Renewing Our Joyful Seizing of Christ as our Treasure, 17th Wednesday (I), August 2, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Peter Julian Eymard
August 2, 2017
Ex 34:29-35, Ps 99, Mt 13:44-46

 

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today, in a happy occurrence that occurs every 6 years, we have twice in a four day period two short parables that to me summarize the essence of the Christian life, pointing, however, to a reality that few actually realize and live. They point to the fundamental Christian choice and the joy with which we’re supposed to make and renew it.
  • The parables are simple enough to understand. The first is of a poor peasant who happens to find a buried treasure in the midst of his work in someone else’s field. There were no real banks to speak of in ancient Palestine. People would often bury things of value in secret locations in fields. There was no sense of “finders keepers, losers weepers” then; whatever was discovered in a field belonged not to the discoverer but the owner. That’s why the man needed to buy the field. It’s quite obvious that the one selling had no idea that an ancient treasure was buried on his property. He didn’t place the same value in the field as much as his peasant did and so he sold it. For the peasant, selling all he had in order to get the money to buy the field was nothing compared to what he knew he would be gaining. The second parable is of a wealthy merchant actively searching for precious pearls, going from place to place in pursuit of something truly valuable and beautiful. Finally he found the pearl of his dreams, whose worth was unsurpassable, but whose owner valued it less than the money and property he would get in exchange. And so the wealthy merchant sold all that he had before, doubtless houses, gems and other valuables, to obtain that pearl of great price.
  • We see a few fundamental lessons about the kingdom of God in these parables. The first is that the Kingdom is a treasure greater than any other. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21). He told us in that same Sermon that many of us seek to “store up for [ourselves] treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,” but he wanted us to “store up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven,” a treasure not measured in clothing that moths can wreck, metals that rust can corrode, or money that thieves or taxes can take. Jesus is telling us that our heart must be set on God, and not just in general, but set on him more than Tom Brady wants to win another Super Bowl, more than an ambitious politician seeks to win high office, and more than a man in love will do everything he can to win over and marry the woman he can’t stop thinking about. Is our heart set that way? Do we really treasure God?
  • The second lesson is that to obtain the treasure isn’t cheap. We have to give up things, and not just things that we don’t want or value, but things that are precious. In the parables, each sells all he has, all his valuables. Jesus says that to enter his kingdom, we must deny ourselves, pick up our Cross, lose our life, sell what we have and give to the poor, love our enemies, give our cloak and not just our tunic, and even be willing to leave father and mother, children and lands, for his sake and the sake of the Gospel. The price is steep! But it’s nothing compared to what we’re getting.
  • That leads to the third lesson. Despite the cost, it’s still the greatest bargain of our life. It’s like trading in a small house in a crowded neighborhood for a Mansion at the bay, giving up a steady Chevy in order to get a new Mercedes. That’s what leads the farmer and the merchant to sell all that they had, because the joy they obtained from their new acquisition far outweighed the sadness of what they were losing. What they were getting was far greater than what they were giving up. This is the joy we see, for example, in the apostles who, when finding a treasure, left all they had to follow Jesus. When the Lord Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John from their boats right after they had captured the largest catch in their careers, the evangelists told us, they left “immediately” and followed him. Likewise, when Jesus came to find St. Matthew at his tax collecting post and said, “Follow me!,” Matthew left all the money on the table, all the ledgers, and immediately got up to follow Jesus. St. Peter would later summarize the common characteristic of the apostles when he turned to Jesus and said, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Unlike the Rich Young Man who kept grasping his mammon and departed from Jesus said, the Apostles seized the kingdom with joy. That’s the decision made by the saints.
  • The big decisions we see in the Parable don’t happen all the time, when we literally give up everything to seize what God is offering. We’re all here because we’ve made such a choice in the past, but the joy of our vocation and the fruitfulness of our mission, is somewhat dependent on how we live and renew that choice each day. We can’t be living off the past. Christ comes to us each day and each day we are giving the privilege to make him our treasure, to seize him with joy. In the midst of a culture that tries to live everything as “both/and” because it’s afraid of sacrifice, in which we want God and mammon too, we want happiness and sin too, we priests and religious have a particular apostolic task to show that sometimes it’s “either/or,” and that the choice for Christ is the best and happiest one we can make. We show that we choose the poor Christ over all the money in the world, the obedient Christ over all the autonomy the world promises, the chaste, celibate Christ even over the goods of marriage and family. And when we do so with joy, there is no more compelling witness to the kingdom in our age, enslaved as it is by materialism, individualism and hedonism.
  • We have a chance to renew that choice each day at Mass. Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Peter Julian Eymard, the 19th century founder of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament. So moved was he by the reality of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist that he founded these institutes for men and women religious respectively, to help the entire Church recognize the hidden treasure of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist. I’m convinced that if Catholics really believed and lived what our faith professes, that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, and we began to act as if Jesus really is here on the altar and in our tabernacles, the Church and the world would be turned right-side-up. We say we believe it but we often don’t really act like it. If we did, every Catholic would strive to become a daily Communicant, an adorer, and spend as much time with Jesus as we can: after all, this is God in our midst. Are we as wise as the farmer and the merchant to give up many other good things to seize this treasure?
  • And so today we come to Mass to be given once more the choice for the kingdom. Like the poor peasant, we might be surprised by the directness of the offer as we’re going about our day. Or like the merchant, we might have been seeking this pearl for our whole life. But regardless, the offer of the kingdom is here. That pearl, that treasure, is Jesus himself. At every Mass the priest says, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that this sacrifice yours and mine, may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.” We bring to Mass our sacrifices, both what we’ve given up as well as what we are now giving of, and we unite it with Christ’s sacrifice as one holy, living and acceptable oblation to the Father, our logike latreia, the only worship that makes sense. St. John Vianney, the patron saints of priests, catechized his people about the power of the Eucharist to make us great saints, to help us seize the kingdom, if we but choose to center our whole life on Jesus, the King himself, in the Eucharist. He said, “Next to this sacrament, we are like someone who dies of thirst next to a river, just needing to bend the head down to drink; or like a poor man next to a treasure chest, when all that is needed is to stretch out the hand” and grab the gold coins. The Eucharist is that treasure that quenches our thirst, that makes us truly rich, because Christ himself is that pearl of great price. Let’s ask God the Father for the grace to make Christ his Son in the Eucharist our precious pearl, our true treasure, so that we may experience in this life and forever in heaven the joy Jesus describes of the poor peasant and rich merchant. That joy, that treasure, is ours for the taking. This is what Jesus is offering us today: the deal of an eternal lifetime. Let’s beg for the wisdom and the courage necessary to sacrifice whatever we need to do to make that deal.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 EX 34:29-35

As Moses came down from Mount Sinai
with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands,
he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant
while he conversed with the LORD.
When Aaron, then, and the other children of Israel saw Moses
and noticed how radiant the skin of his face had become,
they were afraid to come near him.
Only after Moses called to them did Aaron
and all the rulers of the community come back to him.
Moses then spoke to them.
Later on, all the children of Israel came up to him,
and he enjoined on them all that the LORD
had told him on Mount Sinai.
When he finished speaking with them,
he put a veil over his face.
Whenever Moses entered the presence of the LORD to converse with him,
he removed the veil until he came out again.
On coming out, he would tell the children of Israel
all that had been commanded.
Then the children of Israel would see
that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant;
so he would again put the veil over his face
until he went in to converse with the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm PS 99:5, 6, 7, 9

R. (see 9c) Holy is the Lord our God.
Extol the LORD, our God,
and worship at his footstool;
holy is he!
R. Holy is the Lord our God.
Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
and Samuel, among those who called upon his name;
they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.
R. Holy is the Lord our God.
From the pillar of cloud he spoke to them;
they heard his decrees and the law he gave them.
R. Holy is the Lord our God.
Extol the LORD, our God,
and worship at his holy mountain;
for holy is the LORD, our God.
R. Holy is the Lord our God.

Alleluia JN 15:15B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I call you my friends, says the Lord,
for I have made known to you all that the Father has told me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 13:44-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“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.”