17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
In John 1:38. Jesus asks Andrew and the other disciple, “What are you looking for?” it means a lot more than just, “Can I help you find something? Is there some object you’ve lost?” Jesus is really asking, “What are you searching for in life? What is your soul’s deepest desire? What are you seeking with all of your being?” Jesus asks us the same question. What do you seek? What are you hunting for, to satisfy your soul’s deep longing? He is still asking. He still wants to know, because we are good at looking for all the wrong things, in all the wrong places.
We can devote ourselves to all kinds of self-help programs, diets, and workout routines, to improve our physical and emotional lives. We can also devote ourselves to destructive habits that eat up our time and financial resources and tear down our bodies and our minds. What are you looking for? What will satisfy your deepest need? What will bring you joy?
When Jesus asks them, “what are you looking for?” the disciples of John do not give him an elevator speech or a thoughtfully prepared mission statement. But they know what they are looking for. They know that the thing they have been seeking is this man standing in front of them. They respond with a question of their own. They only want to know, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”
What are you looking for in life? Everybody searching for something. Children long for a special toy or game. Teenagers look for success at school or for a boyfriend or girlfriend. Working people might be seeking out the next big career opportunity. People of any age could be wanting financial security or peace of mind.
Jesus says in Mt 6:33 seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. St. Paul in phil 3:8 says, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
St Francis of Assisi said, My God and My All.
Today’s Gospel introduces us to someone who is also a seeker: a merchant on a quest for fine pearls. Like many of us, this merchant is searching for something specific. And during his search, he finds something far more wonderful than what he expected: one single pearl of surprising value, a “pearl of great price”. Seeing it, he gives up the search for those “fine pearls.” He commits himself fully to obtaining that one beautiful pearl – so much so that he sells everything else so that he can buy it.
It is like a child holding a knife in his hand and refused to give it up. When he is shown a shiny ‘necklace’, he put the knife down and grabbed the ‘necklace’. As a child we cling to many things. But to cling to the pearl of Christ is to lose the rest.
Today the Gospel of Saint Matthew again brings us three parables: that of the Hidden Treasure, that of the Fine Pearl and that of the Fishing Net. And Jesus uses those three things to explain to us the meaning of the Kingdom of Heaven and its importance. (Mt. 13, 44- 52)
There are many times that Jesus speaks to us in the Gospel of the “Kingdom of God”, of the “Kingdom of Heaven”. And, furthermore, how many times have we repeated that phrase of the Our Father “Your kingdom come”! It means, then, that it is important to understand what the “Kingdom of Heaven” is. And it is important to know what its implications are.
In this piece of the Gospel of Saint Matthew Jesus Christ uses three parables to explain what the Kingdom of Heaven is all about. But these are not the only ones.
Jesus Christ explained the Kingdom of Heaven to us with many comparisons and parables, so that we could grasp the importance of his Kingdom. It is so important that it must come before everything else.
So, what does Kingdom all about? In the Old Testament, Kingdom of God refers to the provident and protective kingship of God over the chosen people. The fruit of this Kingdom is a whole moral order of peace, justice, and mercy.
In the New Testament, Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God is near at hand (Matt 4:17). He called, therefore, for conversion and repentance and for watchfulness. He also said that the Kingdom of God was for sinners and outcasts, the poor and the despised too. Entrance into the Kingdom will be determined by our response to the neighbor in need.
Early Christians like St. Paul and St. Luke proclaimed Christ as the personification of the Kingdom. According to St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great, they identified the Kingdom of God with the Church; that the Church is the Kingdom. So, we must enter and be members of this kingdom or else. But our modern understanding of God’s Kingdom is this:
First, it is God’s reign here on earth whereby He brings humanity and the world the blessings of salvation.
Second, it is the total liberation of mankind involving all dimensions of man (socio-cultural, religious, economic, political, and ecological). Is mankind’s final destiny where God shall be all in all, where peace, love, truth, and justice reside?
Third, it is God’s eternal rule where love reigns, the supreme dominion of the Father over all things and mankind’s complete ultimate happiness.
How to realize this Kingdom into our lives? For me, it is just simple. Give to the needy, Love more simply, Visit the imprisoned, offer hospitality, visit the sick, support the bereaved, admonish the sinner, spread the good news of the Kingdom of God, counsel the doubtful, comfort the lonely, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries, free your heart from hatred, free your mind from worry, live simply, expect less, give more and pray for the living and the dead.
These are very simple, very practical. They are not impossible to do and let us joyfully do them and find Jesus, the true treasure and priceless pearl. Amen.
Fr. A. Francis HGN