17th Sunday Ordinary Time (Year A)

Yet again, our Gospel passage from St. Matthew recounts the parables of Jesus concerning the ‘Kingdom of heaven’; this week, we hear Jesus comparing the kingdom to a field with a great treasure concealed in it, or a pearl of tremendous value. Those who discover this treasure or find this pearl ‘sell everything they had’ to buy the field or the pearl.

Jesus clearly tells us throughout the gospels that the Kingdom of heaven is not just a far off place that we are able to enter after we pass from this life. If we focus solely on that, then it is easy to slip into the mindset that God too is far off and impossible to encounter and live with on this side of the veil.

God’s kingdom begins here and now, in this life. God, the Creator and Lord of all is always present to His creation. Quite often it is His creatures that are not present to Him. This becomes quite evident when we see the horrible suffering inflicted on Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria; when we witness the fighting and killing in Israel and Gaza; when we hear of the violence in the Ukraine.

Perhaps we don’t consider this as evident in our own neighbourhoods or homes or communities; but it is just as apparent in those times and places when we are unkind to each other; when we select the bad over the good because it is ‘popular’ or ‘socially acceptable’ to do so.

We can’t fool ourselves into thinking God is not present all the time, calling His children to love and serve and care for each other, every day, everywhere. That is where the Kingdom of heaven, the Reign of God begins; here and now.

And in those times when we truly and deeply experience that encounter with God, it is indeed a tremendous treasure, an incredibly valuable prize – in fact, when anyone has a deep, authentic experience of God’s presence they would rather stay there than anywhere else; they would give everything up in that moment to remain there – to have that ‘treasure’.

While that treasure is something we should always be seeking and willing to sacrifice our own selfish pleasures for, it is not something that we can clutch and grasp and hold all to ourselves. It is meant to be shared, to be extended to all people. It is in this way that the Kingdom becomes self-evident in our world. It is in this way that we make those small steps towards reconciliation in our own day-to-day lives and, just perhaps, extend that sense of love and compassion and reconciliation to others.

God’s Kingdom does not enter into our lives when we don’t seek or desire it. It doesn’t become the ‘place where we dwell’ if we encounter that ‘treasure’ and decline the movement to possess it.

May God grant us the grace as individuals and as a people to strive for that treasure, and the generosity of spirit to share it with each other.

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

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