17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
26th July 2020
Year A – Psalter week 1
The Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Value.
Both the parable of the hidden treasure and the parable of the pearl of great value speak of the supreme importance of the kingdom of heaven and the cost at which we enter that kingdom. In Jesus’ own life and ministry, the relationship with his heavenly Father was everything. During the temptations in the desert, it was precisely this clinging of Jesus to the Father that the devil attacked. Time and again in his ministry, Jesus spoke of the importance of seeking his kingdom first and placing our relationship with God above all other relationships and desires: “Seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all these other things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
Placing the risen Jesus and his kingdom first in one’s life was clearly evident in the life of the early church. The ultimate test, of course, was physical martyrdom, where the apostles and disciples of Christ were put to death for their faith. We know too, from the life and writings of St. Paul, something of the suffering he underwent as a result of his unwavering obedience to the risen Jesus and his seeking to live and spread the kingdom of heaven here on earth. In this pursuit, St. Paul was willing to let go of everything: “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8-9). For St. Paul and the early church, then, it is this personal relationship with the risen Christ that is the hidden treasure, the pearl of great value, for which they were willing to forego everything else. In and through the risen Jesus they received the gift of the Holy Spirit and were drawn into communion with the Father and into the new life of the heavenly kingdom.
Such a commitment to God, however, is not easy and takes great perseverance. St. Paul likened such Christian commitment to the dedication shown by athletes training for a competition: “Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25). Due to his single-minded dedication and perseverance in the grace of God, St. Paul was able to say the following towards the end of his life here on earth: “As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
If only we could all have some share in such zeal for the kingdom! So often, I think, we take our gaze off the prize, and indeed off the reason for our very existence. A bit like St. Peter walking on the water, as long as we keep our gaze in this life upon Jesus and continue to walk with him and towards him, then we succeed. But as soon as we take our gaze off Jesus, and begin to focus more upon the distractions that the world and life throw at us, then we begin to sink. Focus is essential in our life of faith because it keeps us walking in the right direction. I am reminded of St. Paul words to the Christians at Colossae: “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
Also key, and linked closely to focus, is our desire. What are the desires of my heart? These desires impact upon the direction of our focus. As Jesus said: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
It is so easy to grow lukewarm in our faith. This could be because our hearts are not fully set on the kingdom of God, but upon more worldly desires. Somehow the thorns spoken of by Jesus in the parable of the sower are keeping the Word from producing the fruit that it could in our lives. If we are to be like the early Christians or indeed any of the saints that the Church holds up to us, then we need hearts on fire for God. The Lord encourages us today to seek after his kingdom no matter the cost, and to be enflamed once again with the love and power of the Holy Spirit, within which alone the fullness of life can be lived.
One way in which we could respond is by taking part in an online “Life in the Spirit Seminar” which will be running in our diocese on Thursday evenings, beginning on 13th August (more information will follow). These are a series of talks and testimonies that seek to help increase our desire for God, and there will also be a time of praying for a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon each of us personally. Kindly, our bishop has sent the following word of encouragement for us: “I want to encourage you to take part in the Life in the Spirit seminars. This journey is a sure way to bring you into a personal encounter with Jesus and a deeper experience of discipleship” +David.
1 Kings 3:5,7-12
Sunday Message and Look
Download this weeks Sunday Message and Look (for our younger parishioners) by clicking on the images, for all the readings for this week, as well as the prayers during mass and the usual weekly thoughts and reflections.
I call you friends, says the Lord, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father. Alleluia!