July 26, 2020
XVII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Today we read the last three parables of the chapter that Matthew dedicates to the mystery of the Kingdom of heaven.
Jesus uses new images to speak of the Kingdom of God, which breaks into history and which transforms life. At the heart of these and today’s parables, is the Kingdom of God and our decision regarding it.
The Kingdom of God is not an external and defined entity. Instead, it is Jesus himself and all that follows from the encounter with Him: relationships, the gaze on the world, the desire that moves us, and even our affections. In short, living in the Kingdom of God, that is, deciding for Christ, radically changes one’s way of living. The Kingdom is nothing else but this.
Today’s passage tells us first how we can encounter this Kingdom. It may be that we encounter it by chance, in the course of our life, while we are intent on something else, like the farmer who, while plowing the field, finds a treasure (44). It can be the result of a long search, like the merchant looking for precious pearls (45), and it can also be the fruit of those who work to announce the Kingdom, like fishers who throw the net into the sea (47-48) and collect all kinds of fish they don’t know.
Matthew also tells us that the treasure, namely, the Kingdom, is pre-existing; it is there waiting to be accepted and not the result of our work. Vigilance, that is, an attitude of listening and openness, is needed to welcome the Kingdom. It is the attitude of attention that allowed the farmer to notice the treasure and the merchant to locate the pearl. Also, to indicate that it is necessary to know how to be with the right attitude in the time given to us, to understand how to wait, as the Gospel of last Sunday reminded us. Those who do not wait, do not encounter: the Kingdom passes, and they do not worry about it.
None have control over the Kingdom, and we must not worry about results. It is the angels, not us, who separate the good from the bad: “the angels will come, and they will separate the bad from the good” (49), as well as in the parable of the wheat and of the tares we had to wait for the harvest before making the separation.
The treasure is priceless. The farmer and the merchant sell everything to have the treasure or the pearl (“he sells all his possessions,” 44, 46). In short, welcoming the Kingdom is worth everything and changes everything. They sold everything they had, but they also replaced all their priorities. Christ changes life radically. Deciding for Christ, therefore, involves a complete decision that does not allow compromises.
Furthermore, the first fruit of the Kingdom is joy (“full of joy,” 44). After all, only what gives us joy will also give us the strength to change our priorities and life radically.
We have said that the Kingdom changes human lives radically. However, the final verse of today’s passage also tells us that nothing in our history is erased from us. “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old” (52). Once we become disciples of the Kingdom, we will assign a new reading and interpretation to what we are and to our history, without throwing anything away. We will be the same as always, but also totally different and unique.