Sunday, July 24, 2011

Buried Treasure

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sell all he has and buys the field.
It may be one of the most fought over pieces of real estate in the world; but, as anyone who has ever been there can attest, much of Israel is arid desert – basically a bunch of rocks. Working such land is hard and exhausting work. So just imagine the surprise and excitement and joy of the farmer or field hand who, having turned over hundreds of rocks in his life, suddenly sees something completely unexpected, something with the potential of totally transforming his life for the better!
Obviously, we are supposed to see ourselves in these parables. Like the field hand and the pearl merchant, we too have found something we neither earned nor could have expected. Like them, we have the opportunity to take advantage of the gift – buying the field or the pearl – in other words, responding fully to the opportunity, recognizing that it is an all-or-nothing decision on our part. In life one either takes advantage of an opportunity, or one misses the opportunity.
But we can also imagine these parables from God’s point of view. Like the farmer, God has been tilling the rocky unresponsive soil of this unpredictable world – and has found us in the soil of the world. We are the treasure, which God has found for himself in the midst of the ordinary life of the world – a treasure for which he has invested his most precious possession, his Son, Jesus, in order that we might become God’s permanent treasure and so be treasured by him forever.
Of course, a treasure found in a field probably requires careful care and cleaning - not unlike our old baptismal font, which required careful cleaning and restoration after we found it in the cemetery. And so do we! But a God who is willing to get involved in our world from the inside – by becoming one of us and living our life in our world – is not going to shrink from the added work of nurturing and perfecting his treasure in his people.
Whether we picture him as farmer or merchant or fisherman, God has always been busily involved in our messy, mixed-up, unpredictable world. The work God has begun by finding us for himself, that same work continues in our daily life as his people, his Church, where the messy, mixed-up, and un predictable is gradually being cared for , cleaned up, and transformed – or, to use St. Paul’s words from today’s 2nd reading, called, justified, and glorified.
Whether we think of ourselves as having been dug up from under a pile of rocks or fished out of the sea, as God’s people in whom God has invested so much – invested himself, in fact – we are now in the lifelong process of being transformed into God’s treasure - called, justified, and glorified.
The more we give in to what God is doing with us, the more we will identify ourselves fully with what God is doing in our world and so become co-workers ourselves in the mission of farming – or fishing – the world for God’s kingdom of heaven.

Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Immaculate Conception Church, Knoxville, TN, July 24, 2011.

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