• 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time A

    Posted on July 25, 2017 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    Continued: The Kingdom of heaven is like….


    Introduction:  This Sunday we hear the last three parables of this

    parable discourse, chapter 13.  The parables that we will hear are those

    of the treasure, the pearl and the net.  The Gospel passage concludes

    with some words about a person learned in the kingdom.




        The first two parables belong to Matthew’s special tradition, and

    with them he shifts for a moment the emphasis of the chapter.  The

    preceding parables have been concerned with the triumphant growth of the

    Kingdom in spite of resistance, and with the necessity of patience until

    the final judgment.  In these two similar parables Matthew introduces

    the themes of (l) overwhelming joy at the unexpected discoveries; (2)

    the unparalleled value of the Kingdom of heaven; and (3) the willingness

    of the finder to sacrifice all in order to possess the Kingdom.


        1st parable: treasure:  Here the finder is a person who happens on

    the treasure accidentally.  The discovery is accidental.  The parable

    stresses that he entered the venture with “joy” and risked everything he

    owned in order to acquire the treasure which he had discovered.

        Sometimes today an Egyptian village boy will decide to sell his

    ancestral plot to buy a taxi.  He hopes to get rich taking tourists

    around to see the ancient monuments.  Such decisions cause an uproar in

    the village, where land is still the most important thing a peasant can

    have.  The common view is that any parting with one’s land is courting

    disaster.  Imagine Jesus’ story on the scale of the village–where no

    behavior goes unnoticed or uncommented upon.  The man’s action is not

    trivial even though he does have the motive of the buried treasure.  To

    gain the field, he has had to part with the very substance and security

    of his life.   … The story presents a striking image of a case in

    which a person is willing to really change everything about his life. 

    Thus it can be seen as a positive affirmation of the power of the

    presence of God to transform our lives.   The man responds to an

    unexpected discovery.  That discovery made it possible for him to launch

    out beyond the socially ingrained securities of his life.


        2nd parable: treasure:  Here the finder is a seeker. He has

    traveled in search of fine pearls.    In the second parable the man’s

    joy is not mentioned but he also is willing to sacrifice everything to

    purchase the valuable pearl.  One need not consider the joy mentioned in

    the first parable secondary.  Both men surrender all they possess for

    the prizes they have found.  This story seems to intensify the risk-

    taking attitude of the previous story.  The rule of God does not permit

    one to “play it safe.”


        Both of these parables cause us to reflect on the cost of

    discipleship.  Both sell all that they have to buy the field or the

    pearl.  What must we get rid of in order to gain the kingdom?  What is

    in the way of our attaining the kingdom?  To think of this in economic

    terms is wrong.  We can’t buy the kingdom although many people think

    they can buy God with promises, sacrifices, or even donations of money.


        3rd parable:  net:  This parable stresses the final judgment.  In

    many ways it is a companion to the parable of the wheat and weeds.   We

    have the mixture of the good and bad in the kingdom. We have the

    apocalyptic  language, “End of the world.” Angels. The separation

     of the wicked and  the just, the fiery furnace and “wail and grind their teeth.”


        The Passage ends with a question about the disciples understanding. 

    There is an unspoken comparison with the lack of understanding of the

    crowds and the Jewish leaders.  “Every scribe who is learned in the

    reign of God is like…”  This verse is important from several points of

    view.  First, in its immediate context, it is a kind of parable that

    concludes the chapter of seven other parables.  It is a parable about

    making parables, a metaparable that invites the reader/hearer to enter

    the parabolic process through creating new parables to add to the ones

    just given.  Second, the verse suggests the existence and activity of

    Christian scribes in Matthew’s church.  Third, the verse has rightly

    been taken as the autobiography or pen portrait of the evangelist.  It

    would also fit Paul.  “who can bring from his store both the new and the

    old.” One should notice the telling order of words; contrary to natural

    expectations, the “new” is placed before the “old.”  Both shed light on

    each other, but the defining norm is the new, the fulfillment.   The

    ideal is put before us to be this kind of scribe.

        This metaparable seems to me to be very much at play during the 

    papacy of Pope Francis.


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