Friday, July 25, 2008

July 27: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

July 27: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: 1 Kings 3:5,7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52

This Sunday Jesus uses three parables to help us discover how we could move from a life without Christ to a life in Christ. In other words, Jesus gives us concrete examples on personal conversion that leads us to possess Christ, who is the treasure of great value. The first two parables are closely related. Jesus uses familiar images and commercial values of his time, which are still valid today. In the first parable, Jesus shows us that once we have discovered the value of the Kingdom, we should sell all we own, in order to possess it. We are challenged to give up everything we value most, in order to be part of this Kingdom. The decisive question for us is whether we are prepared to let go for the sake of possessing Christ fully and his Kingdom. The Kingdom of heaven is much more valuable than anything we possess. That is the treasure that Jesus reveals to us, and there is much wisdom in trying to possess it. In the first reading from the First Book of Kings, Solomon asks for wisdom and discernment. Wisdom is much more than just possessing a lot of things or a long life. It gives someone discernment on what really matters most in life. In the words of St Paul, we are called and justified, the strong and the week, friend and the stranger as me move on our journey to glory, led by God’s grace. Paul tells the Romans how God knew before creation which one of us would respond to His grace through our own free will. He knew beforehand who among us would live our Christian faith in accordance with the teachings of Jesus, shining in Divine love so we may inherit the Kingdom of God.

In the first parable, a person comes across a treasure hidden in a field that does not belong to him. He sells everything he has in order to own the field and hence its buried treasure. The idea obviously is that when one really discovers Jesus everything else becomes secondary. The person finds the treasure as it were accidentally, while digging the field that perhaps belonged to someone else. In the same way, one may encounter Jesus completely unexpectedly, and then make all efforts to secure him. This implies real personal conversion or a transformation of a person. Hence Paul could easily say to the Philippians, “I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8). The second parable is similar. A businessman is looking for fine pearls. He knows it must exist somewhere. When he finds one of great value, he sells everything in order to acquire it. In this second parable, the person is deliberately on the lookout for something special, a pearl of great price. He knows it must exist and he uses all his energies to find it. What is the central message? 1) Just as Solomon instead of possessions and long life asked the Lord for wisdom and discernment to make right judgments in life, we too are challenged to pray for such wisdom in order to know what really matters most in life; 2) Like the person who finds a treasure of great value, we too have discovered Christ and his kingdom. May we like Paul accept the loss of everything in order to live in Christ.

©2008 John M. Mbinda

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