The Joy of discovering the treasure and the pearl - 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > The Joy of discovering the treasure and the pearl - 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

For the past three weeks we have been reading from Chapter 13 of St Matthew’s Gospel. The chapter contains a succession of parables of the Lord about the Kingdom of Heaven. They tend to begin with the words, “the Kingdom of Heaven is like...” The parables use a number of images to describe the Kingdom: seed being sown, leaven in bread, a treasure in a field.

When asked by his disciples why he resorted to the use of parables when speaking to the crowds the Lord explains simply that people do not understand what he is talking about and so, if you like, he uses a series of images to explain things.

Possibly, 2000 years later, the teaching of Jesus about the Kingdom of Heaven is also difficult for us to grasp. We can recall the opening pronunciations of the Lord as he commenced his public ministry (words that are very familiar to us): “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand”. We may well ask what is this “Kingdom” to which the Lord is referring?

We know it is not an earthly reign – it is not a political kingdom. He taught clearly that this Kingdom is not of this world. It is a spiritual entity. What does he mean when he says that it is “close at hand”? He is not simply speaking about heaven as our final destination. He says that the Kingdom is “among you”. In other words we are to live within this Kingdom now, here on earth.

Another translation of the term may assist us in seeking to understand what the Lord is speaking about: the term is the “reign of God”. In other words it is the exercise of the authority and power of God over the world, or more particularly, over our lives.

This Kingdom of which the Lord speaks refers to the invitation of God through Christ to place one’s life under the authority and power of God.

The Lord spoke of the fact that Satan was the “Prince of this world”. In other words the powers of evil were influencing world events. God entered history through his Son to reverse this situation.

We are in the Kingdom of Heaven when we place our lives under the authority of Jesus Christ; when we say with utmost sincerity “My Lord and my God”. In this way we enable the power, the protection and the very life of God to flow through us – like having leaven kneaded through the flour so that it causes it to rise. Or it is like allowing a seed to be planted in our hearts – a seed which will germinate and produce much fruitfulness.

The Kingdom of Heaven is a spiritual reality. It is accessed through faith. Faith, if you like, is the door through which we enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We could add that the greater our faith the further we participate in the Kingdom of Heaven. What then happens is that we have oriented our lives around spiritual realities. We have established the right centre of our existence. God is at the heart of all we do and all we are. All other things then find their rightful place.

The Kingdom of Heaven is absolutely real and is meant to be the central inspiration to our lives here on earth and then be our final destiny. Entering the Kingdom now has a profound effect on our lives and opens our lives to the more immediate action of God. This is why Jesus urged people to orient their lives around this Kingdom. This is why he went to such pains to explain the nature of this Kingdom. Spiritual realities need concrete images in order to be understood.

The parables we have read today and over the past two weeks propose that the Kingdom of Heaven is capable of becoming a transforming influence in our lives. This is the nature of the Christian life. As men and women of faith, those who have entered into the Kingdom of Heaven, we have an interior principle of life within us. Our faith in Christ draws into the ambit of God’s action and allows the power of God to assist and guide us. We know we do not have to struggle alone in life. God is with us. His grace is available for us. His protective hand is over us.

Hence, we come to the images used in the Gospel reading today: that of the treasure found in the field and the pearl of great price.

The Lord is making a simple comment here. What God offers us is indeed a great treasure worth more than anything else. Discovering its immense value we are willing to sacrifice everything in order to possess this gift. This is the witness of the martyrs. In the end nothing else counts. What God offers is worth absolutely everything.

It can also be described as a pearl of great price. It is something of great value and great beauty. When we see its beauty we simply say, “I must have it”. It is worth possessing, more than anything else.

My brothers and sisters, our faith, our Catholic faith, is a treasure. Through it our lives are lived under the blessing of God. We know that the presence of God in our lives brings comfort and reassurance. We know a peace in our hearts that the world cannot give. We know that we receive the guidance of the truth and the enlightenment of our conscience. By virtue of our faith in Christ we are living now within the Kingdom of Heaven.

This reality should not be underestimated. Its presence and power at work in our lives is fruitful. It is hidden, yes. We are not often conscious of the presence of god in our lives. Yet it is there. These are some of the blessings of our Christian faith. God is active in moulding and shaping our lives. We are children of the Kingdom. 

This Mass and its readings offer us a moment to appreciate what we have because of our faith and our embrace of life in Jesus Christ. It is an opportunity to renew our desire to enter more deeply into the life of this Kingdom of Heaven.
And one more thing: when we come to see the treasure we possess and the beauty of this pearl of great price we cannot keep it to ourselves. We want to share what we have with others. We have found the joy of the Gospel and we long for others to have what we have found.

We not only live within the Kingdom of Heaven but we find ourselves wanting to share our faith with others.

Bishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 26 July 2014.