Father Donald Senior, CP

July 26: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

What is my treasure?

1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12; Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52

The rationale behind the selection of readings for each Sunday is that the Old Testament reading is to be paired with the Gospel selection. That connection is obvious for this Sunday.

The Gospel is from Matthew, Chapter 13, where we encounter three of Jesus’ parables. The first two speak about seeking what is most valuable to us in all the world. “The kingdom of heaven,” Jesus says, is like someone finding a treasure buried in a field and, filled with the joy of discovery, goes and sells everything he has in order to buy that field! Or … the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearl who discovers a “pearl of great price” and goes and sells everything in order to buy it. 

The pointed message of these two stories is clear. What is the most valuable thing in your life, for which you would give up everything else? Here, the desired object is the “kingdom of heaven,” a metaphor that was at the heart of Jesus’ mission.

The kingdom of God (Matthew’s Jewish sensitivities leads him to use the word “heaven” rather than cite God’s name) is that fullness of life that God will bring to us — lasting peace, true justice, vibrant life, unending love. At one point in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus exclaims, “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out evil, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” 

Healing, reconciliation, compassion for those in need and empowering the poor and excluded are experiences that give us a glimpse of what God’s rule will be like. To acquire that ultimate and beautiful reality, we might well sell everything else.

It is easy to see why the reading from the First Book of Kings is paired with these parables. In a famous passage, through a dream, God invites King Solomon, the son of David, to ask for anything he wishes, and God promises to grant it. Can you imagine? What would any of us ask for? 

Solomon, who is known in the Bible as a very wise man, asks God for “an understanding heart” so that he can properly govern his people. Because Solomon did not make a more obvious choice, such as a long life, riches or triumph over his enemies, God is pleased and grants him “a heart so wise and understanding” it has never been matched before.

The question posed for us who hear these biblical passages this mid-summer Sunday is clear: What do we treasure most? 

If God appeared to us in a dream and invited us to ask for anything we desire, what would it be? What would it be now in the midst of this strange time brought about by the pandemic and by the social unrest in our country? What matters most to us? 

Perhaps our first inclination might be the kind of checklist mentioned in the story of Solomon: being able to pay our debts; to be assured of employment in the midst of economic crisis; good health for us and our loved ones; an end to violence in our city streets. The list could go on. All of these are worthy and understandable desires. 

Is there something deeper still? Something that underwrites all these normal human desires? I thought of St. Augustine’s famous words from his autobiography “Confessions”: “Because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, our heart is restless, Lord, until it rests in you.” In the logic of our Christian faith, our everyday longings for peace, love, security and safety are symptoms of a greater longing for the fullness of life with God that will endure and never be lost.

The third parable for this Sunday is the parable of the fishnet that hauls ashore all kinds of fish, good and bad. We are drawn back to the mixed reality of our world. There are a lot of vain hopes and things that do not last. We are invited to seek what is truly valuable and lasting and put aside what is unworthy of us as daughters and sons of God.



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