Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary time – Year A

by Fr N. Vilakati

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The ultimate treasure is non-other than God Himself.

Once more on the 17th Sunday, ordinary time, we are called to go out, look out for the greatest of the treasures one could ever find. Most of us go for those treasures that could be physically or materially perceptible. Probably someday, we ought to pose questions to ourselves, is everything valuable a physical reality or can there be something more good than that which I see, that which brings me closer to God, and brings solace to my heart. In the gospel, a question arises, as to what is it that one treasures the most or how you keep it from being lost or stolen. From the reading we hear that the man went in his joy to sell everything. He sold everything because he had found a treasure worth possessing above all else he had. He did not, however, had enough to buy the treasure. Fortunately, he only needed enough to buy the field. In a similar fashion, God offers his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy as incomparable treasure at a price we can afford! We can’t pay the full price for the life which God gives us; but when we exchange our life for the life which God offers, we receive a treasure beyond compare.

And so it is so possible to obtain this greatest possible treasure. The pearl of great price as in the ancient world came to represent a supremely valuable entity. And so in discovering God’s kingdom,it is like stumbling across hidden treasure or finding the one pearl of great price. When we discover the kingdom of God we receive the greatest possible treasure, the Lord himself. We need to sell all that we have to obtain this incomparable treasure beyond our friend, job, our style of life, or what I do with my free time. This treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. It set my heart and yours on for the highest treasure. This is in reference to the kingdom of God in all its aspects. But in a special way, the Lord himself is the treasure we seek. If the Almighty is your gold and your precious silver, then you will delight yourself in the Almighty. Jesus this Sunday challenges us that we adopt the Lord to be our treasure and delight of our hearts. He challenges us to be at the right place and at the right time. One of this places is within the Church itself.

From what the Lord talks of the greatest catch, it shows that through the Church, God draws us into the Kingdom. He refines us to become valuables which one admires forever, in this eternal kingdom. The story of the dragnet and a great catch of fish tell us about God’s kingdom, in the sense that like a dragnet that catches every kind of fish in the sea, so the Church acts as God’s instrument for gathering in all who will come. Just as the dragnet does not or cannot discriminate, so the Church does not discriminate between the good and the bad, the useless and the useful. God’s kingdom is open to all who will accept and believe. Priests sometimes inviting penitents to confession, they always remind us that the Church is a hospital for sinners. There is no discrimination in the Church for it is incapable of such. But at the beatific Vision if we have failed to reform by wilfully doing so, there will come a time of separation, when the angels will send the good and the bad to their respective destinations. The Church’s task is to gather all who wish to come. God, in the end, as a judge will give the good (those who accept and follow Christ) and the bad (those who refuse Christ) the reward they deserve. God offers the treasure of His Kingdom to all who believe in Christ. We need to hunger for God and for His Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy.

For us to attain eternity, we need to train ourselves to perceive the treasure which is the most valuable of all. Otherwise we may find ourselves like when the Lord having shared these parables still confused. We hear that when Jesus had finished speaking about his parables, he turned to his disciples and asked them, “Have you understood all this?” Maybe this is an opportune time for you and me, to ask during this pandemic, which is as confusing as the “parables” spoken 2000 years ago. God may be speaking to us, and saying true, the self is gold when you say I will protect only myself. But wait a minute, what about your neighbour, those people who have contracted the virus or those who have to bury them if they die? Don’t you think in those people afflicted and attacked by the Covid 19 disease; in them you could retrieve not just the gold in you but a diamond which in our lifetime is more valuable? If Jesus were to pose to us the same question today, would we say we have understood the dilemma and conundrum which has affected us. Do we want to understand the meaning and significance of the parables for our daily lives? If so, probably let us reflect and think through what the Lord is saying to us through his instruction. May we not forget to seek assistance from the Holy Spirit to be our guide and teacher to help us to grow in understanding God’s word as shown in this Sundays readings.

Everything valuable is centred around him. Prayer too makes one to retrieve and be filled with Joy that you at last found the greatest of them pearls. Quietly, say this prayer, for you and me:

“Lord Jesus, may your word take deep root in my heart and transform my way of thinking, discerning, and acting. May your Spirit open my ears to hear and understand the word of God in the Scriptures that I may revere and treasure both the Old and the New Testaments which God has prepared for all who desire to enter his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. Help me to be a diligent student and faithful disciple of your word.”

I can feel that indeed this Sunday, you have eventually found out that the ultimate treasure is non-other than God Himself.