Sunday July 26, 2020 The 17th Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle A)
The tie in between today’s readings: Heart and Treasure
I want to take a different slant on today’s readings and look at them through the lens of worth vs. value. For now, let’s say that worth is what you can do with something to get what you want. A thing’s objective utility is all that matters to you, like trading stocks for a profit. You have a connection to the things you value. Its preciousness is subjective and therefore divorced from the market, if in fact, you would ever even consider selling it at all. Value is why people pay high prices to collect old coins, vintage cars, and little cardboard squares with athletes’ pictures on them. With that in mind, let’s start with today’s gospel in Matthew 13:44-52.
We start in verse 44 with the parable of the Hidden Treasure. Here’s a working stiff out plowing the lower forty of some landowner’s field. Suddenly, bang! He hits something. To his amazement, it’s a treasure chest! A little background, in those days people would bury their wealth in fields or stash it under rocks or trees to hide it from marauders or an invading army. So, when the owner sells the field, we know that the treasure must have belonged to some former holder of the property. Bottom line, our man did not steal the treasure, but I digress. The unspoken thrust of the parable occurs when the man takes possession of the field, extracts the chest, and never returns. Some people go to church for what they can get out of it. If it can make them feel good, teach good values, or get them into heaven, then church is worth something. When they can’t see any reward for their effort, they’ll abandon it. In contrast, Jesus tells us about the Pearl of Great Price in verse 45-46. This merchant liquidates everything he has for the pearl’s sake alone. Once he owns it, he’ll never sell it or tire of possessing it. He’s like the person who values the Lord and His Church. It’s not about what he can get out of it; it’s about his relationship with God! Verses 47 to 50 talk about the dragnet at the end of time where the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous. I wonder which of our two guys will end up where? Finally, we end with bringing out our treasures old and new in verse 52. God is infinite and in spending time with Him we not only gain traditional understanding, but often pick up a fresh new insight. Either way, we are supposed to give away whatever treasures that God sends our way. The blessing comes from being His generous conduit as we’ll see in our reading in 1 Kings 3:5-12.
Hey, what would you do if the Lord offered to write you a blank check? Wisdom wouldn’t be at the top of my list. In verse 11, God ticks off a few of the top ten self-serving requests that He gets on the prayer line every day. We can see why “yes” answers are rare. Want a long life? What will you do with it? Looking for riches? You can’t take it with you. Want your enemy to get what’s coming? There’ll always be another popping up, besides, where’s the love? No, Solomon recognized the awesome responsibility that he inherited and in humility confessed that he was in over his head. He asked for wisdom so, as king, he could benefit the nation. It was a selfless request that showed that he valued his father, David’s legacy, along with a personal relationship with God for him to be successful. This pleased the Lord. He not only gave Solomon wisdom on an epic scale, but threw in the other stuff: riches, long life, and fame. Work with God, share His treasures, be a blessing, and He will give you more than you ask or think.
Our reading in Psalm 119 gives us the personal perspective of someone who values the Lord. This guy understands from his Catechism that his purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God in this world. He is devoted to His word, lives the commandments, and is a witness to his neighbors. He is in love with God, even though he has not seen Him. If he had the only Bible in the world, he wouldn’t give it up for all the gold in Ft. Knox. Their relationship runs deep! Even when things get tough, he knows that all things work together for good, as it says in today’s epistle to the Romans. He trusts that his Father in heaven is using adversity as well as blessing to form Jesus into his life. His eyes of faith see beyond this physical world to the glory of heaven where the real action is. That’s where he has set his heart! That’s where his treasure lies!
So, jettison worthless religion that only seeks after the Lord for the blessings that can be obtained or the punishment that can be avoided. We are our heavenly Father’s treasure here on earth and the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8, Deuteronomy 7:6, Exodus 19:5). He loves us. Jesus left His throne in heaven to die for us. Having done that, wouldn’t He give us everything that we need for this life and the next? Our riches in Christ surpass any lottery. Our position in God’s family is more enviable than being any rich man’s kid. Let us value Him. Seek Him. Love Him. Live for Him. Use the talents that He has given us for His glory (Matthew 25:14-30). Let us focus on the true treasures in life. Having forgiveness through Christ…peace. Living according to God’s will…blessing. Meeting Him and being called a good and faithful servant…priceless!