17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Readings: 1 Kgs 3:5. 7-12; Ps 118; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
JESUS said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.
‘Have you understood all this?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Well, then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.’
LATELY, I am getting emails, Facebook, and WhatsApp messages with cute avatars and pictures of products besides a big SALE sign. And if I ignore them for the first time, they seem to keep popping again. Sometimes I do that—sending emails, Facebook, and WhatsApp messages to my boss at home with a cute avatar and pictures of the products besides a big SALE sign and hoping she gets the message.
Today, it is unlikely that we will find buried treasure in a field or vacant lot and then sell all we have to buy it. It is more likely that we hear a good stock tip or racing tip and yes, a half-price sale tip and invest all we have in that. The circumstances may be different, but the response is the same. We love bargains. And when we have the chance to acquire a “treasure” at a bargain rate, we want it.
In our gospel today, it seems Jesus wants us to think that the reign of God is a bargain. Something that we can risk or invest everything we have to get it—because it is worth the cost. And yet, most people of the world do not seem to think the bargain worth the cost. Christians are the minority.
For that matter, even among Christians today—including me and you—though we identify as Christians, many of us are not sure if we are willing to make that big investment. And why is that? Why do people not respond to a great offer that includes knowing the love of God that gives life beyond death?
Maybe the problem lies not in the product. Maybe the problem lies in the one selling the product. I mean, if some shabby-looking character is to walk up to us and say, “I have a great deal for you. All you have to do is take my word for it and hand over all you have,” what would you do?
The same thing with proclaiming the Kingdom. We have a great message! That is why we call it gospel—good news! We have our glories but they are often obscured by other things. Think about child abuse and financial scandals in the church. Just look around us. Sometimes we do or say the most unchristian things to fellow Christians, and worst in the name of Christianity! Somebody told me recently when he sees these things happening he is embarrassed to call himself Catholic.
It is seldom the scandal of the Cross that keeps people from buying into the Kingdom of God. It is usually the scandal of Christians that do so! Maybe the problem lies in the fact that we Christians have not really bought the Good News of the Kingdom ourselves. We are Christians by habit, not by single-hearted desire.
If we look at the amount of energy and dedication and resources people put into worldly pursuits—most of them quite legitimate—health, property, career, education, family, relaxation, etc, and compare the amount of time and energy we put into being a Christian, we might find ourselves embarrassed.
If we do not deepen our knowledge of and love for Scripture, Church doctrines and teachings, if prayer is something we do mechanically if at all, if our relationship and service to others are grudging, if our worship is a wooden formality or something we just have to endure every week, how can we be convincing purveyors of the treasure of God? If we do not invest in it, why should anyone else?
Going back to the gospel, the Kingdom of God is like a dragnet. Everyone who comes into contact with it is drawn in, but the fish who are caught are sent not to the chowder pot but back to the nets to become as fishers. As baptised Christians, we are to be bait for the Kingdom.
I guess the question we need to wrestle for ourselves is, are we ready to risk everything just to possess the Kingdom? Do we dare to imitate God—who moves heaven and earth just to show his love—and in so doing reveal our priorities in faith and life? I dare myself… and I dare you… any takers of the bargain that is the Kingdom of God?!