17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

+JMJ+

Today’s Gospel contains a parable which only appears in the Gospel of Matthew and appears without any preamble for further explanation indicating that those who would hear it, should understand it immediately.

Our Blessed Lord likens the Kingdom of Heaven in three different ways.  The three analogies of the parable can be likened to our lives on the path of conversion.

Firstly, The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds, hides again and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys the field.  This is the initial call to conversion, when one, on his search for Jesus Christ, finds him and the Kingdom of Heaven, there is nothing that will stop him from trying to obtain it.  The Kingdom of heaven is of such great value that we are on fire for it and so there is nothing which can stand in our way to try and obtain it – no sin, no person, not even our earthly possessions.  It is of such great value that we have a complete conversion of heart and we are willing to sacrifice anything for what we have obtained.

Secondly, the kingdom is heaven is likened to a merchant searching for fine pearls.  When he finds the pearl of great price he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.  Once we have encountered Jesus Christ, we then desire to more intimately know him.  We delve into Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church.  In this case, the merchant finding the perfect pearl is unwilling to betray its value by selling it.  He finds it and knowing how priceless it is, is unwilling to part with it.  So too for us, once we have obtained faith and gotten a glimpse of the Kingdom of the Father, we must do everything we can to keep it.  We keep this pearl by attending Mass by praying often by studying Sacred Scripture, by reading the Catechism – by coming to know Jesus Christ intimately. Unlike the pearl of great price, faith and the kingdom of heaven cannot be bought by mere human means – its value is immeasurable which is why the price for it could only be paid by the one who imposed the debt himself – the pearl of great value could only be made available to us through the death of Jesus Christ.  The gift of faith is immeasurable and we must guard it even more than our most treasured earthly possession.

Finally, the kingdom of heaven is likened to a net thrown into the sea collecting all types of fish and at the end of the day the fish are sorted and the good ones are kept and the bad thrown out.  When our earthly lives are over we will enter before the judgment of almighty God and the hope for us is that if we have found faith, if we have protected it and nurtured it – if we have given it priority over all things in life, that we too will be sorted into those whom are in the company of almighty God in heaven.  We cannot enter the kingdom of heaven until that time which everything impure within us has been burned away.  Just as gold is purified by fire, so too we shall be purified by chastisement.  We must never fear pain and suffering for it is not an option, the only option is do we suffer temporarily here and in purgatory or do we suffer eternally in Hell separated from almighty God?  We are believers in the death and resurrection and Christ and so we have great hope, hope that we can remain faithful through His grace so that we, like disciples in today’s Gospel, now know and understand the parable and so too can be like the head of the household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.

Friends, it is not enough to know the parable.  It is not enough to even live the parable itself.  Finding the Kingdom of Heaven is important, protecting it like the pearl of great price too is essential but none of it is complete unless we then become like the scribe whose mission it is to make the message known.  Once we have found the Kingdom of Heaven it is our mission then to share it with others all the while safeguarding it so that we do not lose it ourselves.  We too are on a mission and our mission is to make known the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone we encounter.  Hopefully others see us and immediately recognize that we belong to someone other than ourselves.  The irony of the parable is that pearl of great price could only be kept safe by keeping it – the Kingdom of Heaven can only be gained by sharing it.  May others in the world see the good things that we do, and not give us glory, but give glory to God.  Amen.

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