Chapter Talk – 17th Sunday of the Year – July 26, 2020, cycle-A
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Mt 13: 44). What is it that we have found and are ready, without much deliberation, to go and sell all we have for the treasure lying within the field of our lives? The next terse parable holds a similar dynamic: “A merchant in search of fine pearls finds one of great price, goes and sells all he has and buys that pearl” (Mt 13:45). Is this not how a vocation is born? Or, minimally, a life dedicated to giving one’s self totally for the ‘treasure’ or the ‘pearl’. We have all bought the field containing the treasure…We took the leap of faith…it was led by joy in the finding and followed by joy in ‘selling all’ for the treasure, the gift. But, how do we keep this dynamic alive? Do we simply say our ‘yes’ once in a big way and that is it? The resounding ‘yes’ and the ‘selling all’ needs to continue daily for the fulfillment of that original consent: the searching, the finding and then the selling all for the found treasure.
Pope Francis comments on these two parables which he calls ‘masterpieces’: “The Gospel allows you to know the real Jesus, it lets you know the living Jesus; it speaks to your heart and changes your life. And then yes, you leave it all. You can effectively change lifestyles, or continue to do what you did before but you are someone else, you are reborn: you have found what gives meaning, what gives flavour, what gives light to all things, even to toil, even to suffering, and even to death” (Regina Coeli, July 27, 2014). We are so gripped by the ‘treasure’ that we are ready to give all away to receive it. Jesus calls the ‘treasure’ the ‘kingdom of God’, or “God’s way of reigning” (Hearing the Word of God, John Donahue, p.92). To repeat, Pope Francis says this treasure (God’s way of reigning), which we sell all for, creates an inner change, ‘you are someone else, you are reborn’. However, here lies the paradox: this shift is present, and still it is something we have to grow into. Specifically, this means daily we are to reaffirm our ‘yes’, daily we are asked to ‘sell all’ for God to reign, for God to direct our lives.
Our consent is never finished….‘Not my will but yours O God’, Jesus prays at the Garden of Gethsemane before his death. The living memory of one’s initial ‘yes’ lives on and actually is the anchor for faith. Living our ‘yes’ involves ‘repentance’ in this sense: a turning from what would lead us away from putting God’s will front and center. We confront daily our ‘self-will’ which is encapsulated in desires that actually turn us away from God. Pope Benedict XVI offers this perspective: “The parables are ultimately an expression of God’s hiddenness in this world and of the fact that knowledge of God always lays claim to the whole person—that such knowledge is one with life itself, and that it cannot exist without ‘repentance.’ For in this world…the gravitational pull of our lives is weighted by the chains of the ‘I’ and the ‘self.’ These chains must be broken to free us for a new love that places another gravitational field where we can enter new life” (Jesus of Nazareth, p.193-194). This is a packed statement by Benedict XVI and one that offers wisdom for those with ‘ears to hear and eyes to see’. The action of ‘selling all’ procures the treasure, reveals a shift from the pull or demands of the ego into the gravitational field of God’s life and love. This field of God’s life is worth everything we have, and one is ready to give all away in order to dwell in this new field of Divine Presence. However, we are never through with getting free from the incessant claims of the ego, and, therefore, never through with responding to the movement of self-transcendence into the new center of God’s love. Another way to express this shift is the willingness to go beyond our existing horizon, our limited, narrow ways into the larger new horizon of God’s life and very being. We are always being prodded to expand the inner spaces of heart and soul, or as Bernard of Clairvaux says, “The soul must grow and expand, that she may be roomy enough for God” (In the School of Love, p.123).
‘They will see and not see, hear and not understand’: we are to hear with the ‘ear of the heart’ and see with the inner eye. Jesus’ parables do not just address the outer person…they address the whole person, beginning with the heart and soul…This is, in the first place, where the parables are understood…To live the reign of God in our lives is connected with a heart that grows into the demeanor of Christ, his humility, his total ‘yes’ to doing God’s will, no matter the cost. Jesus understands the heart of people because he understands his heart. Our ‘yes’ is a work in progress, as it prods us to ever greater freedom, and expansiveness of mind and heart. These days with the pandemic hanging over like a dark cloud are not easy. Still, the reign of God has arrived…and it is for us to let it shine through our lives with peace, hope, joy. Our initial consent or ‘yes’ lives on…let us not put it under a bushel basket but let its light shine for one another, for our world.