The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 3: 5, 7-12 + Psalm 119 + Romans 8: 28-30 + Matthew 13: 44-52

July 30, 2023 at Saint William, St Agnes, & St Peter Churches in Naples, FL

Saturday 4:30 pm at Saint William Church in Naples, FL

This weekend we have come to the end Chapter 13 which is Matthew’s largest collection of parables. They have provided us with some curious surprises that never seems quite right, and some things to compare for the sake of our choices. We get two finders today. One of them gets something he does not deserve. It’s not his land, and therefore what he finds is not his. He sells everything even his morals to get what he finds. He’s an undeserving crook who gets his treasure even though it isn’t deserved. The other man, in contrast, has been searching, and finding what he wants, he simply pays the price even though he has to sell everything to get it, but he keeps his morals. They both get a treasure, and they both find joy.

I find it interesting that they do not become joyful until they have sold all that they have. It’s as though what they have is never enough to give them joy. So, they find something else, one by accident and another by a search. These parables leave us to wonder both what it is that they find and what it is that brings joy. Many in this world confuse joy with happiness. They are not at all the same. Happiness comes and goes, and it does not bring joy. It is the result of something that happens. Joy, on the other hand is the result of a choice we make. We are all in the pursuit of happiness. You’ve heard that said before. Yet, in the end, we have to choose joy. It is something we know. Happiness is something we feel. Today’s Gospel speaks to us about joy and about the choices we make and what we seek in life. 

There was a wonderful program series a year or two ago about a very wealthy family who suddenly lost everything and ended up living in a miserable little place in a run-down motel. The happiness of their selfish lives vanished suddenly, and they kept seeking ways to get it back. By the end of the series they found love for each other, and the joy they found in the relationships that evolved through the series not only left them with joy, but spread to many of us watching them.

The final parable today sums up much of chapter 13. That drag net which scoops up everything in its path is a reminder of how it goes with the Kingdom of God. The sorting, just like earlier with the weeds and the wheat is not ours to do. We are the ones gathered up by this net God has thrown wide. There will be crooks and scoundrels, holy men and women. 

Simply put, these little parables are ways of reflecting on the love life of a disciple. Jesus put it simply at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel with the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all things will be given to you.” It is the seeking that matters. The Kingdom of God cannot be bought or owned even by good deeds. It is always an astonishing free gift available to all. It cannot be bought, yet it costs everything. We can only have it by a total self-surrender to irresistible joy. It’s an old story, not to be kept or locked in a storeroom, but meant to be told anew by those of us set free by joy.

Father Tom Boyer