Saturday, July 29, 2017

Seek the treasure!

July 30, 2017

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 109

1 KGS 3:5, 7-12

PS 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

ROM 8:28-30

MT 13:44-52

All of humanity yearns for an encounter with the divine.  Even those who profess atheism are designed to yearn for God.   As Saint Augustine once phrased it:  "Our hearts are restless until they rest in you."   In Solomon’s dream, he had such an encounter with God.  How would we respond?   If you came face to face with Jesus, what would you say?  There is a popular song that says “I can only imagine.”  Will I dance for you?  To my knees will I fall?  I often wonder if given that one “wish” that Solomon was given, what would I ask for?

Solomon, like the rest of us humans, doubted his own abilities.   His worthiness.  He said he did not know how to act.  With all that responsibility being foisted upon his young, inexperienced shoulders, he turned to the only source he knew of for help.  He did not ask for success.  Nor did he inquire for more wealth, military prowess, or even a larger harem.   All he asked for in his moment of need was wisdom.  To be wise enough to lead his people according to God’s plan.  He trusted that knowing right from wrong, being able to understand God on the level of truth, would be enough to make the kingdom great.  To be a good leader he must be the kind of leader that makes decisions that go along with God’s will.

As an Aspirant to the Diaconate, I understand this doubt.   The feeling that I am not worthy.  Knowing how often my heart is tempted to sinfulness and my flesh has a mind of its own, why would God call such an unworthy creature to his service?  Why would he choose someone who isn’t already well acquainted with theology, the Saints, the Church, and all the other things we have been studying?  Because He qualifies the chosen.   By choosing to remain humble, to realize I am not worthy and never will be, but that God has chosen me to do things, it is then that I am able to pray with Solomon and all the Saints for the kind of wisdom and humility that only comes from a personal relationship with God and His people.

That also means having what Solomon calls an understanding heart.  There is a wonderful book out there, no longer in circulation, called the Understanding Heart by Msgr. Brady.  In this book, he talks about the need for those of us in ministry to be able to listen without interjecting ourselves into the conversation.  To truly be present to the person speaking to you in a way that lets you understand who they are, not in the context of my story, but solely in the context of theirs.   That means not listening to respond, but listening to learn.    In this way, you can die to yourself, let you fade away for a moment, and simply be Jesus listening to His brother or sister, and affirm who they are.   That’s a powerful way to do things. To truly step into their world, their shoes.   Not to simply agree with them but to know how they feel and why.

I think that’s a big part of what God’s plan is for all of humanity.  I believe that the Kingdom of Heaven is presented to every single person, whether they are looking for it or not.  In today’s Gospel, we see several parables of people finding the great treasure in a field.  Some of them were looking for it, and once they found it they sold everything they had to buy it.  Others stumbled across it, not knowing what it was or even that they were seeking it, but simply were tripped up by this change in their lives.  Then they did something so foreign to the way we live in our capitalistic consumer based society:  they sold everything they had just to buy this one treasure.  

Part of the wisdom that Solomon asked for was already present in him.  He knew that money didn’t buy happiness.   That happiness could only be found with God.  Wisdom requires us knowing that material possessions will not make us happy.  No amount of money, sensual pleasures, fancy cars or diamond rings are going to make life better in the long run.   They fill that empty ache in our hearts for a time, but eventually, we find they weren’t enough.  If we continue to seek that same ‘high’ again, we just go in a spiral for more and more.   The man who craves more finds that more is never enough.  It’s always just out of reach.  Just over that next hill.

That’s because the Scriptures reveal to us that true happiness comes in the form of a cross.   Not a cross only at specific times, but one that we carry for our entire lives.  That doesn’t mean that every person will suffer chronic pain, though some do.   Nor does it mean that every Christian will be poor materially, though many are.  What it does mean is that we have to be detached from all that we own and have.  That all of those things must be secondary to the walk with Christ down the Way.   A Priest on Relevant Radio once said: “When we are in love with the cross, it is a cross that is no longer a cross.”   It means realizing that there is something greater than this world ahead and that we should be getting our bodies, minds, and souls ready for the next life.

We also see this parable of the net cast into the sea.  Like those nets, God doesn't just call one type of person, denomination or religion.   He calls all of us.  He casts his net into the ocean and drags up everything that comes in contact with it.  That doesn’t mean every person will remain in the net.  Nor does it mean that everything caught will be kept as good.  Just like fishing in the ocean, some things are pleasant for food and others are thrown in the trash or back in the water.  At the end of time, all of us will be faced with that.  We will face the true Fisherman who will ask us the same question that He asks in the Gospel today.   “Do you understand all these things?”

Do we?  Just because we are in the field doesn’t mean we are the wheat.  Many people sit in the pew without ever being converted.  God’s kingdom is not one stormed by force, but only with humility.  He offers to us so much mercy, so freely that all we have to do is ask for it.  Seek it through the ordinary means He has established.  The Sacraments.  The Church.  The Sacred Scriptures.   All of these are nets that reach out into the world scooping up all who come in contact with them, but it’s not enough just to receive them.  We must receive them with a humble contrite heart and afflicted spirit.   There will be many at the Lord’s table that we did not expect, and many of us who seem to be surely going may not make it.  We must be more than just active, but living in Christ.   We must be unattached to the world, and completely dependent on God for all things.

Christ is the great treasure, hidden in the field.  What so many have failed to grasp over the centuries are the simple truths expressed to those on the road to Emmaus.   Christ is hidden in the Old Testament and manifested in the New.  Only by the Cross and the Resurrection can we ever begin to understand the mysteries that are contained therein.  It is Jesus who is the key to all fulfillment, all prophecy.  The wise man finds Him in both the Old and the New.  It requires searching.  Once you find it, you must cherish it, keep it buried in your heart and get rid of all things which draw you away from Him.  

Do you understand then all these things?  Go and do.  Act.  Go into the storeroom of grace that is the Church, bring out the Old and the New into the world and help them find that treasure as well.  It shouldn’t be hidden anymore.  It doesn’t diminish when someone else finds it too.  Rather, it should be shared with everyone.  God’s plan is for us to have a future, not to have harm.  Are you helping that plan along?  Seeking the lost children of the Father out in the world?  It is indeed a personal relationship, but not just a personal one.   It’s a communal thing we have here.  The body of Christ.  The body should work together for the health of all, not just for their own.