Gospel Text: Matthew 13:44-52
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.
“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.
Introduction to the Celebration
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.
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.
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.
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 naïve 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.
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.
Give thanks to God for what brings deep joy in life.
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.
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.
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.
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’
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.
2. A Hidden Treasure
3. And a Pearl of Great Price
The Holy Grail
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.
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.
John Wesley, Wesley's Notes
Keeping It Fresh
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."
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
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
The Kingdom Belongs to Those with the Guts
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
Mustard: The Weed
William L. Dols, Looking for the Kingdom of God Too High Up and Too Far Away
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.”
“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!
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.
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.