Sunday Sermon for July 27, 2014, the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: 1Ki 3:5, 7-12; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52
In the Gospel reading today our Lord speaks about the buried treasure, the pearl of great price, and the net thrown into the sea which collects a variety of things which will be gathered into buckets, separated into good and bad. It is this last parable that provides a context for the other two. By this I mean that our Lord tells us that at the end of the world the angels will separate the good from the bad and send them to their respective places for eternity.
The context this provides helps to understand the other two parables as they regard us. In other words, you are the hidden treasure; you are the pearl of great price. God found you so valuable that He sold everything in order to purchase you. St. Peter reminds us that the price of our redemption was the Blood of Jesus.
It may be easier for us to consider these parables from the opposite perspective knowing that our Lord is for us the pearl of great price and the hidden treasure. This is certainly true and is confirmed in the other readings for today. In the first reading we hear about Solomon praying for wisdom. Without question, we need the same gift so that we can make the proper choices in life. The most important choice is to love and serve the Lord.
However, Jesus is the Incarnate Wisdom of God and, therefore, if we are going to pray for Wisdom, we are really praying for union with Jesus. St. Paul says the same thing in the second reading when he speaks of the conformity to Christ required of those called by God. Here we see that we have been chosen by God, but if we are going to be conformed to Christ, we have to choose Christ, the Wisdom of God.
The rest of the second reading, however, highlights the point I made originally: that we are God’s pearl of great price. St. Paul says that by the foreknowledge of God, we were predestined, called, justified and glorified. All of this is predicated on the fact of being conformed to Christ. While we may not have the natural wisdom of Solomon, we are to be given the supernatural wisdom of God: Jesus Christ.
It is hard for us to accept that God loves us that much and that He would really want such glory for us. However, when we consider what Jesus did for us on the Cross, we can begin to understand that this is real, that God does actually love us that much. You have already been called and justified, what remains is to be glorified. This begins in this life and finds its fulfillment only in the next.
The glorification of Christ on earth, recall, is found in His passion. It is no different for us. However, in the High Priestly Prayer of John 17, Jesus speaks of the glory of His suffering and the glory that was His before the world began. We all like the idea of the glory of Heaven, but we tend to think that glory on earth is found in riches, power, materialism, or other worldly ideals. However, the Wisdom of God says that glory on earth is found in conformity to Jesus, a conformity which is only complete when we are crucified with Him.
This is where we have to choose Him as our Pearl of Great Price. He has already shown us how much we are worth to Him, so the question is how much He is worth to us. Are we willing to sell everything in order to be conformed to Him? In other words, are we willing to be rejected, to give up the things of the world, to die to self, in order to live for Jesus? Conformity to Christ does not simply mean being kind or speaking the truth. These are essential to being Christlike, but they are not enough.
Anyone can be kind or speak the truth, but for one who is conformed to Christ, the motive is one of love of neighbor flowing from our love for God. This was the motive Jesus had when He accepted the Cross. This is a hard thing for us to grasp, but too many of us want to share our Lord’s glory in Heaven without sharing in His glory on earth. The more we share in His suffering, the more we will share in the reward.
The suffering, however, is not just toughing it out in difficult times. It is accepting and embracing the will of God with love. God’s love for you is what made you His pearl of great price and His buried treasure. Only your love for Him can make Him your Pearl of Great Price and Your Hidden Treasure.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.