Sacrificing to Obtain the Treasure, Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), July 24, 2011 Audio Homily

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Anthony of Padua Church, New Bedford, MA
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
July 24, 2011
1Kgs 3:5 7-12, Ps 119:57 72 76-77 127-130, Rom 8:28-30, Mt 13:44-52

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click at the bottom of the page. The following text guided this homily:

  • In April, I was in Houston to preach a parish mission. While there, I had the chance to look up a friend of mine, who had helped me out when I was chaplain at Bishop Connolly. His dad had paid for the Scavi excavations and built Catholic high schools and supported the Church. I asked him to tell me about his dad.
  • His father was orphaned at 7 in St. Louis. He worked hard at school to get to college. After college, he served in the Army Air Corp in WWI and went to Tampico Mexico and Havana Cuba to work in the oil business. In 1929, the year of the great depression, he came virtually penniless to Houston, which is where his wife was from. He toured the back roads of East Texas in search of oil-bearing formation. In 1930, he followed a creek bed outside a place called Conroe, where he found the particular formation. They needed to sacrifice everything to obtain the land. Total risk for his family. But he believed. Eventually two wells were struck and he became the third wealthiest oil man in Houston.
  • The story points out a few things:
    • Hunger for a treasure that could provide
    • Recognition of what would lead to the treasure
    • Sacrificing it all to obtain the treasure.
  • Jesus is talking about the same three things in today’s Gospel parables of the treasure buried in a field and the pearl of great price.
  • The parables are simple enough to understand.
  • Treasure buried in the field
  • No real banks to speak of. People would bury things in fields. Even if someone else discovered it, it belonged to the owner of the field. That’s why the man needed to buy the field. Obviously the one selling had no idea the treasure that was on his property. He didn’t place the same value in it. So he sold it. For the buyer, it was totally worth it.
  • Pearl Merchant
  • He was obviously looking for precious pearls. Finally he found one whose value was insurpassable, but whose owner didn’t value it enough. So he sold all that he had to buy it.
  • What are the spiritual lessons we’re called to learn from these parables? Jesus is talking about the hunger we should have for the kingdom of heaven; a recognition of where that treasure can be found; and the willingness to sacrifice everything to obtain that treasure.
  • Hunger for heaven. Hunger for God.
    • Do we recognize that God is a treasure? Do we want the treasure of a relationship with him, in this world and forever?
    • Do we really have that deep desire for God more than a greedy Wall Street Businessman has to increase his annual bonus?
    • Solomon’s question. If God said to us, “Ask what I should give you?,” would we respond by saying money, or health, or a long-life? Or would we respond like St. Thomas Aquinas, “Nisi te Domine?”
    • It all starts with desire. St. Anthony’s outstretched arms shows us this desire for God.
  • A recognition of where that treasure can be found
    • We need to see the path that leads us to that relationship with God.
    • Are we looking for ways to find him? Or do we sit impassibly waiting for him to find us?
    • Do we acknowledge that we find him in prayer, in the sacraments, in the Christian moral life, in loving service of others, in the saints, in Sacred Scripture?
  • A capacity to sacrifice for him
    • If we hunger for God, for his kingdom; if we know where he is to be found, are we willing to sacrifice — and sacrifice everything — to obtain this treasure? Are we willing to take that risk, to account everything else in our life as secondary to obtaining Christ the Lord?
    • Story of the Rich Young Man. Are we willing to let go of everything else for the Lord?
  • Shortage of priestly and religious vocations. One reason is because young people often aren’t being raised in families that are seeking, recognizing and sacrificing for the pearl of great price who is God. God is a part of their life, but there’s not a lot of sacrifice for him. In fact, they’ll sacrifice God and the things of God for work, or for pleasure, or for soccer games and the elusive college scholarships that may come in the unlikely event that one’s child becomes a star athlete. Vocations come, rather, when people are raised in a household that sacrifices TV for prayer, sacrifices sports leagues for Mass, sacrifices to care for others, etc. When a child is raised in such a home then the sacrifice of the goods of marriage and family to follow Christ all the way in poverty, chastity and obedience as a priest or religious isn’t that great a leap. But when there is not this culture of regular sacrifice, it seems like one is cutting off one’s arms and legs if one discerns that God might be calling.
  • So the question for most of us is not the hypothetical of “Would I be willing to sacrifice everything to obtain the kingdom?,” but rather — because we know where the treasure is and what we’re called to do to obtain it — “Am I sacrificing to obtain this treasure?” Am I sacrificing my time for prayer? Am I doing everything I can to come to receive Christ in the sacraments each day that I am able? Am I storing up for myself treasure in heaven through acts of selfless love or am I trying to store up treasure on earth?
  • St. John Vianney: treasure chest. All we need to do is to make the sacrifice to obtain it. It is ours.
  • Begins here at Mass.

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 11 KGS 3:5, 7-12

The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.
God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
Solomon answered:
“O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king
to succeed my father David;
but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him:
“Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested.
I give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

Responsorial PsalmPS 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

R. (97a) Lord, I love your commands.
I have said, O LORD, that my part
is to keep your words.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
For I love your command
more than gold, however fine.
For in all your precepts I go forward;
every false way I hate.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Wonderful are your decrees;
therefore I observe them.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.
R. Lord, I love your commands.

Reading 2ROM 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers and sisters.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

AlleluiaCF. MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
for you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMT 13:44-52

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.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“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.”