HOMILY FOR SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A), JULY 26, 2020

HOMILY FOR SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A), JULY 26, 2020

1Kings 3:5, 7-12; Psalm 118; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52

We have three sets of homily notes here. Please scroll down the page 

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Rev. Fr. Thomas Oyode:  

Wisdom Opens the Heart to the Way of the Kingdom

This Sunday’s liturgy continues our reflection on the series of parables Jesus used to teach the crowd (see Matt. 13:1-4). In the previous parables before now (see Matthew 13:5-43), Jesus shows that the kingdom is God’s active and effective presence in the wherever the gospel message takes root. This active and effective presence does not depend on the size or the quantity but on the quality. As a matter of fact, Pope Benedict XVI once commented that the fact that Jesus mentioned that those who allow the word of God to take root in their hearts bears fruits some in thirty, seventy fold and so on, indicates that the manifestation of the kingdom is a gradual process.

 Today Jesus gives us three sets of parables to conclude his third great discourse, the discourse on the parables, immediately following the parable of the Weeds. They are the parable of the hidden treasure (Matt. 13:44), the parable of the expensive pearl (13:45-46), the parable of the dragnet (13:47-50). He does not give an extensive interpretation as in the previous ones, perhaps, because he was addressing the Twelve this time around. The first two of the three parables tell us about the value of the Kingdom and joy and gladness with which everything is offered so as to be able to become a citizen. It features actions of searching, discovering, gladness and joy, selling and possessing.

Here, an important message stands out. The Kingdom grows in little ways, yet it is present and active, God himself is the one who in Christ builds this kingdom yet it is not yet visible to everyone. There are many who have yet to discover this presence and to experience it in their lives. On the other hand there are those who have thirsted and hungered for this kingdom with relentless spirit (Matt. 5:6) and have discovered it to be a treasure beyond compare these have been able to sacrifice every other thing for it. These are the ones who, like the Psalmist of today’s Psalm, realize that the word of God is more precious than gold and follow his teaching with hearts that overflow with love.

 Furthermore, these three sets of parables are generally referred to as Kingdom parables. This means that they are meant to simply teach or illustrate but to give insight into eschatological realities, into how our last end would be. Precisely for this reason, the last set of parable speaks of the fate of those who do not search for this kingdom or who do not make an extra move to attain and possess the Kingdom when they have found it. These would shut out.

 It should be noted that when Christian theology speaks of the Kingdom of God, it refers to the reign of God, the dominion of God and the predominance of the will and purpose of God over every other power and force. This is what we ask for each time we say “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth”. The parable of the dragnet therefore depicts an image, again, of harvest just like last Sunday. Jesus says that this net catches “fish every kind”. It thus means that no one would escape the judgment of this kingdom, it means that the dominion of God is universal. Those who fail to choose wisely would find themselves alienated from God, weeping in pain.

Now, searching and striving to discover God’s reign and sacrificing every other good so as to enter into it requires itself the aid of God through the working presence of the Holy Spirit which is the gift of God’s love. It is the same gift that St. Paul speaks of in our second reading, the gift given to those who love God with sincerity of heart (Rom. 8:28-30). This help is necessary because opting for God is a matter of choice. When the gift of the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts, one of the graces we enjoy is the grace of divine wisdom. It helps us to know what is good, to choose what is good and to cherish what is good even at the cost of our lives. This is because the Spirit gives freedom to the soul. It is what we obtain in the sacrament of Confirmation by which we become equipped as soldiers who take up the way of the cross, we learn to choose the way that pleases God and fulfils his will. Many Christians, especially the Saints and the Blessed, enjoyed this very gift of God’s wisdom because of their burning love for the things of God, a burning desire to work solely for the promotion of God’s Kingdom against the kingdom of hatred and evil. They had the help of the Holy Spirit in making the right choice.

Also, there many men and women of our time who have proven themselves wise enough like Solomon (I Kgs. 5:3, 7-12) by choosing to take a stand for good against evil. We find them in the professionals and public servants who promote truth and justice, those who are accountable in their work places, those who engage in quiet acts of charity, those who intercede for the conversion of the world through prayer and abstinence, those who volunteer to provide education in the remotest places, those who give their lives in the defence and protection of human rights. These and many others remind us in unspeakable ways that the Kingdom of God, the reign of God is active and effective among us. They tell us that the Kingdom is a treasure, a pearl, a priceless gem that we must be wise enough to choose above every other good and give up every other thing so as to attain it. Are we wise enough to choose God above the worldly goods? Are we are aware that the freedom our soul is revealed in, and depends on the choices we make daily? Let us, like Solomon, ask God for wisdom that we may cherish good and avoid evil.

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Rev. Fr. Paul Oredipe

Kingdom of God:  TREASURE of treasures – Priority of VALUES

            Seek Ye first the Kingdom Your TREASURE 

Life is short.  Opportunities are many.  Can you ever give up all that you have to get just one thing?  Yes, you may say – but what is that one thing for which I can give up all that I have?  Can you imagine someone selling all his property just to obtain something of great value?  What is that one thing of great value? The Scripture encourages us to consider what is really valuable.  This week we are challenged to consider our priorities.  We can ask ourselves if we truly resolve to invest in things that last. 

The second reading for today speaks about predestination.  Predestination is God’s choice to share His love with us.  St. Paul tells the Romans, and us, that we are called to share the image of God’s Son.  By sharing this image we are justified, raised up to God, and glorified, shown as reflecting God’s image for all people. 

The knowledge of what God is calling us to; the understanding of what is true and good, right and wrong; all of this is Wisdom, our first reading.  The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) developed the notion of wisdom as the understanding one gains of oneself, the world and one’s place in the divine plan for mankind.  Wisdom is knowing who we are. 

 Jesus is the Wisdom of God for us, for we become whom God has called us to be by uniting ourselves to His Son.  Each of us is very different from everyone else who ever lived.  As we come to a deeper knowledge of whom we are, we come to a deeper knowledge of what God wants us to be.  Wisdom is understanding God’s individual predestination for us. 

Today, the Lord Jesus, continuing with his teaching, tells us three parables about the kingdom of heaven.  In the gospel account Jesus referred to the Kingdom as a hidden treasure, a box filled with golden coins buried somewhere in a field.  Likewise He spoke of the Kingdom as a precious pearl, a jewel found by a businessman who astutely sold everything he owned in order to buy it.  He wants to make us understand the point of our life on earth, which is to get us to Heaven at any cost.  Yes to get to heaven at any cost, indeed at all cost.  Even if it cost us every other thing, it is never too much, it is never impossible to achieve. 

 The first parable is that of the field containing a treasure, which underlines the personal character of salvation in Jesus Christ.  That is, if we want to go to Heaven and avoid hell, it all depends on us and us alone, with the grace of God.  So let us learn well the message of Jesus.  Salvation is a personal affair.  In the words of St Augustine, the God who created us without our cooperation will not save us without our cooperation. 

This second parable, along with the first one, deals with the purchase of something, a field or a pearl, which signifies the kingdom of Heaven.  Now, we cannot buy the kingdom of Heaven.  It has no price, for it is absolutely free.  It is only by the grace of God that we are allowed to enter. So why does Jesus speak in these two parables of buying something that signifies the kingdom? 

 This second parable seems to provide an explanation.  Indeed, Jesus says that the person in question here is a “merchant”.  “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls.”  Now, a merchant is not someone who buys at the highest price in order to sell at a loss what he had just bought so dearly.  No, a merchant is, on the contrary, someone who bargains, someone who always tries to buy low in order to sell high later on. 

 So what Jesus wants us to understand is that the kingdom of Heaven, if it is merited – and we must do all we can to merit it – is first and foremost a gift, a present, a grace offered to he who will show himself to be skillful in trade, but who cannot pay a high price, for he is poor, poor with the spiritual poverty that merits the possession of the kingdom of Heaven.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!”  (Mt. 5:3) 

Jesus tells us … “The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found ….  The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it (Mt. 13:44-45). 

 In these two parables Jesus shows the supreme value of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the attitude people need if they are to attain it.  The parables are very alike, but it is interesting to note the differences: the treasure means abundance of gifts; the pearl indicates the beauty of the Kingdom.  The treasure is something stumbled upon; the pearl, the result of a lengthy search; but in both instances the finder is filled with joy. 

Faith, vocation, true wisdom, desire for Heaven, are things which sometimes are discovered suddenly and unexpectedly, and sometimes after much searching.  However, the man’s attitude is the same in both parables and is described in the same terms: “he goes and sells all that he has and buys it”: detachment, generosity, is indispensable for obtaining the treasure. 

Indeed the kingdom of God is a value for which no sacrifice is too great.  It is a question of priority of values.  Anyone who understands the Kingdom which Christ proposes realizes that it is worth staking everything to obtain it […].  The Kingdom of Heaven is difficult to win.  No one can be sure of achieving it, but the humble cry of a repentant man can open wide its doors. 

Wise and mature Christians have a sound judgment about what is more or less important in life, since they blend human insight with the God-inspired wisdom of the Bible.  As the responsorial psalm says: “[God,] the revelation of your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple.” 

In the two stories, the reaction of the person discovering the treasure is the same – he sells all that he has in order to obtain it.  This shows two attitudes that are necessary to gain the treasure – detachment, the willingness to give up all that we already have, and generosity in offering it all up to God.  Renunciation of everything which holds us back from the treasure of the kingdom is the essential first step. 

There are many things which can hold us back, but they can all be summed up in one word – self.  We must be free from attachment to self so that we can become free for attachment to Christ.  If we are not free in this way, we may not even recognize the treasure when we find it.  Concern with self will impair our perception of the reality of the kingdom, of the treasure that is being offered to us.  That is why the person described in both parables is shown first of all as selling all that he has, all that he has been attached to, in order to gain the one thing of true and lasting value. 

In today’s Gospel Lesson, the “Parable of the Treasure” and the “Parable of the Pearl” are twin parables with the same message.  In both cases, the discovery of something of immense value comes as a surprise — a complete shock.  In both parables we detect the joy of an exciting discovery.  In both parables, when the discovery is made it fulfills all of the finder’s hopes and dreams, so much so that compared to the new-found treasure, everything else is without real value and can be let go with a feeling of contentment. 

 The Lesson is clear: the Kingdom or Rule of God is the all-embracing, totally-absorbing, ultimate Treasure in life.  The value and the importance of this discovery takes precedence over everything else in life.  Whether it comes as an unexpected find or as the sudden realization of a life-long search, the Kingdom is the supreme Treasure that eclipses all else. 

 “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” the rich young man asked Jesus.  “You lack one thing,” Jesus answered.  “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mk. 20:17,21).  And “Where your treasure is,” Jesus said, “there will your heart be also” (Lk. 13:34). 

The third parable makes use of a well-known subject:  that of fishermen and fish.  So the meaning is clear: the fish of every kind in the sea are all men, whether good or bad.  But, while they are in the sea, fish are neither good nor bad: it is only at the end of the world that the sorting is done, when the net is drawn onto the shore. 

Throughout our lives, we have to keep sorting out the things that would deter us from knowing the love of God, experiencing the love of God, getting rid of those things and only keeping what helps us to know the love of God, to experience the love of God. 

There are times in our lives when we have to let go of an evil that we have been involved in — a bad habit or whatever you want to call it — that keeps us from really following the way of love.  So we keep sorting out, until we walk according to the way of love, the way of God, the way of Jesus and we enter into the Reign of God in an ever-more complete way. 

When we begin to reflect on these parables in this way, I am sure all of us would say “Yes, I want to enter into the Reign of God.  I want to follow the way of love.”  And I suppose most of us probably think, well if I do that, everything will fall into place, my whole life will be fine, I’ll never have to worry, suffer, go through grief or pain again.  

 Well, it won’t be that way — not as long as we are in this world.  We are going to find obstacles.  We are going to find that at times choosing the way of love also means the way of the cross.  Isn’t that what happened to Jesus?  He followed the way of love, totally, but it meant taking up a cross, even being crucified and dying ignominiously, as a criminal, on that cross.  So sometimes, when we pick the way of love, follow the way of Jesus, it can bring suffering into our lives. 

If we can have the listening heart that God gave to Solomon, and listen deeply to God speaking within us we will hear God’s message of love.  We will be able to follow that way of love and everything will work together for good. 

            In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

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Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai

 Heaven our greatest treasure

Today’s gospel presents us with three parables about the kingdom of heaven. Many people no longer believe in the reality of heaven and hell. Some make joke of this reality, either to teach basic lessons or to make caricature of the end-time reality. Amidst this, our gospel reading today presents us with three parables to further intensify the reality of Judgment, heaven and hell. The parables are: The Parable of the Hidden Treasure: Matt. 13:44, the Parable of the Pearl Matt. 13:45-46 and the Parable of the Net Matt13:47-50.

The first two are not a plea for us to sell all we have in order to obtain the kingdom – for we truly have nothing to offer God. Instead, they are a call for us to desire the kingdom above all else. The one who discovers the hidden treasure, or the pearl, lets go of everything else in their life in order to have what they have found. These stories are reminders that there is nothing in this world comparable to the Kingdom and we must take every opportunity to secure it.  Thus, in the parable of the hidden treasure we are reminded that Heaven is our greatest treasure. Whoever discovers it must change his whole life to have it.  

In Matt.6:33 the bible says “seek it first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Precisely because of this, in the first reading,  Solomon sought for ‘a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil’.  He asked for practical wisdom, the cardinal virtue of prudence. Prudence, or practical wisdom, or sound decision-making is one of the most important virtues anyone can acquire. It is the ability to know what to do in any situation and to act on that knowledge.[1] The Lord was pleased with Solomon that he did not ask for victories and riches, rather he asked for wisdom. We must learn to place our priorities right. Many people have really made a mess of their lives by having the wrong priorities in life. For us Christians our first priority is the Kingdom of heaven and everything that will guarantee our entrance into that Kingdom. Therefore, these parables want us to explore all possibilities to ensure we enter into the kingdom of heaven. This kind of faith mentality changes our priorities.

Therefore, Christians must put God first; for he says in Exod. 20:3 says “You shall have no other gods before Me.”  In the story about Mary and Martyr, Mary took the better part  because she puts God first. Peter, James and John, who Christ called to be his disciples, had their priorities right: “So when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him” (Luke 5:11). In Luke 9:57-62 those who were called and were given excuses represented all those who have not given God the first place in their priorities.

Lastly, we have the parable of the Net. In this parable, the dragnet is cast into the sea and pulled onto shore full of all kinds of fish. Then the fishermen sat down to the business of sorting the fish into the “good” and the “bad.” The fish worth keeping were gathered into containers, but the rest were tossed away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. This parable is similar to the Parable of the Wheat (Matthew 13:36-43). Both parables concern an end-times sorting, aided by angels, when believers will be separated from unbelievers or pretenders once and for all.

Just as the net was cast into the sea drawing many fish, the gospel message is spread into the world, drawing many people to it. Just as the net gathered all types of fish, regardless of their value, so the gospel attracts many people who neither repent nor desire to follow Christ. Just as the fish could not be sorted until the net was pulled ashore, so false believers masquerading as true Christians will be exposed at the end of the age. God Bless you.

[1] Thomas Aquinas identified three steps or activities within prudence. They are counsel, judgment, and decision. Counsel means to deliberate about what to do, to think it over, to pray about it, to ask for advice, to use your intellect to try to discover the best thing to do with the time available. (The man who discovered a treasure buried in a field could not ask other people what might be the best to do, so he had to counsel himself.) Judgment means to decide what among the many possibilities is best, meaning both what will be both moral and likely to be effective. In some cases, the most prudent thing is to do nothing. (The man who found the treasure reasoned that the best course of action was to sell everything he had and buy that field. That way, perhaps, no one could accuse him of stealing it from someone else.) Decision means to take action. Based on what your reason tells you is best, you then tell your will to do it. (The man did sell his worldly possessions and bought that field and so got the treasure.)

  1. We are faced with choices every day and from time to time with very big decisions.
  • The most prudent thing children can do is obey their parents and teachers.
  • The most prudent thing a teenager can do is to have a close relationship with God and to discover his divine vocation.
  • The most prudent thing an adult can do is always to ask, “What does God want me to do?” God will always want what is moral and what will be effective.

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.

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