Reflections on the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jul 26, 2020

Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - July 26, 2020

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again; and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.’” (Mt 13:44)

On this Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus continues to teach his disciples, and us, about the Kingdom of God by using parables and images that are surprising yet easy to understand. Who among us would not want to find a great treasure or “a pearl beyond great price”? Today, the Gospel, along with the other scriptural passages, encourages us to think and pray about what we treasure in our lives. What is the most valuable thing in our life for which we would give up everything else? Today we hear Jesus tell us that that desired object is – or should be – the kingdom of heaven – an image that is at the heart of his teaching.

The kingdom of God is the fullness of God’s presence and power, and it is also the fullness of life that God desires to give to us. Jesus’ kingdom parables do not tell us what the kingdom will be like in its final manifestation, but we sense the peace, justice, love, and life that Jesus made present in his own life and preaching. The secrets of the kingdom are not taught but revealed in a way – in parables – that challenge us to listen, perceive, understand, and repent. The parables of the treasure and the pearl emphasize the human response to what God is doing. The hidden treasure of God’s activity must be discovered, and like the pearl of the great price, it must be searched for and found. Both parables focus not so much on the efforts of searching, finding, and discovering but on the overwhelming response to the discovery: one wants to sell everything else.

But we can go further. Like the head of the household, we can look at what else is in the storeroom of today’s scriptures and notice the First Reading from the First Book of Kings that is paired with the Gospel parables. In response to God’s promise to grant him whatever he wishes, Solomon asks God for “an understanding heart” – in other words, a heart that will be attentive to God and listen to God in a way that will help him lead God’s people well and discern the difference between right and wrong. Solomon was already showing wisdom by his realization that, on one’s own, no one is capable of leading and caring for God’s people.

Hearing these biblical passages, we want to ask ourselves: What do we treasure most? What would our response be if God invited us to ask for whatever we desired? What matters most to us, especially now in a world filled with health, economic, and social crises? Being able to live our faith, to care for our families, to maintain financial security, to have good health and safety for all those we love, and to know and live in peace and justice with all in our world are most credible and worthwhile desires.

Sacrificing or “selling all” for the sake of the Kingdom means that we treasure God’s Word as it comes to us in the person of His Son and that we hold fast to the good things that endure. It means not desiring more than we need and ensuring that, when appropriate, we help those less fortunate than ourselves. It means living our faith with such conviction that all we meet will be drawn to God’s Kingdom. It means letting God renew in us all the image and likeness of His Son.