July 26th, 2020: Homily- Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 13, 44-52) Jesus shares with us three parables; a buried treasure , a pearl of great price and the dragnet. When we talk about parables, Biblical scholars would say that it talks about the Kingdom of God.

So what does the Kingdom all about? In the Old Testament, Kingdom of God refers to the provident and protective kingship of God over the chosen people. The fruit of this Kingdom is a whole moral order of peace, justice and mercy.

In the New Testament, Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God is near at hand (Matt 4: 17). He called, therefore, for conversion and repentance and for watchfulness. He also said that the Kingdom of God was for sinners and outcasts, the poor and the despised too. And entrance into the Kingdom will be determined by our response to the neighbor in need.

For the Early Christians like St. Paul and St. Luke proclaimed Christ as the personification of the Kingdom. According to St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great, they identified the Kingdom of God with the Church;the Church is the Kingdom. So, we must enter and be members of this kingdom.

But our modern understanding of God’s Kingdom is this:
First, it is God’s reign here on earth whereby He brings humanity and the world the blessings of salvation.

Second, it is the total liberation of mankind involving all dimensions of man (Socio-Cultural, religious, economical, political and ecological). It is mankind’s final destiny where God shall be all in all, where peace, love, truth and justice reside.

Third, it is God’s eternal rule where love reigns, the supreme dominion of the Father over all things and mankind’s complete ultimate happiness.

For me, I may say where God is there is his Kingdom. That’s why when you feel and experience God’s presence, there you are in his Kingdom. And borrowing the definition of the teachings of the Church; the Kingdom of God, is to accept and to do God’s will. Whenever and wherever we find the promotion of the values of God’s Kingdom: truth, justice, love and peace are experienced. If these values rule people’s lives, it means that God’s Kingdom is reigning in their hearts, in their community and in society.

But try to look around us, especially this time of pandemic, where we experience hardships, deprived of our time of socialization, can we say that God’s Kingdom reigns in the hearts and minds of people? Can we say we are happy in this time of challenge in our life?

In the gospel, Jesus continues teaching the “Kingdom of Heaven” using parables. Most of the time, we are chasing false treasures such as money, status or pleasure. Often, we are locked into regrets over the past, or focused too much on the future. As a result, the enriching present passes us by, and the treasure is never discovered.

Jesus mentioned that the one who found the treasure and the pearl, ‘sell everything.’ “Sell everything” are only two words, easy to say but practically, very difficult to do because whatever angles we look at it, they mean, dying or giving up. Dying to myself, to my comfortable living, to my desire for excessive praise or honor, to everything that centers my ego and even a bit of my time, talent and treasure to my fellowmen. If we want this precious thing called pearl which is the Kingdom of God, we should make a choice that lead us to great happiness. St. Augustine said: “Indeed man wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible.

This ‘sell everything‘ could mean also being ready to sacrifice whatever it takes to win the happiness in the Kingdom of God. St. Francis of Assisi is the most prominent example of selling everything. He literally abandoned all the earthly possessions and even the Lord asked him to become a beggar and this gave him joy in doing so.

Again, we have to make choices. The Lord is telling us that our giving up, our service should be characterized by the spirit of joy. It should animate us, Christians even if it entails giving up once treasure, time, talent.

Thus, the Bible reminds us that we will find the pearl of great value and the hidden treasure only in God. Let us always remember that Heaven is within the reach of all of us who try to do the will of God, following the ordinary vocations of life and enjoying this world’s joys and pleasures within the structure of God’s Commandments and teachings. When we do this, we are already living in the Kingdom of Heaven while we are still on earth. We only need to keep safe the treasure of our personal relationship with Jesus by accepting him every day as our God and Savior, by allowing him to have total control over our lives through our loving obedience to his will.

It is said that what really matters in this life is not what we carry in our hands, but rather what we carry in our hearts. Let us look into our hearts today and find not the insufficiency and hardship in life but loads of friendships and love, values and principles, goodness and, most of all, God.

Jesus loved life and wanted His followers to love it as well. Where there is love, there is happiness.

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