17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) – July 26, 2020
St. Mary – Derby, KS
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Psalm 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-130; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52
Today we come to the conclusion of four weeks discussing the Kingdom of God. For the past four weeks, all we have heard about in our Gospels has been about the Kingdom. And remember, the Kingdom is not heaven; the Kingdom is not just something that we might get to experience one day, if we’re good little boys and girls, if we follow the rules, if we’re a good person, no. The Kingdom is not far away in the clouds. The Kingdom of God is here, right now, breaking in. The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that Jesus inaugurates and announces, is not just something that we hope to experience one day, no. The Kingdom of God is here, and we can experience it now.
I’ve mentioned before that it is very easy for us to think of the Kingdom as a place, somewhere we all want to go. But a little more accurately, the Kingdom is a relationship. Again, think of all of the relationships in your life: those are signs and tastes of the Kingdom. It’s all of those cheesy lines, “Home is wherever I’m with you,” or, “As long as I’m with you, I’ll be OK.” But that’s precisely it! There are certain relationships in our life where, even if we were doing awful financially or there was sickness or anything—as long as that person is with us, as long as we have them, we’re fine, we are at peace, we can endure anything.
That is what the Kingdom is! It is not a place we hope to go. It is a relationship we want, and need, to have! Jesus Christ is the Kingdom, and in a relationship with Christ we experience the Kingdom, and that can happen right here and right now.
But if you’re anything like me, you already know this. You were taught since second grade that the right answer is “Jesus.” And if I were to hand out a quiz on elements of the faith, you would do fine and put down the right answers. And I could stand up here and teach you a lot of new facts about Jesus and the Kingdom, and you would be like, “Yeah, sounds good. I agree.” But if you’re anything like me, you would walk out the door thinking, “Yeah, but why do I care? What difference does it make?” So the issue isn’t really, “What’s the right answer?” The issue is, “Ok, I have the answer. What do I do now? I know a relationship with Christ is the most important, that in a relationship with Christ I experience the Kingdom, great. How do I do that? How do I experience the Kingdom?”
Go to the Gospels. If you want to see it in action, go to the Gospels. Time and time again, we see this play out. Our Gospel today, that’s what it’s all about. “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” (Mt 13:44) It’s that simple. “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” (Mt 13:45-46). Easy. Right?
A young man ran up to Jesus one day and he said, “Jesus, what do I need to do to gain eternal life?” A great question, one that I think we all ask. And Jesus says, “Well, follow the commandments. ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” Seems simple enough. And the young man looks at him, a bit exasperated, weary. And he says, “I’ve done this. Ever since I was a young kid, I have done all of these. But they don’t change anything. In fact, a bunch of my friends don’t follow these commandments, and they seem to have a lot more fun than I do!” (c.f., Psalm 73, “I was filled with envy of the proud / when I saw how the wicked prosper. / For them there are no pains; their bodies sounds and sleek. / They have no share in men’s sorrows; / they are not stricken like others.”) And we’ve all been there. We were the good kid, we did the ‘right thing,’ but we never liked it, we never really understood why we tried so hard. But just like this young man who runs up to Jesus, we’re following the rules, we’re trying to experience the Kingdom like Jesus promises, but we just seem to be missing something. And so listen to what Jesus says. Remember, by this point, Jesus had already told these parables we heard many times, people had told them to each other. And so Jesus looks at this young man, loves him, and says to him, “Well, you are missing one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor. And then come, follow me.” Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor. And then come, follow me.
A person finds a treasure, and then goes and sells all that he has; a merchant finds a great pearl, and then goes and sells all that he has. When these people in the parables sell everything they have, it’s not a wager or a gamble! They’re not making a last ditch effort to turn things around. They’re not pulling all their savings and then going down to Mulvane and putting it all on 24, no. These people in the parables are acting shrewdly, they’re doing insider trading, shorting the market. In this story with the young man, Jesus just switches himself out for the treasure. “Go, sell all that you have, pay the broker (the poor), and then you’ll get the treasure, me, the Kingdom!” If these people in the parable had been there with the young man, they would tell him, “Do it! Sell all that you have! Do it!!”
But what does the young man do? When the young man hears Jesus say this, when Jesus says, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor. And then come, follow me”—when the young man hears this he goes away sad; for he had great possessions. This young man has found the kingdom, he has been told the path to the kingdom—and the only thing that stood in his way was himself, his clinging to his possessions. And he goes away sad, right back where he started.
In order to experience the Kingdom—the treasure, the pearl, following Christ—our first order of business is to “go, sell what you have.” Because that is when we are able to begin to experience the Kingdom. If our relationship is first and foremost to our possessions, to our money or power or even our own life—if we seek to experience the Kingdom through these relationships, yeah, good luck. But when we sell everything, and follow Christ, invest everything in our relationship with Jesus Christ, invest everything in your vocation to marriage, in my vocation as a priest—when everything is rooted in our relationship with Christ, the Kingdom shines forth.
And that is what attracts people to the faith.
The Kingdom isn’t experienced by being a good person, or believing the right ideas, following the best rules, none of that. The Kingdom is experienced when you invest everything in Jesus Christ—and receive a return on your investment a hundred times greater in this life, and in the life to come, eternal life.