The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time July 30, 2017
1 Kings 3, 5, 7-12 + Psalm 119 + Romans 8, 28-30 + Matthew 13, 44-52
St Joseph Parish, Norman, OK
“Have you understood all of this?” It’s a good question. If this Gospel is the living Word of God spoken in every age, it is being addressed to us today. “Have you understood all of this?” Matthew says that the apostles said, “Yes.” I don’t believe them. I can remember my father standing over me the first time I drove off in his car at age 16. There had been some serious instructions, warnings, and disguised threats. “Do you understand me?” he concluded. I wouldn’t be standing here today if I had said, “No.” In all honesty, when it comes to that example, I’ll never really understand because I’ve never had a 16-year-old son, but I am beginning to understand a few things about the Kingdom of Heaven, and with that understanding has come some changes in my life.
In the parable about the field and the pearl, those two people find something that is already there right in front of them but hidden. They find it because they were looking. Imagine how many others may have walked by and never noticed, or seen that pearl and ignored it or maybe after looking it over decided that it was just a rock land tossed it aside! It seems to me that these two “finders” are pretty much like the inhabitants of this world. There are some who are just living day by day as if this is all there is not particularly looking for more, and then there are those who are searching all the time hoping that there is more to this life than work and sleep in order to get up and work again. Everyone in here falls into one of those two categories.
The Gospel insists that the Kingdom of Heaven is right here in front of us. It is not something we have to earn or work for. It is not something we build either in spite of a popular hymn that suggests we are building the Kingdom of God, a proud and preposterous thought! The reign of God is already established. Jesus came to lead us into that Kingdom, to teach how to recognize and then live in that Kingdom; and he shapes the behavior of those who discover it. It is a gift: the gift of God’s presence which is right in front of us. The parable proposes that those who are looking will find it, and it describes their response to the discovery of this gracious gift.
Those whose eyes have been opened to see what God is doing in Jesus commit themselves whole heartedly in faith and obedience. They will be people of Joy. Anything that gets in the way, or keeps them from the life of service, joy, and peace that marks that Kingdom must go, be sold, or sacrificed. There is no substitute for what is found in the Kingdom of God. It is the discovery of what we were made for, what we live for, and who we are as God’s loved ones for whom all creation was made and to whom all creation has been entrusted so that God’s beauty, God’s peace, God’s love can be known and shared for all eternity.
My friends we have come here today seeking “the pearl of great price.” We find it on this altar not just in bread and wine, but in the communion of the forgiven that this sacrament establishes among us. Our joyful, hope-filled, and blessed unity here is a sign of the Kingdom of Heaven, and what we do and what we say when we leave here renewed and strengthened by another taste of the Kingdom can strengthen all others who are seeking and looking for what we have found. “Wisdom” says Pope Francis, “is the grace of being able to see everything with the eyes of God.” It is the curious look of a man in a field, or a merchant who knows a fine pearl when he sees it. It is the look of a volunteer who sees their brother in a homeless man. It is the child who embraces with excitement the grandparent who has become a burden to the rest of the family.
Jesus asks again today: ‘Have you understood all of this?”