Wednesday, 26 July 2017

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

1 Kings 3:5.7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52

How does a man or woman living in the midst of a modern, technological world with all its material attractions and preoccupations and pleasures come to believe in the existence of a soul? How does God communicate himself to them?

This is the third week in a row that Jesus offers the crowds a parable containing the image of a field.
  1. First there was the field in which the seed of God's word was sown.
  2. Then came the field into which the enemy sowed the darnel seeds.
  3. This week we are presented with a field which contains a hidden treasure.
The treasure can be understood in different ways. We are told a number of things about it:
  • It is hidden in the field, buried within it – they go together.
  • We have to take possession of the field if we wish to own the treasure.
  • The field will cost us everything we possess.
  • This treasure for which we give everything is the ultimate riches.
Jesus' parable tells us the treasure is hidden in the field and that it can be found. This should give us hope. On one level the field can represent our body and then the treasure is our soul. Deeper still, the field can represent our soul, and the treasure is then the indwelling Trinity. However we take it the parable points us inward to that invisible, interior part of us which we all need to recognise if we are to become spiritual men and women.

To put the whole matter very plainly we can say that Jesus tells us in his parable that deep inside each of us there is a treasure and that it can be found. But how? To answer this question we will consider the way most of us, but not all, seem to find it.

Usually, our experience begins to tell us that the material world is not enough. This is often a slow, gradual discovery which dawns in our consciousness after many years of searching for happiness in all the places the world points out to us - possessions, pleasure, leisure time, power, prestige, financial independence personal freedom to do what we want when we want. The young are very much preoccupied with these things.

We have all heard of contented cows. You put them in a paddock with sufficient grass, you give them a tree to stand under and a water trough to drink from and you have contented cows. They want nothing more.

Humans are different. We are acquisitive by nature and we have the ability to reflect on our own behaviour. As the new house is built, as the perfect wife or husband is found, as the dream job comes along, as the children (usually no more than two of them) are born, as each one of our hopes and dreams comes to fruition, why is it that we find ourselves asking: Is this all there is? Is this as good as it gets?

We begin to realise that the noisy, modern, technological, material world we live in has made us a promise of happiness which it can't really deliver. We come to realise that the world has lied to us.

The voice which asks these questions speaks deep within us at first and it can, in fact, be overpowered by our hectic lifestyles or by the sin in our lives. Nevertheless, some people eventually have to admit, and sometimes they do it out loud: I’m looking for more, and I don't mean more of the same.

This 'there-must-be-more' moment is a wonderful intersection in life which is full of hope and profound possibility but it is not yet the discovery of the treasure; it is merely the discovery that the treasure is not ‘out there’ in the world.

At first this often only increases our dilemma. If we allow this inner voice to have its say in our lives we cross a painful threshold which puts all the familiar, practical, material things in our lives into a new perspective. Every spoonful of food we put into our mouths now speaks of a much deeper hunger within us, which cannot be satisfied by food. Every glass of water - or wine (even the most exquisite) - speaks to us of a thirst which lies deeper than water or wine can reach. The shiniest car, the ideal partner in life, the dreamiest home, the ultimate holiday - begin to carry within themselves a little sign saying .. 'I'm not enough for you because I won't last'.

As all that the world has to offer is found wanting we begin to ask - Where then is my happiness?

If we allow this inner voice to speak - if we allow the volume of this inner voice to increase in our lives - we find ourselves entering the world of the spiritual. We become spiritual people on a spiritual search. You might ask how the volume of this inner voice can be increased and I would reply that it is actually not so much a matter of turning up the volume as of decreasing the background noise - the silence of prayer and a gentle withdrawal from unhelpful preoccupations.

Having honestly and humbly entered the world of the spiritual, the world of the hidden treasure within us, we now begin to experience a strange new confidence. We begin to grow in confidence that the spiritual hope we have discovered within ourselves, our longing to love and be loved in a perfect manner, our longing to live forever, to experience perfect happiness and peace, joy and acceptance - we grow in confidence that all this longing and hope was placed in our hearts as the good gift of a good God and that he means one day to fulfil it. This is the beginning of religious faith.

We begin now to search for the name of this good God and will eventually come to the proposition that it is Father, Son and Holy Spirit who dwells within us. To accept this proposition in faith can be an arduous journey in itself. How can we know it is true?

If I were to propose to you that mankind came from a golden egg laid by a golden snake on the banks of a magic river you would probably find it easy enough to discount. All I can say is that the Christian proposition, we call it revelation, makes entire sense of my life, its hopes and its sufferings. It is not just that it makes better sense than the other propositions, it is that it makes perfect sense of human existence.

And so, further along this journey to faith we discover that the human face of the invisible God is Jesus. We discover the followers of Jesus, the Church, and its teachings. We discover the living truth of the word of God in the hierarchy of the Church and in the Sacred Scriptures. We discover the Sacraments of Jesus which give joy and strength and build divine life in our souls. In short, we have discovered the Kingdom of God and are now ready to give our all to embrace it.

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