I know i have not blogged much lately. I hope to begin doing so more — I am working on trying to make some audio conferences available on a website as well….
“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 sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
What is the kingdom of heaven? All of us have a vague idea of what this means. It truly is heaven. But much more than that, the kingdom of heaven is that life that we can have – STARTING RIGHT NOW ON THIS EARTH – in intimacy with our God. That is the simplest definiton of the kingdom.
The first thing that I want you to notice about the three different parables that Jesus tells about the kingdom of heaven in our gospel is that in ALL THREE OF THEM, a very vigorous search is involved – a treasure buried in a field that is found, a pearl of great price that is found, and a net full of good fish that is found and sifted through. All three of these involve a great deal of work. All three of these involve also what we might call “luck,” but which a more faithful person might call “grace,” right? How are we going to find these things after all? Have you ever heard of the expression, “Work as if it all depended on you and pray as if it all depended on God?” Well, I think that is a very good saying for our readings today.
One of the things that both of these images have in common is that the kingdom of heaven is hidden. In the very least, it’s quite hard to get. But WHY is it hidden? Well, because anything that is truly precious is usually quite rare. Most of us are busy people. We get distracted by the thousand tasks of the day, and then even more so by the distractions we choose for ourselves – t.v., games, parties, relationships, laziness, phonecalls, drinking – anything but actively trying to look for God.
Another common element of these two images – both the treasure and the pearl – is that the person who finds the great treasure is willing to give up everything to have it. The person in the first two parables has to give up everything he owns to have both the field with the treasure and the pearl, and the last parable about the net involves the end of time when the angels are sifting through us like fish – in that last parable, WE ARE THE FISH. Have you ever been compared to a fish? I don’t know if I like it our not. The only expression I can think of is this one. You have probably heard another saying: there is plenty of fish in the sea. When do we say that? We say that when we are talking to somebody who is attached to a person that is not really worth being attached to. The question is – are YOU a fish the angels would keep or not? (If you are married, then hopefully you have NOT heard this expression lately. For you, all the fish in the sea are dead and floating on the surface.)
I just heard another expression that is like that one that just about everyone has heard: If you love something, let it go and if it comes back to you then it was mean to be.
I just heard someone rework that one into the following: if you love something, let it go and if it comes back to you then it’s proof that nobody else really wanted it anyway. 🙂
It is vitally important that we understand this concept about the kingdom of heaven. It is VITALLY important that we work this concept into our spiritual lives. Why? Because it was one of Jesus’s primary themes. He DIED to teach it to us, and we INSULT him by not paying attention to it.
When Jesus preaches, he begins by saying “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The heart of Jesus’ teachings centers around the theme of the kingdom of God. This expression is found in sixty-one separate sayings in the Synoptic Gospels. Counting parallels to these passages, the expression occurs over eighty-five times. When the church summarizes Jesus’s entire preaching ministry, it is with this phrase. I know I have said this before, but repetition is the mother of learning. The third luminous mystery is entitled, “The preaching of the kingdom of Heaven” or simply “The proclamation of the Kingdom.” When Jesus preaches, it is about that particular theme. When he heals or exorcises demons, it is to give signs of the coming of the kingdom. When Jesus talks about the Sermon on the mount, the parables, and the beatitudes, he is teaching us the way of this kingdom. We hear summaries of Jesus preaching in scripture like the following: “Jesus went all around galilee, preaching the good news of the kingdom.” Our Lord himself, according to St. Luke, describes this as the object of his mission: “To other cities also I must preach the kingdom of God: for I am sent for this purpose (Lk 4:43).” YOU CAN’T GET ANY MORE DIRECT THAN THAT, CAN YOU???? So if the “kingdom of God/heaven” is the purpose why our Savior was sent, then we better as heck know a bit about what it means, shouldn’t we?
What we need to understand is that at the time when Jesus breaks in on the scene, the Jews already had an understanding that a Messiah would come to usher in the kingdom of heaven. They had a belief that it would be divine, everlasting, universal and spiritual. They believed God himself would break into human history and establish a kingdom that would be over the entire earth, and that this would be a godly establishment of laws over the entire earth—not merely Israel. And indeed, THAT IS PRECISELY WHAT JESUS DID. But there is plenty of evidence that by the time of Jesus, a large portion of the Jewish population had begun to over-emphasize the letter of the law over the spirit of the law, and to expect an earthly kingdom far more than a spiritual one. Not everyone, mind you—but some.
Jesus had to address this false idea of the kingdom with a true one. He had to come to fulfill the true intentions of the prophets and the prophecies like the one I spoke about earlier. That is why he often ran away into the desert. He didn’t want them to come and make him an earthly king—that totally missed the point of the true kingdom. And what is the true one? Essentially, there are four ideas about the true kingdom: 1) that in order to enter it you have to actually do the will of the father, just as Jesus did. 2) That it was not a kingdom over just the individual human heart, but Jesus intended from the beginning to establish a real church in which we would gather together to continue his Passover meal and help usher in this kingdom. This is also clearly indicated by how upset St. Paul is in the second reading about divisions among the churches 3) This kingdom would be in constant conflict with the kingdom of the world and sin, especially at the end of time, 4) We cannot enter this kingdom without being covered with the blood of our savior and being part of his body, and this is what the sacraments of the church does for us. In other words, it’s not just about being good. It’s also about being rescued by God through miraculous means. That is why we are all at this mass. That is why I am at this mass.
My friends, make no mistake – this world has set up a kingdom of its own. Indeed, Jesus sometimes calls Satan “the prince of this world.” When Jesus is talking about the holy spirit, he says, “The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him.” We often hear that God has a plan for us, and we should believe that. St. Paul tells us, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” But do you know what else is true if THAT statement is true? That if we fail to love God, then all the events in our lives DO NOT work for our good. If we want to be on our own, then God leaves us on our own. God has a plan for you. But Satan has a plan for you as well. Did you know that? This world doesn’t try to get you to worship the devil. That’s too obvious of a temptation. What it tries to get you to worship is YOURSELF. What does that look like? Make your own rules. Pick and choose which rules you are going to follow. God to mass when it’s convenient. Leave it up to somebody else to teach the faith to your kids – why should you have to do it? Watch movies full of filth and sin. It’s not that big of a deal, right? Replace prayer with any sort of activities and for God’s sake don’t worry about confession – god will forgive everybody of everything, right? Try to slide by with doing the absolute minimum. That is the message of this world. And that is also exactly part of the plan that Satan has for your life.
And by all means, FORGET that the kingdom of God takes a long search. Forget that the kingdom of God takes prayer and patience and time. Forget that the kingdom actually has a king, and that he demands to be obeyed. Forget that at the end of life there will be a reckoning, and we will be separated like sheep from goats – we will all be caught in the same net, and the bad fish will be thrown back by the angels. Forget that some suffering and tragedy is necessary for us to actually LOOK like the king of this kingdom. My friends, those who look like him – those whose heart is like his – at the end of time will have nothing to worry about. Have we forgotten this?
We are supposed to be sons and daughters of the king, and too often we act like slaves and citizens of this world. And we simply shouldn’t tolerate it. And I don’t mean tolerate it from each other – I mean what happens when we honestly look at ourselves in the mirror with the eyes that say, “I am a son or a daughter of the Great king, and he is calling for me?” What does all this mean? I simply want you to ask yourself this question: was there an event that truly touched my heart and summoned me into a search for this hidden kingdom? What was it? What does that still, small voice in our hearts whisper for us to do when all is silent and we think we are in the presence of God? Have I forgotten it? Am I afraid of it? Don’t listen to that fear. The parables tell us that what that voice is saying isn’t worth A LOT, it’s worth EVERYTHING. It is the pearl of great price that we should give up everything to follow.
We are sons and daughters of the king. We have a destiny to fulfill. So let’s get out there and do it — one heart at a time — beginning with our own…