Gospel reflection for July 30, 2023, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Continuing to read through the Kingdom of Heaven parables, Jesus makes a dramatic shift from the growth of the Kingdom to its value. The Kingdom is likened to a treasure buried in a field and to a found pearl of great value. This shaft takes us to a deeper understanding of the parables. Jesus calls us to invest in the Kingdom, to go “all-in” as we discover its richness and beauty. Our relationship, then, with the Kingdom is not a passive one -- we don’t just allow it to happen as we do with so many other things in our lives -- we need to carefully engage in the life and work of the kingdom so that we might reap its rewards.
The discovery of the Kingdom of Heaven is itself the reward. These parables are focused to elicit our attention to the Kingdom itself. There is no consideration here of the challenges, the potential losses and struggles that are required of a disciple of Jesus. Jesus instead wants his disciples to know that whatever the cost is insignificant as compared to the reward to come.
What seems of importance here is the search. We are called to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, to be accepting of the Kingdom, and to earnestly search for the kingdom in our own lives.
Those who heard these parables knew well the imagery Jesus was using. When one discovered a hidden treasure in a field that they owned, the treasure belonged to them, not to the previous owner. As there was little protection for one’s valuables in Roman occupied Judea, burying valuable treasures was not uncommon. In a dispute over a discovered treasure the Jewish officials generally ruled in favor of the finder. Hence, to find the Kingdom was itself the promised reward.
While there is joy in discovery, the Kingdom ultimately belongs to God, there remains a day of judgment. So the “day of parables” take on a distinctive eschatological tone as we move through them.
The Day of Judgment is a time of separation. Here Jesus speaks of separating the wheat -- that which is desired -- from the weeds that grow along with the wheat, intertwining with its root system. Likewise, he references separating the good fish -- that which could be eaten -- from the bad fish -- that which was forbidden in the Mosaic Law.
The weeds and the wheat grow together and are harvested together. The clean and unclean fish swim together and are ensnared together. Yet, there is a clear difference between that which is good and that which is not to be kept.
There is much to be said from these parables about the authenticity of seeking the Kingdom of Heaven. While the discovery seems to be greater focus, it is the excitement of the discovery that lures us into seeking,
It is clear that there is some active participation at work. A man digs through a field to see if there is a treasure there. Another man actively searches for an oyster with a pearl. Neither of them expected what we might see as good fortune to simply come to them -- they desired and they actively sought it out.
So, it should be for us. We know of the promise of the Kingdom -- the allure of eternal life with our Heavenly Father. It is not enough to know, we have to also seek the kingdom. We do this through a life of faithfulness -- observing the commandments and seeking God’s will for our lives. We invest of ourselves -- our time, talents, and our treasure in order to win the prize of victory. We cannot merit salvation, nor does it come to us as a guarantee. It is God’s gift to us -- but he gives us the desire to seek that gift and to want to receive that gift, that we are willing to invest all we can imagine in order to receive it.
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.