Immaculate Conception and St. Dominic, Stone

 

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17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our Gospel from Matthew today, gives us Jesus finishing His Sermon on the Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Lord’s final teaching of His Sermon is of great importance to us who seek to follow Him and lovingly serve Him. The Lord invites us to make the service of His Kingdom of Love and Inclusion our great priority and guiding principle to inform all we think, say and do.

The Lord gives us three parables: a man finds treasure in a field, a merchant discovers a pearl of great value, and a dragnet is used by fishermen to fish with.

The finding of the treasure: The reaction of the man who finds the treasure is immediate. He doesn’t have to think, he just sees its value and wants to possess it. In order to have the treasure he must buy the field. This may take all he has as he is a labourer without personal property, but whatever the cost, he will sell what little he has, borrow from his friends, whatever he needs to do to buy the field with the treasure. What does this teach us about our attitude to the Kingdom of Heaven? The man is single minded and focused on the treasure. So should we with the Kingdom. We must not have a divided heart, confused values, or be indecisive in how we live. The man is an opportunist. He doesn’t vacillate, he acts. We must be awake, aware, alert to take every opportunity to recognise the Kingdom as it presents to us; in our prayer, in our love, in our concern, compassion and generosity. Every morning we wake, the Kingdom is waiting to be unearthed from our distractions and put into a prominent position for us to focus on and share. It cost the man to buy the field. We have to set aside our desires, our preferences, our will, our plans for the day. So be it – if the Kingdom requires – we will make the necessary sacrifices, we must co-operate with the dictates of Divine Love.

The Merchant finds the pearl of great value: I used to collect stamps as a child. The only issue was that I had acquired, unknown to myself, some stamps of value. These were hidden in amongst all my other stamps. Little gems but unidentified by me. I also had a so called friend and fellow stamp collector called Joe. He looked through my slightly chaotic album and saw immediately my valuable stamps. He went off and returned with several bags of stamps. They were very impressive especially the Russian ones of cosmonauts, topical Island ones with big colour images etc., He offered to trade. I thought how generous of him, to give so many stamps for the two or three he wanted from me. It was much later when I was better informed and less gullible and naive that I twigged I had been rooked. I later found out Joe had become a postman. I suppose it was his love of stamps. The merchant in the parable given by Jesus about the Kingdom of God is an expert. He knows his pearls. Over the years, he has acquired skill, talent, judgement and a discernment of quality. Now in the parable, his years of learning and experience have paid off and he bankrupts himself to possess the pearl. What is the Merchant teaching us? Well, everything is of secondary value compared to the pearl. We too must put the Kingdom of God first and before all else. We cannot hedge our bets. We cannot take what the world offers as treasure and expect the Kingdom to co-exist in an already cluttered heart. We may need to check our spiritual pockets to make sure there is only room for Jesus and His Kingdom. Also, the note the ability acquired over the years which he puts to good use. We have been to Mass, said our prayers, heard the Scriptures, listened to the Wisdom of good and holy people. We have been influenced by the saints we have been fortunate to know. We must use this accumulated skill well in the Kingdom of God entrusted to us.

Finally, we have the dragnet used by the fishermen. The dragnet is exactly what it claims to be. A net that is weighed down to touch the bottom of the lake and dragged forward catching everything in front of it. Our teaching? Our Lord sends us out with a wide inclusive brief. We must not be selective in those we care for, show love to, or respond to in kindness and concern. Our Lord told us: we receive without charge, we must give without charge. Everyone in need is our neighbour. The Good Samaritan did not hesitate to help the injured man who, as a Jew, would shun the Samaritan if he met him on the road. In using his precious ointment and resources, then taking the injured man to the inn on his horse, then offering to make good any extra expense, the Samaritan did great work for the Kingdom of God. He continued on his journey with less resources for himself having cared for the injured man, yet all the richer in God’s blessings. An example of how Jesus wants His followers to travel.

I’m left pondering the Merchant. I can picture him. He sold everything he had to buy the pearl. I mean, everything he owned! There he is: probably staying with friends for he has sold his home, no money for food as he spent every penny he had, maybe just left owning the clothes he is wearing. To the onlooker, his sacrifice seems extreme, ostensibly he has overstretched himself foolishly. But the Merchant is happy. He has the satisfaction that he is in possession of something beautiful, unique, fascinating and of great value particularly from a sense of ownership. Everything else pales into insignificance. Jesus tells us: Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, everything else will be given to you. It’s a sacrifice the Merchant would understand and see as supremely worthwhile. The difference between us and the Merchant is he can’t take it with him, we can. What God offers never fades or wears out – it is ours forever. As life passes, you increasingly realize this enduring gift of God is the most vital thing we can leave in hearts and minds when this life will be over.

God bless, Fr. Gerard X

 

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