Homily for the seventeenth Sunday of the year
Year A - Mt. 13:44-52


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Jesus said: 'The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.


" 'Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.


" 'Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.


" 'Have you understood all this?' They said to him, 'Yes.' And he said to them, 'Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.' "





Homily:


"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."


Today, the Lord Jesus, continuing with his teaching, tells us three parables about the kingdom of heaven: he wants to make us understand the point of our life on earth, which is to get us to Heaven at any cost! If we are here, and if we are, moreover, with such and such a person and not with someone else, it is because our eternal salvation depends upon it!


The first parable is that of the field containing a treasure, which underlines the personal character of salvation in Jesus Christ. That is, if we want to go to Heaven and avoid hell, it all depends on us and us alone, with the grace of God. We should not rely on our neighbor to lead us to Heaven: our neighbor does not know what is in us, and we do not know what is in him. There is no need to enter into philosophical speculations on this: this is how the human person is made.


So, he who finds a treasure in a field wants absolutely no one else to know of the existence of that treasure: this knowledge must remain his own, and he can share it with no one. This is why, once he finds the treasure, he buries it again in the field. He wants this treasure for himself alone, not through selfishness or lack of charity, but rather because this treasure is for him and him alone. And he knows this.


But above all, he knows very well that if someone else were to know of the existence of the treasure, he would run the risk of not being able to buy the field and thus not entering into possession of the treasure: every man and woman who, while relying on the grace of God, believes that he or she can count on someone else to help them to go to Heaven would risk compromising his or her salvation at any moment! So let us learn well the message of Jesus: salvation is a personal affair!


This clearly does not mean that we should not or cannot work for the eternal salvation of others, above all those close to us. In fact, we must do so! But only if we ourselves do everything we need to assure our own salvation, with the help of the grace of God...


"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it."


This second parable, along with the first one, deals with the purchase of something, a field or a pearl, which signifies the kingdom of Heaven. Now, we cannot buy the kingdom of Heaven: it has no price, for it is absolutely free! It is only by the grace of God that we are allowed to enter... So why does Jesus speak in these two parables of buying something that signifies the kingdom?


This second parable seems to provide an explanation. Indeed, Jesus says that the person in question here is a "merchant": "The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls." Now, a merchant is not someone who buys at the highest price in order to sell at a loss what he had just bought so dearly. No. A merchant is, on the contrary, someone who bargains, someone who always tries to buy low in order to sell high later on.


So what Jesus wants us to understand is that the kingdom of Heaven, if it is merited - and we must do all we can to merit it - is first and foremost a gift, a present, a grace offered to he who will show himself to be skillful in trade, but who cannot pay a high price, for he is poor, poor with the spiritual poverty that merits the possession of the kingdom of Heaven. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!" (Mt. 5:3)


"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth."


The third parable makes use of a well-known subject: that of fishermen and fish. Several of Jesus' disciples were fishermen, and notably Peter, to whom Jesus said, "Henceforth you will be catching men." (Lk. 5:10) So the meaning is clear: the fish of every kind in the sea are all men, whether good or bad. But, while they are in the sea, fish are neither good nor bad: it is only at the end of the world that the sorting is done, when the net is drawn onto the shore...


We all live with such and such a neighbor. But who is this neighbor? Is he a good or a bad fish? And what are we? Good or bad? No one knows... Except through a special grace of God, no one knows whether or not he is worthy of Heaven: no man or woman, until the hour of death and of the last judgement, knows if he or she is worthy of going to heaven... That's how it is. And this is very good for keeping us humble and dependent on God!


However, hope, holy hope, allows us to abandon ourselves to the mercy of God and to expect that the Lord will lavish upon us his all-powerful Love that saves and sanctifies those who believe in Him! May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who never ceased to believe and hope in the Mercy of God, help us to advance along the Way that leads us to the House of the Father, in the Holy Spirit! Amen!




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