17th Sun. in Ord Time Yr A 7-30-23 Dcn. Bill Kenney

 17th Sunday in Ord. Time Year A (Mt 13:44-52  7-29,30-23)   b.k.

     It’s funny how my mind can wander when reading today’s Scripture. Key words like “treasure” and “pearl” turn into thoughts of the Black Pearl and pirate treasure from the movie: Pirates of the Caribbean -On Stranger Tides. Here they search and find treasured chalices and they struggle and fight to drink from the Fountain of Youth to give eternal life. And, not to be outdone, eternal life relates to the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie with its Holy Grail giving eternal life, if you choose as wisely as Solomon.  We too are on our own adventure through life to find our treasure of greatest value: Christ our salvation in the Kingdom of Heaven.

     Today’s Gospel carries on from last week’s Gospel in explaining the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus gives us many Kingdom parables and analogies; it is indeed a critical concept to get through to us. In this and in many of his teachings Christ speaks to us on terms we can understand- from our walks of life: as landowners, merchants, fishermen, farmers, and others. The Kingdom he explains is “like” things we understand and value: a treasure, a pearl, a good fish.  Further, Jesus proclaims throughout his ministry that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! We can see and experience it with the eyes of faith, hope, and charity. “At hand” in our world is also imperfection- weeds growing among the wheat and bad fish caught in the net. In an apocalyptic tone, at the end of the age, the angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous, the good from bad and the bad are tossed out and meet a fiery demise.

     So what is the Kingdom of Heaven “likened” to us today? I think each of us could answer that question in a different way based on our life experiences, values, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us the Kingdom exists within you and at the same time, is not of this world. I believe it can be both; for we are God’s creation made in his image and likeness, a baptized child of God and confirmed in our faith with the Holy Spirit moving within us.  We can see the Kingdom in the innocent eyes of a newborn baby as well as the searching eyes of an elderly Hospice patient. The stillness, peace, and joy of the Spirit within us while shared with each other is the closest we will get on earth to God’s eternal Kingdom.

     Within our beautiful world, a world created “good” by God, exists also great evils all around us. Like Solomon, we must pray for a listening and discerning heart to distinguish between good and evil. The sins of the evil one and his followers plague our news headlines: war, corruption, greed, lies, false gods, and confusion. The gates of hell and the evils of this world will not prevail over the love and joy of the Kingdom of Heaven. When we do fail and distance ourselves from God through our sin, Jesus gives us the sacrament of reconciliation to reunite us with the Father. We are cleansed from our venial sins with true contrition at the Mass and upon receiving the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. 

      Despite the sin and chaos we are exposed to in this world, we must always remember that God WINS!  In the end, after running the good race, God will judge the Kingdom within us and by his grace, we pray, will find us worthy to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. God knows us and loves us more than we can fathom. He has a life plan foreseen and destined for each of us as his redeemed children by his Son. God does not force our destiny that he knows in advance. We are endowed with the freedom to choose to believe, obey, and follow Christ as our hope for eternal salvation. Until that day, may we grow the Kingdom of Heaven within us by our love, care, and hope for each other, and for the glory of God.