Treasure in The Heart – Gospel Reflection for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Treasure in the Heart
In today’s gospel (Matt. 13:44-52), Jesus continues the seven parables about the kingdom of heaven in our lives. What is this kingdom? In the gospels the kingdom of heaven has several different shades of meaning. In today’s parables it refers to the hidden treasure in the heart. “The kingdom of God is within you.” It is the realization that God is not only up there but is also in here, in here in my heart and soul. That is what Pope Francis called the joy of the gospel, the joy of a personal relationship with Jesus. To quote from his Apostolic Exhortation on The Joy of the Gospel: “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness” (Pope Francis: The Joy of the Gospel, par. 1). Inner emptiness is no longer a lonely place: rather, it is space for enjoying the nearness of God in a personal relationship.
This inner joy is described as a hidden treasure unexpectedly discovered in a field. The discovery represents a totally unanticipated experience that brings about a sudden conversion, a new awareness of God as present in one’s life. It is like a new birth and some people refer to the experience as being born again. For others, the experience is like a precious pearl they were searching for over a period of time. These are the people who spent time searching. They read, they studied, tried out various philosophies of life until eventually they found Jesus and all that he means. Whether it comes in a sudden conversion experience, or as the result of much study and searching, hold on to this treasure at any cost. The cost of discipleship usually involves repentance in the sense of a conversion of thought, values and behaviour.
A Church of all sorts
The seventh and last of the parables describing what the kingdom is like describes a fisherman’s net dragging in a mixture of many kinds of fish. This refers to the catholic dimension of the kingdom since the word catholic means all-embracing. There is room for all sorts: for those who focus on conserving the past side-by-side with those who are impatient for change: people who are attracted to shrines and apparitions alongside others who are dubious about apparitions: people who withdraw for the world along with those who are immersed in the world of politics, business, science or sport. Catholic means there is room for all sorts and the more variety of gifts and interests, the richer the community. The dragnet pulling in a haul of all kinds of fish is a good image of the Church.
“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them. No one should think that this is not meant for him or her, since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord” (Pope Francis: The Joy of the Gospel (par. 3). Allow yourself the joy of the kingdom of God within you.
Br Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap.