17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, SURPRISED BY JOY

“The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found … like a merchant looking for fine pearls … like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds.”

Suppose as you kneel down to offer your night prayers to God tonight, God suddenly appears to you in the privacy of your room and addresses those words He spoke to Solomon in the First Reading of this Mass: “Ask for whatsoever you want.” What would you ask for? I am sure there could be as many answers as there are many of us here. But perhaps only a couple, if any would ask for the gift of understanding, discernment and wisdom as Solomon did. Often as read and reflect on this text I realise how wise Solomon was already to have made this request. For the basis of every good life is discernment – it guides our choices, moderates our thoughts, limits our excesses, disciplines the mind and makes us prudent and enables us to use wisely the things of this life for the benefit of the things yet to come. What is a king without discernment? And show me a man who is poor and I will show you someone who has no gift of discernment. In two of the parables of the Kingdom of Heaven we encounter two characters who were “surprised by joy” at their discoveries of the treasure and the fine pearls. They both demonstrated such high and unmistakable level of discernment that being aware of the values of their discoveries they “sell everything he owns and buys it.” In this respect, both the man who found the treasure hidden in the field and the merchant looking for fine pearls are the same. The striking point in these similar parables is that the Kingdom of Heaven is worth sacrificing anything and everything a man owns to possess.

In the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, it is suggestive that the man found it in the course of his carrying out his daily task. Yes, he stumbled on it, but he did so while he was going about his daily business. Do we realise that God could be found even in our small daily tasks? God is not to be found only in Churches and some sacred places: God is everywhere! Our sense of sincerity, commitment and diligence to our duty, no matter how humble could bring us closer to God and help us discover Him therein. St. Lawrence spent most of his time in the monastery kitchen washing dishes and he said: “I felt Jesus as close to me in the kitchen as ever I did at the Blessed Sacrament.”

When we reflect on the Parable of the Pearls, we clearly perceive that there were other pearls but only this one was “of great value.” In life many things are of value, in fact almost everything has a value; but which do we consider to be “of great value”? How do we react after we have found it?

While the man who found the treasure in the first parable stumbled on it, the merchant in this parable was out in search of good pearls. He spent his lifetime looking for pearls of great value. The critical point in these parables is that whether the discovery was by a stroke of chance or good luck; or a fruit of lifetime search, what matters is how they responded to it – each “sells everything he owns and buys it.” What is worth more than the Kingdom of Heaven in our lives?

The Parable of the Dragnet refers to the Church as a representation of the Kingdom of God on earth. It could be interpreted to mean that the Church, like the dragnet, should not discriminate but should be open to all – the wheat and the weed should be allowed to grow together in the Church. We are called to be open and accommodating to all without judging them. This is the inclusive idea of the Church, which as the Body of Christ must accommodate all. The second lesson here is the certainty of the Day of Separation, The Day of Judgement, when The Master will come to separate the good from the bad fish, the wheat from the weed and the sheep from the goat. Are you ready for that day?

May God grant us the grace to be able to do His Will in loving one another. Amen.