Homily for the 17th Sunday of Year A

Readings:  1 Kings 3:5,7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52

 Theme:   The Treasure Hidden in our Hearts

‘He is playing a game that I’m not familiar with.’ This was the comment of the legendary golfer, Jack Nicklaus, when, in 1997, a twenty-one year old Tiger Woods took the golfing world by storm, winning the prestigious US Masters tournament by a record breaking 12 strokes. Though God may not be familiar with golf, today’s gospel reading suggests a game he is familiar with and likes to play, a game played by children all over the world: Hide and Seek. Some years ago, I came across the following story that illustrates very well just how God wishes to play this game. 

One day God decided to launch a treasure hunt on earth. So he called his angels and gave them a priceless treasure to bring to earth, instructing them to hide it so that people would have to search for it and might have the joy of finding it. “Shall we hide it on the highest mountain”, the angels asked. “No”, answered God, “because only the fittest and healthiest could climb that mountain and the weak would have no chance”. Again the angels asked: “Shall we put it on the furthest shores of the ocean”.  “No”, answered God, “because only the rich people could afford to travel so far and the poor would have no chance”.  “Where then shall we put it?” the angels asked. And God instructed: “Put it within reach of everybody, rich or poor, healthy or weak. Plant it in the centre of their beings. Hide it in their hearts.”

 We are all treasure hunters. We seek the ‘pearl of great value’ (Mt 13:46) the one thing that will answer the deepest yearning of our hearts and make us truly happy. The problem is that we spend too much time looking for it in the wrong places – outside ourselves. And we invariably end up frustrated, with ‘hearts high-sorrowful and cloy’d’, to borrow a phrase from the poet, John Keats. The treasure we seek is the presence of God for which our hearts were made. In his famous autobiography, Confessions, St Augustine wrote, ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless, till they rest in you’.  Augustine then goes on to describe his own experience of seeking and finally discovering the divine treasure. After a fruitless search for this treasure outside of himself, he finally discovered it in the depths of his heart. His moving words convey his unbounded joy on discovering the treasure for which he had been searching all his life:  ‘Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new; late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my weakness I plunged into the lovely things you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness…. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.’

 Today’s gospel invites us to attend to the divine presence within our hearts for it is there we will find the treasure we seek, the priceless pearl for which we must give up all we possess. Yes, there is a price to be paid for the divine treasure. We have to make choices, to let go of the things that distract us from the quest – things we foolishly imagine will make us happy, like success, wealth, and power. Like Solomon in our first reading today we need ‘a discerning heart’ (1 Kgs 3:9) to keep us on the right path, the path that leads us to the treasure hidden by the angels. Sometimes, perhaps, we may have found the treasure and then cast it aside, or forgotten about it in our foolish quest for things we thought might make us feel important. However, as the great Welsh poet, R. S. Thomas, reminds us, we can discover it again by slowing down, turning aside, and attending to a ‘brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth’. This is a line from a poem written as a reflection on the parable of the hidden treasure, entitled, The Bright Field. It’s short, so I’ll quote it in full.

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

 One of the blessings of ageing, and of having to take our foot off the pedal and slow down, is the opportunity it gives us to notice and attend to, the everyday miracles around us, miracles we may have missed in our busy days of doing great things. We can begin to live more freely in the present moment, to embrace the eternity that awaits us, and appreciate the treasure hidden in our hearts –  a treasure beautiful beyond words and well worth whatever it takes to find it.  

Michael McCabe SMA

To listen to an alternative Homily for this Sunday, from Fr Tom Casey of the SMA Media Centre, Ndola, Zambia please click on the play button below.


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