Finding God’s Kingdom

7.30.17 Sun. wk 17 – O.T. – A

1st Reading 1st Kings 3: 5, 7 – 12
Romans 8: 28 – 30 Gospel – Matt 13: 44 – 52

Please refer to your own Bible for the Scripture readings.

Homily by Fr. Mike Murphy

What do buried treasure and fine pearls have in common? Well, the people of the parables don’t seem to have anything in common. The man who was in the field was probably a day laborer, probably an itinerant worker, going from one farm to another trying to earn a living. Whereas the merchant, probably middle-class, was looking for the treasure, he was always looking out for the best and perfect gems and pearls to enhance his business.

†Jesus tells these two parables to teach us about the Kingdom of God. First: †Jesus tells us that the
Kingdom of God is like a buried treasure. Now finding treasure in open fields at the time of †Jesus was a very common experience. Countries and armies were constantly in battle over this area in the Near East, just as they are today. And as a foreign army approached, people would hide their valuables, put them in hidden places, and once the battle was over, they hoped to return, dig up their valuables and get on with their lives. So people were always finding treasure buried in fields because the owners never got back to dig them up.

An example of that is the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’. Now they were found in the caves above the Dead Sea, put there by the Essene Community when the Romans were marching in 135 (BC) from Jerusalem to Masada to destroy the remnants of the revolt. At the time, the Essene Community took all these very important scrolls, these copies of the Scriptures that they had been writing for centuries and they put them in clay pots, hiding them in these caves scattered throughout the hills. Well, we know the Romans wiped out the Essenes and those scrolls were forgotten until 1948 when a group of Bedouin shepherd boys were throwing rocks into these caves. When
one of them heard a clink – clack, they went up into the caves and found all these scrolls. Then the archaeologists went into the area and found hundreds, hundreds of these scrolls that had been forgotten; just like the man who found the buried treasure in the field that someone had forgotten about. It is just amazing!

Now discovered treasure, at the time of †Jesus, was so common that special Rabbinic Laws were passed to govern found treasure. The Law stated that found treasure belonged to the person who owned the field, not the person who found the treasure. So, what does the man do when he finds a buried treasure? He reburies it, he doesn’t tell anybody where it is, he goes out and sells everything that he has and buys the field. Then he walks out into his field and says: “Oh, my, I found a treasure”. (a very smart guy! ) So, legally now, the treasure is his.

If the Kingdom of God is that valuable to us, are we willing to sell everything we have to possess the Kingdom, as the man had sold everything he owned to buy the field with its treasure?

†Jesus also tells us: “The Kingdom of God is like finding a fine pearl”. Now the merchant recognized this ‘pearl among pearls’. He knew that it was the most valuable pearl that he had ever seen. So he was willing to get rid of everything he ever had, all his other gems, his entire business, sell it all, to have that pearl of great price. And that’s what he did. What †Jesus asks us is: “Are we willing to change our lifestyle, to get rid of everything we are comfortable with, to embrace the Kingdom of God?”

These two parables teach us four lessons about the Kingdom of God. The first lesson is – ‘The value of the Kingdom is not apparent to the untrained eye.’ The treasure hunter and the merchant have special insights; they knew what they were looking for, and they knew when they had found something very special. They knew the value of their discovery.

If we are to be true disciples of †Jesus, we must recognize the value of the Kingdom of God; that it is worth the effort. We must be ‘intentional’ about seeking it and not let anything prevent us from being part of God’s Kingdom. The second lesson we learn is – ‘The Kingdom of God requires that we look for it.’ It takes effort to discover the Kingdom of God. Like the merchant, the disciple of †Jesus is always looking for that pearl of great price, that place where I can encounter God’s Kingdom. †Jesus describes the Kingdom as something extraordinary, it is hidden in plain sight, but because it is extraordinary, not everybody sees it.

How many of you have seen the Kingdom of God in your lifetime? (Don’t raise your hands all at once.) Truly, the Kingdom of God can be found everywhere. After all – didn’t †Jesus say: “Behold – the Kingdom of God is among you – it is in your midst!” (Luke 17:21) If we believe in the words of Scripture: “That God is love” (1 John 4:8) then every expression of love – is the Kingdom of God. When you visit a sick person, when you share your blessings with someone in need, when you take time to listen to a troubled friend, to your spouse, or to a stranger and when you show mercy toward someone who has hurt you (even if they haven’t asked you for forgiveness).

Therefore, with every expression of love and mercy and compassion, you have touched the Kingdom of God. That’s how common it is, but we have to search it out, we have to be looking for it. Again, be ‘intentional’ about showing acts of mercy and love and compassion. Be like the man in the field and the pearl merchant, you must be willing to sacrifice all for the sake of the Kingdom.

In the third lesson we learn that possessing the Kingdom of God ‘requires courage.’ The man in the field and the merchant were prepared to take significant risks to possess the treasure and the pearl. They were willing to take financial risks, to get rid of everything in order to possess those treasures. To them, the risk was worth it.

The disciple of †Jesus is not afraid to put all at risk in order to be part of the Kingdom of God. The disciple of †Jesus is indifferent to everything for the sake of the Kingdom. It doesn’t matter whether I’m in good health or poor health, I give all of myself for the Glory of God. I am indifferent about what people may think of me, or say about me, it doesn’t matter. Being rich or being poor doesn’t matter, either. The Kingdom of God is worth losing everything; it is worth it all.

Finally, the fourth lesson we learn about the Kingdom of God is – ‘Those who are willing to sacrifice for the Kingdom see a future benefit.’ They know that something good is going to come out of it. They possess hope for the future and that brings them joy in the present moment. Many people are willing to sacrifice for some worldly benefit, for power, possessions or to be popular. They will sacrifice anything for those benefits.

But, the disciple of †Jesus is willing to sacrifice everything to be part of the Kingdom of God now; joyfully accepting its fullness in the future. St. Paul says: “It is the already and the not yet.” The Kingdom is already here, it is in our midst, it is just not complete yet, and the disciple says: “I am willing to do whatever it takes”. To anticipate that – I experience a taste of the Kingdom now, knowing that I’m going to receive its fullness in the future. There are hardships that we endure today for intimacy and union with Christ, but they are temporary, while the rewards will last for eternity.

Once the wealth of the Kingdom is explored, and once its richness has been savored, its many opportunities open up and nothing the world offers will ever match it. Once you have had a true taste of the Kingdom of God nothing will ever satisfy it. The search for the treasure, this pearl of great price, begins with love and self-gift; by removing self from self.

Many of you may have read the novel: “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson, but do any of you remember what “The secret of the garden” was? Now the children in the story (Mary and Colin) were very unhappy. They were always complaining as they sat around all day long thinking only about themselves and what they could or couldn’t do. Whereas the other characters, Dickon and Mrs. Sowerby, were always happy people, they were busy taking care of the little Sowerbys. They were giving of themselves, always finding additional ways to love others. Happiness filled their lives. The secret of the garden was to think less of oneself, and more about others. That was the secret the children discovered in the garden.

So be alert. Look for God’s Kingdom in your midst and you will purchase ‘that field.’ You will purchase that ‘pearl of great price’ with every act of love toward God and neighbor; by every act of self-gift, by giving of oneself to others. It is worth it! It is worth it all!

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.