17th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2014 – Year A

27 July 2014

1 Kings 3:5-12
Romans 8:28-30
Matthew 13:44-52

Near to where I live in Cork an old man was dying. He had been a farmer all his life. Knowing he would die soon he called his sons and told them that he had hidden his money in a certain part of the farm which was a fairly big one. He explained to them exactly where it was. Then he showed them a copy of his will and how that money was to be divided among his children, his wife being already dead. It was not unusual many years ago for people to hide money in the ground. They distrusted banks especially in those days and felt safer with their money near them, very often in a field or garden.

So in the first little parable of today’s gospel the listeners of Jesus would have understood the background to the parable, as they would have been aware of the practice of people hiding money or treasure in a field or garden. This was still more the case in a land where a man’s garden might at any time become a battlefield. Palestine was probably the most fought over country in the world.  And when war threatened the people it was common practice for them to hide their valuables in the ground before they took to flight, in the hope that they could return one day and could then dig up what they had buried.

It seems that the latest occupant of the land was doing some farming. In other words he was about his daily work when very unexpectedly he came across the treasure. The first thing to notice is that it was during the course of his daily work. For the most part this is where we find God who rarely comes to us in extraordinary ways. If we are aware of God’s Incarnational or ordinary ways of coming to us we may find him much more in our lives than we thought. So when I bring my kids to school and they kiss and hug me on their return, here is surely a sign of God’s kissing and hugging me. When someone calls me on the phone to greet me there is God again inspiring the person to do this. Personally I have never experienced God kissing me or hugging me directly from heaven or phoning me from heaven! Have you? 

The other point in this little parable is the unexpected nature of finding the treasure. The parables suggest that things seem to happen by chance therefore surprising us. It is a way of saying that we are in the presence of mystery.  God’s gifts are always like that: totally free, unexpected and undeserved.

The main point of this little parable is the joy of the discovery that made the man willing to give up everything in order to make the treasure his own. The question begs itself. Is God our treasure? Are we so surprised by all the blessings we discover going through life that we will let go or give up all behaviour and attitudes that are contrary to God’s will.  Perhaps the most surprising aspect of all is that God regards us, his children, as his greatest treasure and he was prepared to give up all, even the life of Jesus on the cross for us, so that we could receive the fulness of life he has planned for us.  Is not this Good News?

In the second little parable the man is really searching for fine pearls. He finds a pearl of great price. And like the hidden treasure he is prepared to sell all he has and buy it. Are there not many people in our world searching for the pearl of great price, whatever or whoever it may be. We all search for a lasting happiness. Many search for it in wrong places or relationships. Many have tried these and found they didn’t answer their desires. Finally some turned to God and there found the pearl of great price they had been looking for. St.Augustine was one of these. Before his conversion he even sought it in a relationship with a woman with whom he a child. But it didn’t answer his deepest needs. Finally he turned to God and there he found the pearl of great price. The second little parable reminds us that God ought to be the pearl of great price in our lives. But is this true for you and me? Perhaps our lack of faith and trust prevents us from seeing God as such. Why not pray to him often to reveal himself to us as that great pearl and that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes and help us to respond generously and joyfully.

The third parable is that of a fishing net cast into the sea. Such a net does not select or discriminate. It is bound to include all it comes across. Jesus is telling us more Good News here. The Church is made up of saints and sinners. This is meant to be a reflection of God’s inclusive attitude towards us his children. The life of Jesus clearly showed this. He welcomed everyone.  It was one of the main reasons he was put the death. Most of the Jewish religious leaders were scandalised that Jesus accepted public sinners, adulterers, prostitutes, tax collectors etc as his friends. Can we do otherwise?

Just as a time of separation comes for the fisherman who keep the good fish and throw away the ones of no use, so too a time of separation will come when God will judge us. We are warned by Jesus not to judge others. All such separation must be left to God who is very compassionate, just and merciful.

“Lord Jesus, the three parables you have used in today’s gospel tell us that you are the treasure we really want to have, as well as being the pearl of great price. Help us not to settle for anything less. Amen”

Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA