Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time-A
1 Kings 3: 5, 7-12
Romans 8: 28-30
Matthew 13: 44-46
The Gospel that we just listened to might sound a bit like on-hold telephone Muzak – it’s there alright, but it doesn’t quite grab you. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
In 45 years of being a priest, I have never had a single person tell me that this was their favorite Bible passage. I have never had anybody ask for this Gospel to be read at their wedding, or at the funeral of a loved one. It doesn’t seem all that exhilarating, and yet it doesn’t put us all out of sorts either. What are we to make of it?
Part of our difficulty is quite understandable. This Gospel story is outside of our experience. When we have something very valuable, we don’t bury it in a field. We put it in a safe-deposit box, or we keep it close by and have it heavily insured.
And if there is some treasure that we want to acquire, we don’t sell everything we have to buy it. We take out a loan, or dip into savings or sell some shares of stock. So this Gospel passage is outside of our experience.
Then we have that opening line: “The kingdom of heaven is like…” What do we make of that phrase – “the kingdom of heaven”? We all want to go to heaven, right? But, as Mrs. Slocombe might say on Are You Being Served?, “…eventually.”
“The kingdom of heaven”: that line can seem like something perfectly appropriate to be said in church, but that’s about it.
There was a woman who was suffering from cancer, and her prognosis was not good. One day she said to a close friend, “I want to tell you about a little fantasy that I’ve dreamed up. I was toying with faking my own death, and then having my wake at the funeral home live-streamed to me so that I could see who was there and hear what they said about me.”
Then she smiled and said, “But I gave up on the idea because it got too depressing, both by the small number of people that might show up, and also, by listening to them, that I might discover that they really didn’t know me very well.”
“The kingdom of heaven.” Is death simply about wakes and flowers and words of remembrance?
It is far more than that. “The kingdom of heaven” is telling us that relationships are important in this life and in the life to come: our relationship with God, and our relationships with other people.
As for being known by others as we really are – that will be perfectly accomplished in heaven. But even now, God knows you and me perfectly: as we are at this moment, and as God dreams we could be. God loves us so much that we are always on His mind. And if God stopped thinking about us for even an instant, we would cease to be. Think about that.
So what does God expect of us right here and now? That we search for His treasure. Sometimes it’s buried. It’s not always perfectly obvious. But God gives us the grace to search for this treasure and acquire it.
The ocean surface is beautiful on a warm, sunny day. But scuba divers go deep beneath the surface and discover a world that is invisible to those who remain above.
Right now we are celebrating the most perfect prayer that human beings can offer to God – the Sacrifice of the Mass. We all want God to speak to us. And God is speaking to you and me right now. God speaks to us at Mass when the Scriptures are proclaimed and explained. It can all seem like buried treasure. But we need to engage in the search, and with God’s grace we can acquire it.
During Mass bread and wine will stop being what they were. They will be changed into the Body and the Blood, the Soul and the Divinity of Jesus Himself. We will receive Jesus into our very being, under the appearances of bread and wine, but they are no longer bread and wine. Hidden under those appearances is Jesus Himself – like buried treasure that we need to search for in order to acquire.
Today’s parable about buried treasure can seem like superficial on-hold telephone Muzak – or it can have deep meaning for us.
There is a line that I ask you to inscribe in your hearts today, in light of this Gospel, and it is this: “Belong to the King, and the kingdom of heaven belongs to you.”
“Belong to the King.” “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Engage in the search and you will acquire the treasure.
“Belong to the King, and the kingdom of heaven belongs to you.”