Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A
Matthew 13: 44 – 52
Oh Lord, open my lips.
Oh Lord, open my mind.
God, come to my aid.
Oh Lord, make haste to help me.
At the beginning and end of Chapter Three we read, “He told them many things in parables. ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow.’ ‘Let anyone with ears, listen.’ (13: 3; 43)
Parables, are stories and we should read them as such. If a story is really good we will get involved with the characters, their joy and sorrow, their fears and triumphs. When this happens we are using our imagination. We put ourselves in the place of the characters. Their story becomes our story, and then we must ‘Listen’. We keep our minds and hearts open to new insights. These will come to us as we read some commentary. More importantly Jesus will speak to us in our prayer.
Our text opens with three parables (44 – 48) and then the writer asks a question:
“51Have you understood this?” They said “Yes”. I am very pleased that the disciples answered so positively. My own reply was, “No!! There is much here that I cannot make sense of.” Let us use our imagination. Let us search for and be open to finding something new. The Word of God is alive and active and we can expect God to speak to each of us in a unique way.
What is this kingdom of ‘heaven’? We have already learned that Matthew, a Jew, could not write down the name of ‘God’ so he uses ‘heaven’ in place of ‘God’. The kingdom of God is a biblical expression which means, the way things would be here on earth if God was fully in charge. Sometimes we think that it is all up to us and those around us. Not so! God is also at work .
How did the treasure get buried in the field? As an invading army approached, the fleeing population would bury their precious possessions in the hope that one day they would return to reclaim them. Mostly they never came back and so new owners moved in. The person in the parable was just lucky. However he knew a good thing when he saw it.
One way to interpret the parables of the treasure and the pearl of great price is to see it illustrating our search for a deep faith and relationship with God. This is good. I would like to invite you to open yourselves to another understanding. Suppose, you are the “Pearl of Great Price” that is so valuable, God is prepared to sell everything he owns to purchase you? How do you feel when you realize that God values you that much? Our story gives a very different image of God to the stern judge or policeman God many of us believe in.
We will be well advised to read the third parable once more.
47Again the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. 48When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore, then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use.
The key to this parable is to see it in terms of good and evil. Take a look at yourself. If you are honest you will find much in your life that is wonderfully GOOD. It is also true that all of us have shortcomings and we are going to struggle with them all our lives. Imagine the fisherman throwing the broken bottles and empty beer cans back into the water and saving the good fish. This is the way God acts in our lives. Little by little our shortcomings will disappear as God brings us to resemble Him as his daughters and sons. “You are my beloved son / daughter.”
When we sin God really gets very angry with us because of the harm that we do ourselves and to others. “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do to me,” and this includes yourself.
All his life Jesus was criticized for the company he kept, tax collectors and sinners. There is no way that he has changed. He is still determined that all of us will have eternal life. “… it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Mt 18: 14)
Our reading closes with, “Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.” This could be a self portrait of Matthew. On the other hand we are also called to bring others to a truer understanding of God through the Scriptures.