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Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 24, 2011 (17A)
By Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S.
Jesus speaks of the kingdom more than fifty times in Matthew’s Gospel, warning people to repent in the face of it, promising its joy to the poor, assigning seats in it, barring some from entering it, praying for it to come, announcing it as good news, offering up images and stories about it, confiding the secrets of it, handing over the keys to it...It is one of the central themes in Matthew.
After you’ve read everything that Matthew has to say about the reign of God, try painting a picture of it, if only in your mind. Buried treasure. A fabulous pearl. A dragnet tangled with garbage and gifts from the sea. A place where the poor are blessed and happy. A place with no lawyers and Pharisees and lots of prostitutes. Wheat fields and weeds, yeast and seeds, angels and devils, fire and fruit, weddings and feasts, sheep and goats! It’s a wild-sounding place, and one thing is for sure: Some of us are going to live it there, and a lot of us are going to hate it. And it is coming. And we’d better repent.
Matthew uses a series of Jesus’ parables to provide different snapshots of the gospel’s ‘master image’ – the kingdom of heaven. The parables – those ‘puzzling stories that could turn a person’s world upside down’ – point to a total reordering of relationships and resources in the world, in the community of faith and in the lives of individuals according to God’s original intention for creation.
The treasure hid in the field. Many slight the gospel, because they look only upon the surface of the field. But all who search the Scriptures, so as in them to find Christ and eternal life, will discover such treasure in this field as makes it unspeakably valuable; they make it their own upon any terms. Though nothing can be given as a price for this salvation, yet much must be given up for the sake of it.
All the children of men are busy; one would be rich, another would be honourable, another would be learned; but most are deceived, and take up with counterfeits for pearls. Jesus Christ is a Pearl of great price; in having him, we have enough to make us happy here and for ever. A man may buy gold too dear, but not this Pearl of great price. When the convinced sinner sees Christ as the gracious Saviour, all things else become worthless to his thoughts.
The world is a vast sea, and men, in their natural state, are like the fishes. Preaching the gospel is casting a net into this sea, to catch something out of it, for His glory who has the sovereignty of this sea. Hypocrites and true Christians shall be parted: miserable is the condition of those that shall then be cast away.
A skilful, faithful minister of the gospel, is a scribe, well versed in the things of the gospel, and able to teach them. Christ compares him to a good householder, who brings forth fruits of last year's growth and this year's gathering, abundance and variety, to entertain his friends. Old experiences and new observations, all have their use. Our place is at Christ's feet, and we must daily learn old lessons over again, and new ones also.
The kingdom of God within us is a treasure indeed, but a treasure hid from the world, and from the most wise and prudent in it. He that finds this treasure, (perhaps when he thought it far from him,) hides it deep in his heart, and gives up all other happiness for it."
Against all the odds, God’s reign is breaking into earth history. In the midst of the world’s pain, brokenness, impoverishment and despair, an insignificant seed of love and hope has fallen into the soil of humanity and, slowly and secretly, is pushing its way up and growing into the greatest of trees in which all will find shelter. We are to be in the world as yeast, resisting all that is unjust and destructive of human and environmental flourishing.
The parables of the hidden treasure and pearl of great price (v 44-46) teach us that the kingdom is so desirable and precious that a person must sacrifice everything in order to obtain it. When we’ve found this treasure, this gem, that opens the gateway to new life, and recognized how priceless it really is, we have to be ready to give up everything – absolutely everything we possess – for it “demands our souls, our lives, our all”.
Valuables which, with us, are entrusted to banks, are in the East buried in fields and gardens to save them from These parables describe different ways people find the kingdom: by chance; by diligent search and by careful discernment. No matter which way, two things are needed: first, the wisdom to recognize the surpassing worth of the kingdom when it appears and secondly the boldness to stake all on the kingdom. Be wise! Be bold!