Homily July 30th, 2023 

Sunday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time – Year A

1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12, Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130, Rom 8:28-30, Mt 13:44-52

In today’s Gospel we continue with the parables of Christ. Two weeks ago we heard the parable of the sower and the seed, and last week we heard of the tares and the mustard seed. Today we need to meditate on the parables of the hidden treasure and the precious pearl.

But, first of all, we should think a little bit about wisdom, since the first reading is about that and because it helps us understand the parables. In the first reading, we hear that God said to King Solomon, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon could ask for whatever he wanted, and he asked for wisdom. The request pleased God so much that in addition to wisdom, God granted him glory, riches, and power.

It should be clear that this wisdom is not merely human wisdom, or something worldly. In other words, there are many people who are wise according to the world, but they are fools in what has to do with God. We think, for example, of a merchant, who knows how to defraud people to earn more money. Or a scientist, who knows a lot about the universe, but denies the existence of God. Or a thief, who knows very well when and how to enter a house to rob. They are wise, but wise according to the world, and not according to God. This distinction is made by Saint Paul very clearly in his first letter to the Corinthians when he says: “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise” (1:27), and also, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their own ruses,’ and again: ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain’” (3:18-20).

It is important to keep this in mind, because what the one who finds the treasure does and the merchant who finds the very valuable pearl does, that is, selling absolutely everything to buy the field and the pearl, really doesn’t make much sense in the eyes of the world. According to the criteria of the world, they don’t seem to make very wise decisions. Think about it for a moment: sell everything, that is, the house, the food, the clothes, the donkey, the cows, the land of his family. . . absolutely everything, to have only one thing of value.

And here we enter again into the parables. Let’s not forget that the parables were preached to ordinary people, so they contain references to everyday life or normal life. For example, finding the treasure for them was not something so extraordinary, since it was common to bury the goods to keep them, especially in times of war. In fact, at that time there were people who dedicated themselves, as a profession, to looking for these hidden and forgotten treasures. This also explains why he was digging in a field that he didn’t own.

When the man finds the treasure, he tries his best to keep it. “Out of joy,” Jesus tells us, “out of joy” he goes and sells everything so that the field and his treasure are entirely his. According to the world, it doesn’t make much sense, but according to this wise one, it makes all the sense in the world. The world doesn’t see the reason for running off and selling everything, but, for the one who knows about the treasure, it is the most logical, most sensible thing to do.

Jesus explicitly tells us: this is the Kingdom of heaven, and, in particular, its manifestation through the Catholic Church and its teachings. In the teachings of the Church, we have the fundamental truths so that we can be happy. In the eyes of the world, it seems to be madness, but for us, it is worth so much that we must be willing to put aside anything that does not let us love God as we should. Many of these truths seem like hidden truths: for example, we can think about the truth of the sacrament of marriage. In the eyes of the world, it seems foolishness that a man and a woman decide to marry in the Church, each making a promise to be faithful, both in prosperity and adversity, in health and disease, loving and respecting each other all throughout their lives. Their entire lives! But there, with these promises, they find a treasure. The grace of God comes, so that their love, which was previously merely human, might be elevated to another level. This is where the description of love found in the Song of Songs is fulfilled: “For Love is strong as Death, longing is fierce as Sheol. Its arrows are arrows of fire, flames of the divine. Deep waters cannot quench love, nor rivers sweep it away. Were one to offer all the wealth of his house for love, he would be utterly despised.” The world only sees the difficulties of living like this; they don’t see the blessings and graces that come.  

In the same way, too, we can think of those in our world who never make a choice for anything; they are too afraid to commit to anything in particular. There are many people who live in a perpetual state of “discernment,” we could say, although, indeed, discernment implies knowing God’s will in order to act upon it. The one who claims to be “discerning” without really intending to follow what God shows them isn’t really discerning; they are simply passing their time. They are afraid of what they might lose out. However, they miss out on all the joy and blessings that could be theirs. It’s true: commitment means sacrifices. However, it is only in the context of sacrifice that we can find fulfillment.

On the other hand, we have the parable of the merchant who finds the pearl of great price. Pearls are very pretty, and very valuable, but only when they are whole. A piece of pearl is worth nothing. The same our faith: we cannot divide it, or live only a part of the truths that we have received. You cannot live only seven or eight of the commandments; we must live all ten.

Today we ask, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Our Lord and our Mother, that we ask for grace and the gift of wisdom, like Solomon, so that we can fully live our faith and thus experience the joy of living according to what He asks of us.

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