Sunday the Seventeenth

Antiphon: “God is in His holy dwelling; He will give a home to the lonely, He gives power and strength to His people (Psalm 67:6-7, 36).”

Gospel excerpt: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy (καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς χαρᾶς) goes  and sells all that he has and buys that field (Matthew 13:44).”

     Compared to the previous weeks, the parabolic proclamation for this Sunday is noticeably shorter. Unlike the previous weeks, Jesus does not explain the meaning of the words; probably due in part to the disciple's affirmation that they "understand all these things (Matthew 13:51)." Like the Gospel words of previous weeks, Jesus draws images from day-to-day living: buried treasure, a field, pearls, a net, fish of all kinds and buckets. Actions too are familiar to the listeners of Jesus' day: burying valuables (done especially in times of war or civil conflict to protect one's goods), finding, hiding, selling, buying, throwing, separating, and keeping; not to mention wailing and grinding of teeth to round out the picture. Even though the words are few quantitatively, much is offered for our formation this Sunday.

     In light of Solomon's prayer for "an understanding heart to judge Your people and to distinguish right from wrong," we can look at Jesus' parable and the disciple's response as a moment of wisdom. Through a variety of images, Jesus has catechized his followers in the ways of His Father's Kingdom. Such catechesis releases wisdom into the world whereby humanity has the resources to live in a manner always respecting the dignity of the other as a child of God. This type of wisdom, when taken to the heart, transforms not only individuals but the world. The "understanding heart" receives reality as gift thus experiencing freedom from the enslavement of entitlement that always demeans human dignity by selfish manipulation, attempting to impose one's agenda on reality.

     Then, there are the hope-filled words of God spoken and penned by Saint Paul: "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)." Many of our Bibles naturally open to Romans 8 because we read that chapter often, especially when things are not going so well in life. These comforting words remind us not only how big the big-picture of things really is, but that each of us is known and loved infinitely by the One Who is Love. Experiencing this love leads precisely to the unnamed people of this Sunday's parable.

     Why did the person sell all and buy the field? Why did the merchant sell all and buy the pearl? Why the hard work of selecting good fish? It all comes down to 1 word: JOY (χάρις, cháris). The evangelist is clear in recording the reason for these actions of buying: "out of (or "from") joy." Joachim Jeremias (a preeminent biblical scholar whose specialty was Jesus' Parables), commenting on the treasure and pearl states: "When that great joy, surpassing all measure, seizes a man, it carries him away, penetrates his inmost being, subjugates his mind. All else seems valueless compared with that surpassing worth. The decisive thing in the twin parable is not what the two men give up, but reason for their doing so; the overwhelming experience of the splendor of their discovery. Thus it is with the Kingdom of God. The effect of the joyful news is overpowering; it fills the heart with with gladness; it makes life's whole aim the consummation of the divine community and produces the most wholehearted self-sacrifice. What is the quality of a life which has been overmastered by this great joy? It is to follow Jesus. Its characteristic is the love whose pattern is to be found in the Lord who has become a servant. Such a love finds its expression in silent giving with no sounding of a trumpet; it does not lay up treasure on earth, but it entrusts its possessions to God's faithful hands" thereby setting us free from anxiety and worry.

Alternative Opening Prayer
God our Father,
open our eyes to see Your hand at work
in the splendor of creation,
in the beauty of human life.
Touch by Your hand our world is holy.
Help us to cherish the gifts that surround us,
to share Your blessings with our brothers and sisters,
and to experience the joy of life in Your presence.

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