which values the Kingdom of Heaven above all else. We ought to consider ourselves warned.
A Gospel today about what we truly value in three movements.

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