17 Sunday A: The Kingdom of God is like a ....

There is a price for relationship - Treasure Hidden Rabindra Nath Tagore, the mystic poet of India, tells a memorable story from his own life which illustrates the truth of what Jesus teaches in today’s gospel, namely, that there is a price we have to pay in order to be in his kingdom, to keep a relationship with him. Tagor’s cook and housekeeper did not come to work on time one morning. Like so many professional men of his mind-set, Tagore was utterly helpless when it came to the routine details of the day, getting his clothes together, making his breakfast, tidying up his place. An hour went by, and Tagore was getting angrier by the minute. He thought of all kinds of punishment. Three hours later he no longer thought of punishment. He would discharge the man without any further consideration, get rid of him, turn him out. Finally the man showed up. It was mid-day. Without a word, the servant proceeded with his duties as though nothing had happened. He picked up Tagore’s clothes and set to making breakfast. Then he started cleaning. Tagore watched all of this with mounting rage. Finally he said, “Drop everything! Get out! I can’t stand the sight of you. You are dismissed…fired!” The man, however, continued sweeping, and after another, few minutes, with quiet dignity he said, “My little girl died last night.” (From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection)
 Gospel Text: Matthew 13:44-52
Kingdom Treasures
Michel DeVerteuil
General Comments

This Sunday’s gospel is a collection of four parables, teaching us about the kingdom of heaven. Be content to choose one and remain with it. To ensure that your meditation remains down to earth, you must clarify what for you is “the kingdom of heaven”. It is a biblical expression which means “what happens when God is really king,” and it includes his being king of an individual as well as of a community. You might translate it as “growing spiritually” or “getting closer to God.” Follow the movement of the teaching: don’t start by trying to understand what “the kingdom” means; start with the parable and let it teach you about the kingdom. And let the details of the parable speak to you so that you can enter into it.
The first two parables – verse 44, and verses 45 and 46 – appear to be similar, but if you read them carefully, you will find that they are actually quite different.
The third parable – verses 47 to 50 – is different from the others in that an interpretation is added to it in verses 49 and 50. You need not, however, tie yourself down to this interpretation, as the parable can stand by itself.
The final parable, in verses 51 and 52, is different again in that it represents the moment when someone – in this case a wise person – becomes a disciple of the kingdom.

Prayer Reflection
“He does not have a shred of bitterness, even after twenty-eight years of prison and abuse and injustice.”Shridath Ramphal, speaking of Nelson Mandela
Lord, we thank you for people of faith:
– ordinary people like our grandparents or elders in our parish community;
– great people like Nelson Mandela.
They have developed an extraordinary serenity in facing their problems.
They are like people who have chanced on a huge treasure
that was hidden in a field,
who have hidden it again and gone off perfectly happy
because they went and bought the field,
and now they know that they have nothing to worry about
for the rest of their lives.
Lord, we thank you for conversion experiences:
– a Life-in-the-Spirit seminar,
– a retreat, or a marriage encounter weekend,
– meeting someone we knew we could trust.
Up till then we had been living scattered lives,
like a juggler trying to keep different pieces in the air all at once,
or a merchant forever looking for a pearl
more precious than the one he had just bought.
Now we knew that we had found a pearl of such great value
that we were willing to go off and sell everything we owned and buy it.
What has emerged with great clarity is the lack of a moral foundation
for the formation of public policy in this most crucial area,
that of human life and death.”
Cardinal Hume, after a parliamentary vote on abortion
Lord, our societies are floundering because we equate means and ends.
Teach us that there are values that are like pearls,
so precious we would not dream of selling them;
on the contrary, we would sell everything we own
in order to buy them.
Lord, when we are doing good
we must not worry so much about ourselves,
wanting to make sure that we have the purest intentions.
Working for you is like the fishermen in Mayaro, Trinidad letting out their nets:
good fish get caught in the net,
but all kinds of other things too – old bottles, shoes, bits of galvanize –
that they will simply throw back into the sea.
“The family that prays together stays together.” …Fr Patrick Peyton
Lord, we thank you for prayer time in our families
– the family rosary, the Prayer of the Church,
our own family prayers.
Our lives together are like a great dragnet,
bringing in a haul of all kinds: good and bad experiences,
problems that need to be sorted out,
and others that seem important at the time
but eventually we realize that they are of no importance at all.
Our prayer time is when we put things into perspective,
like fishermen at the end of the day
sitting down and collecting the good fish in a basket
and throwing away those that are of no use.
“I see the Soviet Union as a country on the way to moral stability,
a country that has revived its old spiritual values and enriched them with new ones.

– Mikhail Gorbachev, interview in TIME Magazine, June 1990
Lord, we pray for the leaders of nations.
Help them to be wise and to become disciples of your kingdom,
so that like good householders
they can bring from the storerooms of their cultures
new things as well as old.
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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

Helping the Patriarch make good liturgy
   Helping the Patriarch make good liturgy.
When we gather here each Sunday we are not simple a scattering of individuals, but a family who are brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. He has called each of us, and transformed us from being isolated individuals into being a community: his body. Now as that community he wants us to gather about his table and share in his one loaf and one cup. By doing this he is sharing his life with us, and we are showing our willingness to share our lives with one another.

Homily Notes
1. How do we learn to be Christians?
2. We learn to be Christians by long periods of apprenticeship: working in groups at being the presence of Jesus in our ways of thinking, playing, working, and living. Just as you can only learn to be a pilgrim by setting out with a group of pil­grims, so you can only learn how to move on the pilgrimage of life by travelling and acting with other Christians.
3. The kingdom is the group of people; and each of us has to see working with the group as a treasure we desire to own. Learning to be a Christian involves recognising that working as part of the group must have priority over our tendency to wander off to work as isolated individuals.
 Parish celebrating Community
                                  Parish celebrating Community
4. Take our gathering here today. We learn to pray together with one voice as a priestly people. We commit ourselves to working for peace. We learn to share our talents. We learn to share our joys and sorrows. Contrast that with spiritualistic individualism. This is the notion that I do not have to join with others to pray, I can pray on my own, I can be spiritual  on my own. Interesting sentiments that are true as far as they go – but they do not go very far.
Jesus did not come with to sell ideas to individuals, but to form a community. We can only learn to pray as that commu­nity by praying with that community. Jesus did not invent a set of rituals for several individuals, but wanted his people to have the ethos of sharing among themselves. Indeed, the very heart of his community is mirrored in the sharing of a family around the meal table.
5. If I want to learn to be a Christian, then I must commit myself to gathering with the group, to praying with the group, to sharing my talents and resources with the group, and collect­ively we must share them with the poor.
6. Even when I pray on my own, I must remember that I pray as part of the community. Even alone I pray ‘Our Father’ not ‘my Father’; even alone I pray that the Father ‘give us this day our daily bread’ not that he give me my needs; I pray ‘forgive us our trespasses’ not just that he forgive me mine; I pray that’ as we forgive those who trespass against us,’ so he should forgive us; and I pray that he does not ‘lead us into temptation.’
7. Discovering that I can become truly the person God wishes me to be is a pearl of great price, but that in turn demands that we learn to live and work in loving communities. Such communities of love mirror within the creation the community of love that is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
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John Litteton
Gospel Reflection


It is not fashionable to talk about hell nowadays. Many people no longer believe in the reality of hell. Some people also deny the reality of heaven, arguing that there is nothing after life on this earth. Yet, according to the scriptures, the ultimate destiny of each human being will be either heaven or hell.
This is a fundamental teaching of Christianity. It is erroneous to presume, as many people do, that God will bring all people to heaven anyway, regardless of how they have lived, because the Creator’s love and mercy have no limits — although, according to Saint Paul, God wants everyone to be saved (see 1 Tim 2:4).
God’s love is indeed unconditional and his mercy is endless. But God gives each person the gift of free will and always respects that freedom. It is na├»ve to assume that our conscious decisions and freely-chosen actions do not have consequences.
In his preaching, Jesus was definite about the consequences of how we live on this earth. He taught that at the end of time there will be judgement when the angels will separate the wicked from the just. The wicked will then be thrown ‘into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth’ (Mt 13:50). They will be alienated from God forever, not because of God’s harsh judgement but rather because of the self- imposed judgement of their sinful attitudes and lifestyles.
There is a connection between how we live in this world and our ultimate destiny in the next life. The two are undeniably linked. During our earthly lives we have many opportunities to learn how to know and love God. God is the Just Judge and Merciful Father who desires that we journey towards our true home in heaven by freely choosing to avoid sin and being faithful to the gospel.
If we knowingly and freely choose sinfulness and evil throughout our lives, without ever repenting, our eternal destiny will be alienation from God. We sin when we refuse to respond to God’s loving presence in our lives and in our world. We also sin when we choose estrangement from God. While God always invites us to return to his loving presence, he will not force us to do so.
How we choose to live in this world has a bearing on the next life. We cannot be with God for ever in heaven unless we are with him during this earthly life. We prepare for the next life — a life enjoying the eternal happiness of heaven — by living this life as fully as possible in the presence of God. We are challenged to be faithful to Christ’s teaching and example, keeping his commandments.
The Church teaches us that hell exists. But it has never declared that there is anyone in there. Instead, it offers us access to God’s life through its preaching of the word of God and the sacraments. So will it be heaven or will it be hell for eternity? We must choose.
For meditation
This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. (Mt 13:49-50)
And you're choice is ?
              And you’re final choice is ?
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Fr Donal Neary, S.J
The good, the bad, and the treasure

Jesus takes the ordinary for his story asking what you would re­ally want never to lose/ asking what your treasure is. Is it money, reputation, locality? I gave up a better job but had time for the family and for love’; words of a young father. We know that par­ents give up a lot for their children; as do grandparents/ godpar­ents and others. As people we look for what’s most important in life: the love of God; deep and enduring friendships/ success after hard work in school/ commitment to the poor – what can­not be lost and what is worth sacrificing other good things for.
Life is a mixture of the good and the bad. There is an old Dub­lin saying: ‘There’s good in the worst of us and bad in the best of us. We work for God with the strengths and weaknesses of all we work with. God sows the seed of the gospel in good and bad soil; it bears fruit in its own way wherever it is sown. The treasure is in our people. So much hidden generosity comes out at bad times – floods, power cuts, illness and death. We need al­ways to find the hidden treasures in our own people and even in our history. The kingdom of God is close, near and is within us.

Think of what you really value in life. Take time.
Give thanks to God for what brings deep joy in life.
 
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Connections:

THE WORD:
The first two parables in today’s Gospel – the parables of the buried treasure and the pearl – are lessons in the total attachmentto Christ and detachment from the things of the world demanded of the disciple in order to make the reign of God a reality. 
The parable of the dragnet is similar in theme to last week’s parable of the wheat and weeds.  Again, Matthew makes the point that the kingdom of God is neither an instant happening nor a static event, but a dynamic movement toward completion and fulfillment which Jesus set into motion.

HOMILY POINTS:
The “treasures” and “pearls” of lasting value are the things of God: the love of family and friends, the support of community, the sense of fulfillment from serving and giving for the sake of others.  In order to attain such treasure, we must take the risk of the speculator and “sell off” our own interests, ambitions and agendas in order to free ourselves to embrace the lasting values of the compassion, love and reconciliation of God.
The Gospel “pearl” of great price transcends logic, efficiency, and self-interest; and the Gospel “treasure” is the joy and wholeness one experiences in imitating the humble compassion and forgiveness of Christ.  
In the parable of the dragnet, Jesus calls us to embrace the vision of God that seeks out the good and nurturing, the right and just in all things amid the “junk” of life.

My Grandfather’s Blessings
In her book My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge and Belonging, physician Rachel Naomi Remen tells of the many unusual gifts she received from her beloved grandfather, an Orthodox rabbi and scholar.
Once, when she was four, her grandfather brought her a paper cup.  She expected to find something special inside.  It was full of dirt.  Rachel was not allowed to play with dirt. Disappointed, she told her grandfather that she wasn’t allowed to play with dirt.  Her grandfather smiled.  He took her little teapot from her doll’s tea set and took little Rachel to the kitchen where it filled it with water.  He put the little cup on a windowsill in her room and handed her the teapot.  “If you promise to put some water in this cup every day, something may happen,” he told her.
This made little sense to a four-year-old, but little Rachel promised.  “Every day,” he repeated.  At first, Rachel did not mind pouring water into the cup, but as the days went on and nothing happened, it became harder and harder to remember to do it.  After a week, she asked her grandfather if it was time to stop yet.  Grandfather shook his head.  “Every day,” he repeated.
The second week it became even harder, but Grandfather held her to her promise:  “Every day.”  Sometimes she would only remember about the water after she went to bed and would have to get up in the middle of the night and water it in the dark.  But, in the end, Rachel did not miss a single day of watering.
Then, one morning three weeks later, there were two little green leaves that had not been there the night before.  Rachel was completely astonished.  She could not wait to tell her grandfather, certain that he would be as surprised as she was -- but, of course, he wasn’t.  Carefully he explained to his beloved granddaughter that life is everywhere, hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places.
Rachel was delighted. “And all it needs is water, Grandpa?”
Gently, he touched her on the top of her head.  “No, dear Rachel.  All it needs is your faithfulness.”

Faith is the ability to see the potential in the smallest of things and the courage and perseverance to unlock that potential.  Humanity’s dreams of peace, community and justice will be realized, first, in the everyday acts of such goodness of each one of us.  Such is “mustard seed” faith: that, from the smallest and humblest acts of justice, kindness and compassion, the kingdom of God will take root.  
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ILLUSTRATIONS: 

Fr. Jude Botelho:

Today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom reports God’s apparition to King Solomon in a dream at night while the newly appointed King had come to the sanctuary in Gibeon to offer sacrifices. The Lord starts a dialogue with a wide-open proposal to the king: “Ask what I should give you.” What a unique opportunity to get whatever he wants! Solomon does not miss his chance. But his prayer and request is surprising. Solomon starts by praising God for his great love for his father David; he then confesses his unworthiness and inadequacy in governing his people and finally asks for the gift of an understanding heart to discern what is right and wrong. God heard his prayer and granted him his request.

Understanding the other
On their golden anniversary, a couple were kept busy all day with the celebrations and the crowds of relatives and friends who dropped in to congratulate them. So they were grateful when, towards evening, they were able to be alone on the porch, watching the sunset and relaxing after a tiring day. The old man fondly gazed at his wife and said, “Agatha, I am proud of you.” “What was that you said? asked the old lady. “You know I am hard of hearing. Say it louder.” The man repeated, “Agatha,” I said, “I am proud of you.” “That is alright,” she replied with a dismissive gesture, “I am tired of you too.” Alas, we don’t hear, or try to understand what the other is saying. –What would happen today if the leaders of the world had a divinely inspired wise and understanding heart? Wouldn’t it be nice if we were to pray for wisdom and insight to understand the true meaning of our relationships?
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’

In the Sunday Gospel Jesus gives us a wonderful example of God’s generosity. Human beings are always in search of some or the other treasure in life. For some it is wealth, for others it is a good name, and for still others it is a life-giving relationship. All this is done with a view of experiencing a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. Today’s reading proposes three things which one should yearn and long for in life. Matthew compares God’s kingdom to which we are all invited, to a treasure hidden in a field. Someone finds this treasure and sells his possessions in order to acquire that treasure. God’s kingdom is also like a merchant who comes across a pearl of great value and sells everything in order to buy the pearl. Jesus gives a third example: God’s kingdom is like a net cast into the sea, catching fish of every kind. Some are good others are not. Only at end-time will they be separated. Perhaps we could ask, have we found anything that we treasure in our life? Is there something that we value in our faith? Is my faith valuable? Would losing my faith make a difference? We all have experienced days when we are upset and distraught because we have lost something. We cannot function because something is missing in our lives. A wise and discerning person will make wise choices in life so that later on we have no regrets. Like Solomon we need to ask God for the gift of wisdom to help us make life’s choices.

The Cost of Discipleship
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a young Protestant professor who resisted Hitler and his Nazi movement. His book, ‘The cost of Discipleship’ speaks of living for and witnessing to Christ in a difficult political situation. The Nazis executed Bonhoeffer for his faith. Truly his discipleship cost him his life. Since we are talking about gold, the Hindu of June 29 2005, carried the story of a goldsmith’s son, 22 year-old Deeraj Gurunath Revinkar from Belgaum, who left his home on May 24th by cycle and arrived in Srinagar on June 28th. He covered 3,350 kms on cycle to spread the message, “Polio Free, Pollution Free India” What a golden venture! Christianity, as well as other religions, are proud of many missionaries and martyrs who have given their all to go after that pearl of great price or that treasure in the field. After an astounding solo performance capped by a standing ovation, world famous violinist, Fritz Kreisler, was approached by an admirer who said, “I’d sacrifice my whole lifetime to play as beautifully as you do!” Kreisler replied, “I’ve already done that!” Would you give anything less than that?
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’

In his book ‘Life after Death’ Raymond Moody says that when ‘the Being of light’ (God) interviews you after your death, He will ask you two questions. The first, what wisdom have you gained from this life? The second, how have you expanded your capacity to love? Hey! There is a final exam! There are only two questions, and it is a take home test! In the education field there is nobody teaching for this real test! There are very few classes in any school or university called extracting wisdom from your experience or learning how to love unconditionally. Remember we inflict pain on ourselves and also on others when we withhold our love and acceptance. Strive to let people be who they are, believe what they believe, and pursue happiness in their own unique ways. This will remove a lot of stress for yourself, your family and friends. Keep going back to those questions very often: how can I be more loving in this situation? And what wisdom can I learn from this experience?” Your answer to these questions will change your life more than you ever imagined. One of the best things I ever heard about understanding was this: Seek first to understand then to be understood. You know the opposite of understanding is misunderstanding or failure to understand correctly. Failure to understand correctly can ruin our lives.
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’


1.              Sermons.com
 
 I believe we human beings have a perception problem. We often think we have the proper perspective on an issue when in fact we are way off.
 
There's a charming story that Thomas Wheeler, CEO of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, tells on himself: He and his wife were driving along an interstate highway when he noticed that their car was low on gas. Wheeler got off the highway at the next exit and soon found a rundown gas station with just one gas pump. He asked the lone attendant to fill the tank and check the oil; then went for a little walk around the station to stretch his legs.
As he was returning to the car, he noticed that the attendant and his wife were engaged in an animated conversation. The conversation stopped as he paid the attendant. But as he was getting back into the car, he saw the attendant wave and heard him say, "It was great talking to you."
As they drove out of the station, Wheeler asked his wife if she knew the man. She readily admitted she did. They had gone to high school together and had dated steadily for about a year.
"Boy, were you lucky that I came along," bragged Wheeler.
"If you had married him, you'd be the wife of a gas station attendant instead of the wife of a chief executive officer."
"My dear," replied his wife, "if I had married him, he'd be the chief executive officer and you'd be the gas station attendant."
Yes, we often think we have the proper perspective on an issue when in fact we are way off. Jesus understood this propensity for us humans to get it wrong. Especially when it comes to things spiritual. So he told a few parables. He said the kingdom of heaven is like:
1. A Small Seed
2. A Hidden Treasure
3. And a Pearl of Great Price
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 How Does Your Garden Grow? - Matthew 13:31-32; 44-52
 By the end of July the bounty of a backyard summer garden finally starts to really produce. The earlier, "lighter" crops - peas, lettuces, baby carrots - give way to the rich ripe produce of high summer. Tomatoes, cucumbers, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, corn on the cob, string beans, radishes, spinach - all the stuff that makes for great "sides" at every summer barbecue. Backyard farmers revel in their "crops" because every vegetable is grown with TLC. Yet with the cost of plants, containers, potting soils, fertilizers, pest control supplies, not to mention water - every veggie probably costs at least four times as much as its "Mega-Mart" cousin.
 
It does not matter. Back yard gardeners are focused on the entire process, on the whole life-cycle of the various vegetables they are growing. The "bottom line," the "cost" of the crop, is NOT the "bottom line." It is hard for a culture bottoming out on the "bottom line" to get this. For a gardener the ultimate reward is the home grown, home harvested, nurtured-from-a-seedling-to-a-first-course experience. And that is beyond any calculable "bottom line. That event is "priceless."
 
Jesus offered example after example of "the kingdom of God." Our Scripture reading this morning offers a few samples. "The kingdom of heaven is like..." In piling "like" upon "like" Jesus stacked story upon story in showcasing how "priceless" this new possibility was for persons who could grasp its truth. Jesus communicated to the people at the most basic level he could. Hence these "similitudes."
 
 Jesus may have made his way in this world by working with his father Joseph who was a "builder" or "craftsman" (tekton). But in his heart Jesus was a "gardener"...
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The Holy Grail
 In Tennyson's tale of the Holy Grail, a knight searches high and low for that which lasts for eternity and gives ultimate meaning. He comes upon a singing brook, with deep meadows and wonderful fruit trees. But even as he ate the fruit, it turned to dust, for no feeding of the flesh could still his deepest hunger. Riding on, he saw a home, its opened door a promised welcome and in the door there was a beautiful woman, her eyes innocent and kind. Surely the love of a woman and the sweet shelter of home are my heart's desire, reasoned the knight; "But when I touched her, Lo! She too, fell into dust and nothing, and the house became no better than a broken shed." His soul still craving, he traveled on. He found a warrior clad in golden armor. But he also turned to dust. Then he came upon a city that sat upon a hill. Surely civic service and the affection of his fellow men will mean his journey's end. But when he reached the crest, there was neither city, man, nor any voice, so that he cried in grief. "Lo, if I find the Holy Grail itself, and touch it, it will crumble into dust."

Are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows? Are you tired of spinning round and round? Gather up all the broken dreams of your life and at the feet of Jesus, lay them down. Find the pearl of great price.

J. Howard Olds, Faith Breaks, ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc.
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Sowing Tiny Seeds
Nancy Cornice remembers as a child hearing the tip-tap of a cane on the sidewalk. It was an old man "bent from the years " his rough, knotted hand purposefully clutching a cane." But this old man had a peculiar custom as he roamed the streets of this small town. When this gentleman saw a child he would stop, reach into his pocket and give the child a picture of Christ. "He would thrust it into the child's hand and continue on his way, never speaking a word."

What this gentleman did certainly doesn't seem like a big deal. However, this small act of kindness made a world of difference to Nancy. Over 40 years later, she tells us, she still has the picture he gave her. The picture is of Jesus surrounded by a flock of sheep, with a river running through the middle of the picture. On the back of the card in a shaky hand is written, "Psalm 23."

It wasn't until Nancy was an adult that she realized what this man was doing. In his own way he was planting tiny seeds of faith in the children on his street. It worked for Nancy. "His faithful commitment," she says, "helped fashion a stone in the foundation of my own faith."

Whoever would have thought that giving a child a picture of Jesus would eventually lead that child to faith? Whoever would have thought that a tiny, little seed would produce such a big shrub? For that matter whoever would have thought that the Messiah would come from such a small, unlikely town as Nazareth? It is often from small, seemingly inconsequential beginnings that great good emerges.
King Duncan, The Greatest Discovery of All
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A Treasure Hid from the World
"The kingdom of God within us is a treasure indeed, but a treasure hid from the world, and from the most wise and prudent in it. He that finds this treasure, (perhaps when he thought it far from him,) hides it deep in his heart, and gives up all other happiness for it."

John Wesley, Wesley's Notes
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Keeping It Fresh
In our text, the word kainos is used. While it can mean, something recent; in this context, it may also mean "fresh," in contrast to old and stale, as in this Jewish story (A Treasury of Jewish Folklore: Stories, Traditions, Legends, Humor, Wisdom and Folk Songs of the Jewish People Edited by Nathan Ausubel Copyright, 1948, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York).

Usually the orthodox rabbis of Europe boasted distinguished rabbinical genealogies, but Rabbi Yechiel of Ostrowce was an exception. He was the son of a simple baker and he inherited some of the forthright qualities of a man of the people.

Once, when a number of rabbis had gathered at some festivity, each began to boast of his eminent rabbinical ancestors. When Rabbi Yechiel's turn came, he replied gravely, "In my family, I'm the first eminent ancestor."  
His colleagues were shocked by this piece of impudence, but said nothing. Immediately after, the rabbis began to expound Torah. Each one was asked to hold forth on a text culled from the sayings of one of his distinguished rabbinical ancestors.

One after another the rabbis delivered their learned dissertations. At last it came time for Rabbi Yechiel to say something. He arose and said, "My masters, my father was a baker. He taught me that only fresh bread was appetizing and that I must avoid the stale. This can also apply to learning."
And with that Rabbi Yechiel sat down. [p. 51]

A Treasury of Jewish Folklore: Stories, Traditions, Legends, Humor, Wisdom and Folk Songs of the Jewish People Edited by Nathan Ausubel Copyright, 1948, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, quoted by Brian Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes
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Mustard Seed: A Reward
The mustard seed can get stuck under the tip of a fingernail. It is so small that you could grasp it in your palm and not feel it. Yet, from the smallest seed grows a shrub as large as a tree; it is not just tall but is also wide. It was known as the poor man's fence providing shade and protection at no cost. It kept predators out and children in. The mustard plant was thick providing nests for birds who brightened the yard with music and color while keeping the insect population under control.

Comfort, protection, and safety for the family. Available to the poorest of the poor, a reward far greater than the investment.

Jerry Goebel, Mustard Seed
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The Kingdom Belongs to Those with the Guts
As a kid, my favorite book was Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island." I read "Treasure Island" a dozen times. Of course, I identified with Jim, the kid in the story. But thinking back, I really loved the adults in "Treasure Island" because I didn't know any adults like the ones who peopled Treasure Island, grownups who staked all, risked everything, for nothing more than some map scrawled on a piece of paper.

The adults I knew stayed home, kept their heads down, went to work in the morning and then they came back again in the evening. But in "Treasure Island," they risked, they lied if needed, and they had great lives and exciting deaths.

I am haunted at what somebody said at my graduation. "Remember one thing as you go forth from school into life: Even if you win the rat race, remember, you're still a rat."

He was telling the truth. There is this relentless, virtually irresistible tendency of life to transmute from adventure into tame predictability. One day you're an angry, young thing, ready to grab the world by the tail and twist, dying to set the woods on fire. And the next day you're some old guy, slouched in an easy chair, complaining about how the kids are ruining the world. One day you're a kid, excited about the prospect of leaving home, abandoning your parents, and going to college where you can think as you like, and they can't do anything about it. And then the next day you're just a college student, going through the motions, trying to accumulate enough hours to graduate.

Jesus says a kingdom belongs to those with the guts to stake it all on the treasure.

William H. Willimon, Go for the Gold
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Mustard: The Weed
The Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder, who died in 79AD while investigating the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, writes: Mustard grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: But on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once. Pliny describes in great detail the medicinal uses of the mustard plant, but it is important to remember that it was then, as it is now, a weed. It is significant that Jesus chooses a seed that when easily germinated tends to take over where it is not wanted, that can quickly get out of control and that attracts birds into a cultivated area, where they are least desired.

William L. Dols, Looking for the Kingdom of God Too High Up and Too Far Away
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My Dog Saw a Rabbit
There is a story from the Desert Fathers about a young monk who asked one of the old men of the desert 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.
Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com.
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A Precious Gift
There is an ancient legend about the monk who found a precious stone, a precious jewel. A short time later, the monk met a traveler, who said he was hungry and asked the monk if he would share some of his provisions. When the monk opened his bag, the traveler saw the precious stone and, on an impulse, asked the monk if he could have it. Amazingly, the monk gave the traveler the stone.

The traveler departed quickly overjoyed with his new possession. However, a few days later, he came back, searching for the monk. He returned the stone to the monk and made a request, “Give that freedom and ease with which you gave this way.”
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2.              I carried my wife - A divorce was stopped by love – True Treasure

“When I got home that night as my wife served dinner, I held her hand and said, I’ve got something to tell you. She sat down and ate quietly. Again I observed the hurt in her eyes.

Suddenly I didn’t know how to open my mouth. But I had to let her know what I was thinking. I want a divorce. I raised the topic calmly. She didn’t seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me softly, why?

I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away the chopsticks and shouted at me, you are not a man! That night, we didn’t talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find out what had happened to our marriage. But I could hardly give her a satisfactory answer; she had lost my heart to Jane. I didn’t love her anymore. I just pitied her!
With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement which stated that she could own our house, our car, and 30% stake of my company. She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who had spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt sorry for her wasted time, resources and energy but I could not take back what I had said for I loved Jane so dearly. Finally she cried loudly in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her cry was actually a kind of release. The idea of divorce which had obsessed me for several weeks seemed to be firmer and clearer now.

The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing something at the table. I didn’t have supper but went straight to sleep and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day with Jane. When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just did not care so I turned over and was asleep again.

In the morning she presented her divorce conditions: she didn’t want anything from me, but needed a month’s notice before the divorce. She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our son had his exams in a month’s time and she didn’t want to disrupt him with our broken marriage.

This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked me to recall how I had carried her into out bridal room on our wedding day. She requested that every day for the month’s duration I carry her out of our bedroom to the front door ever morning. I thought she was going crazy. Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her odd request.

I told Jane about my wife’s divorce conditions. . She laughed loudly and thought it was absurd. No matter what tricks she applies, she has to face the divorce, she said scornfully.

My wife and I hadn’t had any body contact since my divorce intention was explicitly expressed. So when I carried her out on the first day, we both appeared clumsy. Our son clapped behind us, daddy is holding mommy in his arms. His words brought me a sense of pain. From the bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over ten meters with her in my arms. She closed her eyes and said softly; don’t tell our son about the divorce. I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put her down outside the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove alone to the office.

On the second day, both of us acted much more easily. She leaned on my chest. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that I hadn’t looked at this woman carefully for a long time. I realized she was not young any more. There were fine wrinkles on her face, her hair was graying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute I wondered what I had done to her.

On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy returning. This was the woman who had given ten years of her life to me. On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy was growing again. I didn’t tell Jane about this. It became easier to carry her as the month slipped by. Perhaps the everyday workout made me stronger.

She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a few dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, all my dresses have grown bigger. I suddenly realized that she had grown so thin, that was the reason why I could carry her more easily.

Suddenly it hit me… she had buried so much pain and bitterness in her heart. Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head.

Our son came in at the moment and said, Dad, it’s time to carry mom out. To him, seeing his father carrying his mother out had become an essential part of his life. My wife gestured to our son to come closer and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid I might change my mind at this last minute. I then held her in my arms, walking from the bedroom, through the sitting room, to the hallway. Her hand surrounded my neck softly and naturally. I held her body tightly; it was just like our wedding day.
But her much lighter weight made me sad. On the last day, when I held her in my arms I could hardly move a step. Our son had gone to school. I held her tightly and said, I hadn’t noticed that our life lacked intimacy. I drove to office…. jumped out of the car swiftly without locking the door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind…I walked upstairs. Jane opened the door and I said to her, Sorry, Jane, I do not want the divorce anymore.

She looked at me, astonished, and then touched my forehead. Do you have a fever? She said. I moved her hand off my head. Sorry, Jane, I said, I won’t divorce. My marriage life was boring probably because she and I didn’t value the details of our lives, not because we didn’t love each other anymore. Now I realize that since I carried her into my home on our wedding day I am supposed to hold her until death do us apart. Jane seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then slammed the door and burst into tears. I walked downstairs and drove away. At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my wife. The salesgirl asked me what to write on the card. I smiled and wrote, I’ll carry you out every morning until death do us apart.

That evening I arrived home, flowers in my hands, a smile on my face, I run up stairs, only to find my wife in the bed -dead. My wife had been fighting CANCER for months and I was so busy with Jane to even notice. She knew that she would die soon and she wanted to save me from the whatever negative reaction from our son, in case we push through with the divorce.— At least, in the eyes of our son—- I’m a loving husband….

The small details of your lives are what really matter in a relationship. It is not the mansion, the car, property, the money in the bank. These create an environment conducive for happiness but cannot give happiness in themselves.

So find time to be your spouse’s friend and do those little things for each other that build intimacy. Do have a real happy marriage!

If you don’t share this, nothing will happen to you.

If you do, you just might save a marriage. Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
 
(The author of this story is unknown, but according to Snopes, it has been circulating the internet since May of 2004. The message is timeless.)
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3.              From the Collection of Fr. Tony Kadavil
 
1.              “Star of David Sapphire.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published the story of the original “Star of David Sapphire” in its May 17, 1987 edition. A gemstone collector named Rob Cutshaw owned a little roadside shop outside Andrews, North Carolina. Like many in the trade, he hunted for precious stones, then sold them to collectors or jewelry-makers. Although he was not an expert, he knew enough about valuable rocks to decide which to pick up and sell.
He usually left the appraising of his rocks to the experts. Although he enjoyed
the work,  it  did  not  always  pay  the  bills.  Hence,  occasionally  he  had  to cut firewood and sell it to add to his income. Twenty years ago, while on a "dig," Rob found a shining blue rock he described as "purdy and big." He tried unsuccessfully to sell the specimen, and, according to the story in the journal, kept the rock under his bed or in his closet. At last he sold it for less than $500 to pay his power bill. Now known as "The Star of David Sapphire,” it weighs nearly a pound and is worth three million dollars. In today’s gospel, Jesus challenges us to recognize the real worth of the most valuable gemstone given to mankind, namely Jesus Christ who gives us our eternal salvation.
 
2.              Pink Diamond of Tanzania
Dr. Williamson was a geologist doing some archaeological excavation work in Tanzania. One day he found himself driving in a deserted area, slipping and sliding along a rain-soaked road. Suddenly his four-wheel drive vehicle sank up to its axles in the mud and got stuck. Pulling out his shovel, Dr. Williamson began the unpleasant task of digging the car out of  a  mud  hole.  He  had  been  at  it  for  a  while  when  his  shovel  uncovered something strange. It was a pinkish stone of some sort. Being a geologist and naturally curious about rock formations, he picked it up and wiped away the mud. The more mud he removed, the more excited he became, and he could hardly believe what he saw. When the stone was finally clean, Dr. Williamson was beside himself with joy. He had discovered the diamond which became known as the famous Pink Diamond of Tanzania and is now set in the royal scepter of Great Britain. In today’s two parables, Jesus tells of two other men who unexpectedly discovered treasures.
 
3.              My treasure is apple pie.
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. She 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!”
2) A poor Irish widow had a pearl of great value in her son. Because she was so poor the parish helped the widow with food and rent money. Her son had immigrated to New York and become very successful. One day the pastor asked Mrs. O’Leary if she ever heard from her son. Proudly the widow answered, "Bob writes me every week and always encloses a picture." Thinking he’d see some family photos, the pastor asked to see the pictures. Bringing in her Bible, she showed the pastor a Bible stuffed with pictures of Benjamin Franklin. Those are
$100 bills, in case you missed it! Bob had been trying to help his mother for years and the old woman had failed to realize the treasure she was given every week.
 
4.              Lost & found:   
"Life is unfair. I lost my car keys at a ball game and never found them. I lost my sunglasses at the beach and never found them. I lost my socks in the washing machine and never found them. I lost three pounds on a diet -- I found them and five more."
 
5.              The Cullinan diamond: 
This is a true story - no matter how much like a fairy tale  it  may  sound.  A  totally  unsuspecting  man  literally  stumbled  upon  the world's largest diamond - all 3,106 carats of it. It happened in Premier Mine #2, near Pretoria, South Africa, in early 1905. This amazing stone was then sent in an ordinary cardboard box to England. One hundred and five stones were cut from this diamond, known as the Cullinan diamond. Two of the largest stones which it  produced,  the  530-carat  Star  of  Africa  and  the  317-carat  Cullinan  II,  are mounted on the Scepter with the Cross of the British King/Queen as royal crown jewels. Cullinan I is the second largest polished gem and Culli nan II is the fourth largest polished diamond in the world. [Isaac Asimov, Book of Facts, (New York: Wings Books, 1979), pp. 16-17.] In today’s gospel Jesus compares the kingdom of God with such a treasure.
 
6.              There is a price for relationship
Rabindra Nath Tagore, the mystic poet of India, tells a memorable story from his own life which illustrates the truth of what Jesus teaches in today’s gospel, namely, that there is a price we have to pay in order to be in his kingdom, to keep a relationship with him.  Tagor’s cook and housekeeper did not come to work on time one morning. Like so many professional men of his mind-set, Tagore was utterly helpless when it came to the routine details of the day, getting his clothes together, making his breakfast, tidying up his place. An hour went by, and Tagore was getting angrier by the minute. He thought of all kinds of punishment. Three hours later he no longer thought of punishment. He would discharge the man without any further consideration, get rid of him, turn him out. Finally the man showed up. It was mid-day. Without a word, the servant proceeded with his duties as though nothing had happened. He picked up Tagore’s clothes and set to making breakfast. Then he started cleaning. Tagore watched all of this with mounting rage. Finally he said, “Drop everything! Get out! I can’t stand the sight of you. You are dismissed…fired!” The man, however, continued sweeping, and after another, few minutes, with quiet dignity he said, “My little girl died last night.”
 
7.              Hidden treasure of a bankrupt rancher:
In west Texas, there is a famous oil field known as the Yates Pool. During the depression, this field was a sheep ranch owned by a man named Yates. Yates was not able to make enough money on his ranching operation to pay the principal and interest on his mortgage, so he was in danger of losing his ranch. With little money for clothes or food, his family, like many others, had to live on a government subsidy. Day after day, as he grazed his sheep over those rolling west Texas hills, he was no doubt greatly troubled about how he would be able to pay his bills. Then a crew from an oil company came into the area and told Mr. Yates that there might be oil on this land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a lease. At a little more than a thousand feet, they struck a huge oil reserve, giving eighty thousand barrels a day. In fact, thirty years after the discovery, a government test of one of Mr. Yates' wells showed that it still could produce more than a hundred thousand barrels of oil a day. And Mr. Yates owned it all. The day he had purchased the land, he received the oil and mineral rights. And yet, he had been living  on  relief  -  a  multimillionaire  living  in  poverty.  What  had  been  the problem? He did not know the oil was there. He owned it, but he did not possess it. In today’s gospel Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a treasure hidden in a field.   [James Hewett, How to Live Confidently in a Hostile World (Wheaton, IL: Word Publishing, 1989), p. 177.]
 
8.              Drinkable water, please:
Anthony De Mello tells a story about some people who were on a raft off the coast of Brazil. They were perishing from thirst, for as you know, ocean water is undrinkable. What they did not know, however, was that the water they were floating on was fresh water. A nearby river was coming out into the sea with such force that it went out for a couple of miles, so they had fresh water right there where they were. But they had no idea. "In the same way," says De Mello, "we're surrounded with joy, with happiness, with love of the kingdom of God in our midst. Most people," he concludes, "have no idea." [Anthony De Mello, Awareness (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1992), p. 26, Warner Press]
 
9.              "No price too high."
A story is told of a wealthy socialite who traveled to Europe with several friends. Her husband stayed home and played the stock market. While in Paris she found a fur coat that was the most beautiful she had ever seen. She sent a telegram to her husband that said, "Have found the perfect coat for only $50,000. What do you think?" He responded immediately with a telegram saying, "No, price too high." Imagine his surprise when she returned home with that $50,000 coat. The angry husband said, "Didn't you get my telegram?" "Yes," she said, "and here it is." The husband looked at that telegram which said, without punctuation, "NO PRICE TOO HIGH." He forgot to put a comma after NO. That's the way it is with life in the Kingdom. When through Jesus you catch a glimpse of how wonderful life is in the Kingdom, no price is too high to pay for it.
 
10.           The Legendary "Beale Treasure”:
In  1885,  a  man named J.B Ward began selling a pamphlet which claimed   to contain information about a sizeable treasure trove buried in the present state of Virginia. This wealth allegedly had been  amassed  by  one  Thomas  Jefferson  Beale  and  his  associates,  who  had traveled in the American West between 1817 and 1823.  Beale, it was said, had discovered a vast deposit of gold and silver in a valley "some 250 or 300 miles North of Santa Fe." Beale and his associates, being concerned about theft of their wealth and in need of a secure hiding place, supposedly buried the gold at a site "near Buford’s Tavern" in Bedford county, Virginia. Foreseeing so me type of accident, Beale left coded messages—without a decoding key, which was said to be  held elsewhere by  a  man named Morriss.  Beale then  departed, never to return. By sheer chance one Mr. Ward came across the papers and attempted to decode them. He claimed to have found the key to one document, the cipher being  based  on  the  US  Declaration  of  Independence.  He  worked  on  the remaining  two for many years. Finding himself unable to accomplish the task, he decided to sell copies of the documents, in the hope that someone else might manage to decode the papers and discover the location of the treasure. Since the publication of the papers in 1885, many treasure hunters have attempted to decode the documents, but have had no success whatsoever. In today’s gospel Jesus challenges us to go in search of the most valuable treasure:   namely, the eternal life in the kingdom of heaven.
 
11.           Mitt Romney spent more than $42 million:
It has been reported that, in his race for the Republican nomination for president of the United States, Mitt Romney spent more than 42 million of his own hard-earned dollars. That’s a lot of money. However, when he dropped out, he still had quite a bit of money left in his personal piggy bank. He hadn’t invested everything he owned in his failed attempt for the nomination. We wonder if he regrets spending so much or, perhaps, he regrets he didn’t spend more. How about you? Is there anything in this world for which you would sell everything you own? I can think of only one thing: the life of someone we love. If one of our children were sick and there was a cure that would cost everything we had, even including our own life, most of us would be willing to give it all up without a moment’s thought. We would give everything we own for the well-being of those we love, but that’s about it. Nothing else that I can think of has that big a hold on us. Yet Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is worth everything we have. Our money. Our time. Our energy. Everything. That’s quite a statement. Everything we own. So, what is this kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God?
 
12.           The treasure of a sunken ship:
Some time ago we had a man speak at one of our suppers who is a shareholder in Mel Fisher's enterprise. Mel Fisher is the man who discovered a Spanish ship which had gone down in a hurricane off the Florida Keys centuries ago. Fisher became fascinated with hunting for lost treasure. Through his research he was able to determine about where the ship had gone down. He thought it would take him at least twelve weeks to find it. Twelve weeks turned into twelve years, and still there was no treasure. Finally, after sixteen years he discovered the treasure. It is believed to be worth four hundred million dollars. How would you like to discover some real treasure like the kingdom of God? But the unfortunate thing as Oscar Wilde once wrote is that in modern society, “People know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.”
 
13.           “You will be both glad and sorry."
There is an ancient legend about some men who were on a long journey. They came across a great desert, and rode into a wilderness area. At sundown they came to a river. They got off their horses and knelt down by the river to drink water. Suddenly a voice spoke to them. The voice  said,  "Fill  your  pockets  up  with  pebbles  from  along  the  river.  And tomorrow you will be both glad and sorry." So they did what the voice commanded. They got on their horses and rode away. On through the night they rode. Finally the sun began to peek over the horizon. They stopped and reached into their pockets and there they found diamonds and rubies. They held a treasure in their hands, and they were both glad and sorry. They were glad they had it, but they were sorry because they had not taken more. [T. Cecil Myers, Faith for a Time of Storm (Abingdon Press: New York and Nashville, 1963), p. 91.] The good news for us is we can have all we want of the treasure of His kingdom, all we are willing to take. If you will take that treasure you will learn it is the discovery of a lifetime. 

14.           Which is more valuable, Harry or the deer?
Some friends who went deer-hunting separated into pairs for the day. That night one hunter returned alone, staggering under an eight-point deer. "Where’s Harry?" asked another hunter. "Oh, he fainted a couple of miles up on the trail," Harry’s partner answered. "And you left him lying there all alone and carried the deer back?" "A tough call," said the hunter, "but I figure no one’s going to steal Harry." Our Scripture for this Sunday is about discerning and choosing the right path and course of action at the right time, so that we may fully receive and freely share the love of Christ and so inherit the kingdom of God, a treasure everyone is invited to possess and warned not to lose. L/11