Friday, July 22, 2011

XVII-Sunday in Ordinary Time

XVII- Sunday-1 KGS 3: 5, 7-12; ROMANS 8: 28-30;: MATTHEW 13: 44-52

There is a story from the Desert Fathers about a young monk who asked one of the older monks why it is that so many people came out to the desert to seek God and yet most of them gave up after a short time and returned to their lives in the city.
The old monk told him, "Last evening my dog saw a rabbit running for cover among the bushes of the desert and he began to chase the rabbit, barking loudly. Soon other dogs joined in the chase, barking and running. They ran a great distance and alerted many other dogs. Soon the wilderness was echoing the sounds of their pursuit but the chase went on into the night.
After a little while, many of the dogs grew tired and dropped out. A few chased the rabbit until the night was nearly spent. By morning, only my dog continued the hunt. "Do you understand," the old man said, "what I have told you?"
"No," replied the young monk, "please tell me father."
"It is simple," said the desert father, "my dog saw the rabbit."
Jesus told a parable about a man who one day in the market place saw the pearl of great price. The merchant understood at once the value of the commodity before him and he sacrificed everything to obtain it.

The Kingdom of God is a treasure worth selling all that we have in order to possess. This treasure is of such great value that anything else we may own pales in comparison. It would be easy to give up everything else in order to have the Kingdom of God, and, unlike the treasure hidden in the field, the love of Christ is a treasure everyone is invited to possess.
Wisdom gives us insight into what is truly important in life, an awareness of the meaning and purpose of living, and of what really matters. Wisdom is an understanding of where our real well-being and happiness lie. Wisdom is indeed the “pearl of great price," that Jesus speaks of. Solomon discerns and follows the right way, and so he is a model and a challenge for us. His request invites us to cultivate his prayer for a heart and mind attuned to God's word and docile to His desires.
Ancient people hid their treasure in their fields. Frequent battles and foreign invasions encouraged the people of Palestine to bury their treasures like money and jewelry in their fields. For example, the great religious treasure – the “Dead Sea Scrolls,” discovered in the caves at Qumran in 1947 – was hidden there over 2,000 years ago. When enemies attack, they would flee for their life, leaving the treasure in the field. Years later a hired ploughman would find such treasure.
Sometimes unclaimed and forgotten, the hidden treasures awaited some lucky finder. Jesus tells the story of one such lucky treasure-finder who sold everything he had in order to get ownership of the field. According to the Palestinian laws of that time, the mere finding of buried treasure did not entitle the finder to possession unless he also owned the property in which it was found. In the parable of the treasure in the field and in the parable of the merchant who sought fine pearls, we see the image of one who recognizes the value of the kingdom of God and gives everything to possess it. Matthew, a tax-collector, might have experienced something like this when he discovered the eternal value of the kingdom preached by Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus wants us to know that the kingdom of God is worth all we have. He has come to offer us God's Kingdom, a unique pearl of the greatest price. The genuine disciples are those who respond to this opportunity with joy and selfless commitment, eagerly giving top priority to life in the Kingdom by doing God’s will. This parable teaches us that, although we are baptized Christians, we still need to pursue the true and full meaning of the Gospel which can escape us for many years. We always need to understand more, to love more, and to serve more.
What the parables really teach us is that, when one discovers Jesus and his vision of life, everything else becomes secondary. That is what St. Paul meant when he said: "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ" (Phil 3:8), and again "For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil 2:21). To have a personal experience of Christ and personal relationship with Him is the most precious thing in the world.
At time we stay focused on things of little pleasure that we lose sight of the most precious pearl. Our hearts tend to remain satisfied with that.
Little Mary listened intently in Sunday school while the teacher explained the parable of the “treasure” and “pearl” and gave a detailed description of eternal bliss in heaven. The teacher concluded her class asking the question, “All those who are ready to go to heaven, raise your hands.” Every hand went up except one. “Why, don’t you want to go to heaven, Mary?” asked the teacher. “Well,” Mary replied, “Mom was baking apple pie when I left home!”
For Mary, Apple pie was more dear and attractive than heaven. What is our Apple pie ?
We should live every moment in view of our precious goal. Most of the time, we are chasing false treasures such as money, status or pleasure. Often we are locked into regrets over the past, or focused too much on the future. As a result, the enriching present passes us by, and the treasure is never discovered. Thus, the really valuable pearl of sharing in God’s life here on earth and later in heaven is never found. Let us always remember that heaven is within the reach of all who follow the ordinary vocations of life and partake of this world's joys and pleasures within the framework of God's commandments.
The kingdom of God is God’s reign in our hearts, in our lives, in our homes, in our society, and in our world. Only those who develop a searching mind and are willing to give up everything for the great treasure of God’s kingdom, will be rewarded.
During these precious moments with the Lord, let us ask ourselves: Have I experienced the joy of finding the treasure and the precious pearl? Am I ready to sell everything in order to enter into the Kingdom of heaven? Let us ask for the wisdom of God to recognize the preciousness of God’s Kingdom.