17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A – July 26, 2020
1 Kings 3,5.7-12; Ps 119; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Gen 4.1 to 9; Ps 77; Rm 3.29 to 31; Lk 13.22-30
1) God and his Kingdom.
Again this Sunday Christ speaks to us through some parables in which the Kingdom of God is compared to a treasure hidden in the field (Mt 13.44), to the merchant in search of precious pearls (Ibid. 13.45), to a net thrown into the sea (Ibid 13,47) of life. These three short narratives reveal the desire of God: may man accept his Kingdom, which is “justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17), and may he make it his own taking on the responsibility that the greatness of the gift of the Kingdom entails.
The themes of the three parables are interesting. The first two are centered on a treasure and a precious pearl: man’s great dream is to find something precious that gives meaning to life. There is a search or even a non-search, an unexpected encounter with something that has a very great value. There is, therefore, a finding. However, the emphasis of the parables is on another point: on the decision. Indeed, both those who seek – the merchant seeks and finds – and those who do not seek – the peasant is not looking for the treasure, he is only working the field and finds it – are called to make a decision regarding what they have found. And this decision is dictated by joy. Joy is the strength of decision.
In addition to being compared to a seed that has the strength to grow where it finds fertile ground (Gospel of last Sunday), the Kingdom of God is presented with the image of “a treasure hidden in a field” and “a pearl of great value” for which, with joy, it is worth depriving oneself of everything in order to own them. In these parables we find well presented the two “extremes” to bring together and within which to make our most important decisions because they make our life truly evangelical: grace and responsibility. Grace lies in the fact that the treasure and the precious pearl exist, and we are given the possibility to find them so that their search is not in vain. Responsibility lies in the fact that the “received” gift must be kept and shared.
Today’s third parable speaks of responsibility. Let us have a closer look at it. The Kingdom is comparable to a net: it is a large net that is thrown into the sea and then is pulled out. This net is a fishing net. Now, the fish pulled out of the water dies, the man pulled out of the water lives. Every man is caught in this net which, after all, is the announcement of the Word of God proposed to all. The net is the Church, where everyone, good or bad, is welcomed: salvation is for everyone.
This net that catches men indicates that the Kingdom of heaven is the salvation offered mercifully to every man. However, it is necessary to “use” this mercy in a responsible way. The net welcomes everyone, the ecclesial community welcomes everyone. If we do not welcome all, we throw ourselves out.
This parable is a call to the responsibility of living mercy. Let us keep in mind that living mercy is a greater commitment than living justice and it does not neglect justice.
God is mercy, and what matters is mercy. Precisely for this reason, if we have no mercy, we are not true Christians because Christ, an incalculable treasure and precious pearl, is King of Mercy.
In fact, the Kingdom of God, source of peace, truth, and love, consists of charity, peace, harmony, joy, and salvation given to men by God in his Son, Jesus Christ Lord of mercy. This is an absolute novelty in our history for which – this is the message of the first two “twin” parables of the treasure and the pearl – we must decide promptly and completely. Let us think for example of Zacchaeus, who “immediately climbed down the tree, went to his house and welcomed Jesus joyfully offering Him the half of his goods to the poor” (Lk 19, 6-8) or of the Samaritan woman, who in joy “left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people: ‘I met the Savior (cf. Jn 4: 28-29).
2) Preciousness and joy of the Kingdom
Two are the features of the Kingdom that the evangelist emphasizes today: his preciousness (“the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure … and the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls“) and the joy for the great good found, even if not explicitly sought (“The man … full of joy goes … and buys that field”).
The farmer and the merchant find treasures in different ways. The first, who finds it between bushes and stones on a field not his own, is struck by surprise. The second finds the pearl because it is a passionate connoisseur and knows what he is looking for. In any case it is possible for all to encounter God or to be encountered by God.
Once he has found the treasure, the man full of joy goes away, sells all that he has and buys the field. Joy is the first treasure that the treasure gives. God seduces us because he speaks the language of joy that makes us move, haste, and decide: “Every man follows the road to where his heart tells him that he will find happiness” (St. Augustine). Joy that lasts is a sign that you are walking correctly and on the right track.
We advancein life not because ofshort spurs of will,but because of a passion or for a discovery oftreasures(where your treasure is, thereyour heartraceshappily: see St. Augustine). We advance because we fall in loveand for the joythatit brings. Those who live are the oneswho advancetowardswhat they love or towards whom they love: JesusChrist.
The discovery of thetreasure and ofthepearlmakes uslucky farmers and merchants. We should notbe too proud of thatbecause, ultimately, it is a gift from God. Agift shouldbe not a source ofpride, butof gratitude andresponsibility.We must givethanksto the One whomade us”stumble” into a treasure, indeed in manytreasuresalongmany roads and in manydaysof our lives.If we look atour livesone thing is clear:wetried extremely hard, we have looked in manybooks and amongmany people,butwe have not found anythingbetter. Nothing is found which is better than the Gospel andthe Church.To selleverything for Christis themostprofitable deal of our life because that act did make it intense, vibrant, passionate, joyful, at peace, and, I hope, at least a littleusefulto someone else.We understandthat givingtoChristis equalto flourish.To chooseChrist is not amereduty, itis to choose atreasure thatis the fullness ofhuman life,peace and strength, surprise, charm,and resurrection.Godis not a requirement; HeisaPearl.
Let us be grateful to the Lord, because with him life is never trivial. With Him life is amazement, love, peace, and joy.
3) In Christ we are the treasure and the pearl.
I do not think thatI am distorting themeaningof today’s parableswhen I say that for Christ we are thetreasureand the pearl that he buys back with the “currency” of his life giventotallytous.
He is a merchant and farmer who searches in the field of our life: for each of us, for all our brothers and sisters. He renews our hearts, and the heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh, a good heart, a caring heart. It is our field that matures treasures in ourselves and for others. It is it that makes the rose of our world bloom.
The thirdparablespeaksof the net thatcollectseverything and then of the fishermensittingsorting out the fish. It reminds usthatwe are alllike the fishermen. In our life and in ourheart we have collected everything and have picked up things that are good andthings thatwere not worthanything.
Now is the time for the intelligence of the heart, the time to discern, to preserve and to get rid of what hurts.
Now is the time to do as the last image of today’s Gospel suggests, to act like the scribe, became a disciple, who brings out from his treasure new and old things.
Today we are given this good news: every disciple has a treasure, no one is without it. We are strongly encouraged to look within ourselves, in our interior archives full of events, words, encounters, happiness, people that are treasures and experiences that we forget, do not take the time to enjoy, waste and do not seek to increase.
As at Mass we dare say the “Our Father”, yet today let us dare to ask God the Father for undeserved treasures. He has already given us many. Let us ask for a gift of profound eyes like those of the attentive scribe. Eyes that can see, entangled in our net, the treasures collected in our life, short or long that it is, the talents received and the people we have met.
Let this heartbecomegoodof the goodnessof Christ andbe gratefullike the heartof a child.
4) The pearls that gave all for the Pearl.
The offering of ourselves to God, recognized as the Pearl, concerns every Christian because we are all consecrated to Him through baptism. We are all called to offer ourselves to the Father with Jesus and like Jesus, making a generous gift of our life in the family, at work, in service to the Church and in the works of mercy. However, this consecration is lived in a special way by the religious, the monks and the consecrated women in the world who have chosen to belong to God fully and exclusively. Totally consecrated to God, these women are dedicated to their sisters and brothers to bring the light of Christ into the world and to spread his hope in the disheartened hearts. The sign that indicates this kind of consecration is the veil that the Bishop put on their head saying ” Receive the veil that are the insignia of your consecration and never forget that you are bound to the service of Christ and of his body, the Church.”(Consecration to a life of Virginity).A consecrated life, understood and lived in this way, appears precisely what it is: a gift from God,a gift ofGod to the Church, a gift of Godto his people! Everyconsecrated personis a gift tothe people of God on the journey.
In a way consecrated life brings to the surface what belongs to everyone, becoming at the same time memory, prophecy, waiting, and forecast of what will come. It is in this way that consecrated life plays its most important duty: to become transparency of the Gospel – of the root of the gospel- questioning every Christian, whatever choice he or she has made.
Saint John Chrysostom
Homily XLVI. Matthew Chapter 13
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field, the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”20
Much as in the other place, the mustard seed and the leaven have but some little difference from each other, so here also these two parables, that of the treasure and that of the pearl. This being of course signified by both, that we ought to value the gospel above all things. And the former indeed, of the leaven and of the mustard seed, was spoken with a view to the power of the gospel, and to its surely prevailing over the world; but these declare its value, and great price. For as it extends itself like mustard seed, and prevails like leaven, so it is precious like a pearl, and affords full abundance like a treasure. We are then to learn not this only, that we ought to strip ourselves of everything else, and cling to the gospel, but also that we are to do so with joy; and when a man is dispossessing himself of his goods, he is to know that the transaction is gain, and not loss.
Seest thou how both the gospel is hid in the world, and the good things in the gospel?
Except thou sell all, thou buyest not; except thou have such a soul, anxious and inquiring, thou findest not. Two things therefore are requisite, abstinence from worldly matters, and watchfulness. For He saith “One seeking goodly pearls, who when he had found one of great price, sold all and bought it.” For the truth is one, and not in many divisions.
And much as he that hath the pearl knows indeed himself that he is rich, but others know not, many times, that he is holding it in his hand (for there is no corporeal bulk); just so also with the gospel, they that have hold of it know that they are rich, but the unbelievers, not knowing of this treasure, are in ignorance also of our wealth.
- After this, that we may not be confident in the gospel merely preached, nor think that faith only suffices us for salvation, He utters also another, an awful parable. Which then is this? That of the net.
“For the kingdom of Heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.”21
And wherein doth this differ from the parable of the tares? For there too the one are saved the other perish; but there, for choosing of wicked doctrines; and those Before this again, for not giving heed to His sayings, but these for wickedness of life; who are the most wretched of all, having attained to His knowledge, and being caught, but not even so capable of being saved.
Yet surely He saith elsewhere, that the shepherd Himself separates them, but here He saith the angels do this;22 and so with respect to the tares. How then is it? At one time He discourses to them in a way more suited to their dullness,23 at another time in a higher strain.
And this parable He interprets without so much as being asked, but of His own motion He explained it by one part of it, and increased their awe. For lest, on being told, “They east the bad away,” thou shouldest suppose that ruin to be without danger; by His interpretation He signified the punishment, saying, “They will cast them into the furnace.”24 And He declared the gnashing of teeth, and the anguish, that it is unspeakable.
Seest thou how many are the ways of destruction? By the rock, by the thorns, by the wayside, by the tares, by the net. Not without reason therefore did He say, “Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go away25 by it.”26
- Having then uttered all this, and concluded His discourse in a tone to cause fear, and signified that these are the majority of cases (for He dwelt more on them). He saith,
“Have ye understood al! these things? They say unto Him, Yea, Lord.”27
20 . [Here also the Greek text presents few peculiarities; tw`/ is omitted before ajgrw`/ in verse 44, as in a few Mss. of the New Testament.—R.]
21 Mt 13,47-48. [R. V., “which, when it was filled, they drew upon the beach,” etc.]
22 Mt 25,32.
24 Mt 13,50.
25 ajpercovmenoi, rec. text, eijsercovmenoi).
26 Mt 7,13.
27 Mt 13,51. [See note 7, p. 293.—R.]
Then because they understood, He again praises them, saying,
“Therefore every Scribe, which is instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven,28 is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.”29
28 [R. V., “hath been made a disciple to the Kingdom of Heaven.” Chrysostom reads ejn, the received text has eij” with the accusative.—R]