Christ offers to us the treasure of life

Christ offers to us the treasure of life

By Archbishop Francesco Follo/

Roman Rite

XVII Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A – July 30, 2017

1King 3.5.7-12; Ps 119; Rm 8, 28-30; Mt 13.44-52

Ambrosian Rite

1Sam 3: 1-20; Ps 62; Ephesians 3: 1-12; Mt 4: 18-22

Sunday VIII after Pentecost

1) The Treasure of Life

This Sunday’s Gospel offers us the final part of chapter 13 of St. Matthew‘s gospel with the parables that compare the Kingdom of God to a treasure, to a precious stone and to a net thrown into the sea that gathers all kinds of fish.

While the parable of the net admonishes that the time of judgment is at the end of time and there is a time dedicated to penance, the parables of the treasure and of the pearl remind us of the necessity of making use of earthly riches in order to enter the kingdom of heaven and rejoice of this membership. These two short stories teach us above all that Jesus, the Savior of man, comes to offer to every person worried for his or her tomorrow, the true treasure and the true pearl that ensures happiness: the kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is worth more than things, more than life. It has a prime value for which we must to be ready to sacrifice every other reality. The Lord, his friendship, his love, and eternal salvation are the treasure that no one can steal. There are those who give their life for a treasure and, today, Christ offers himself to us as the treasury of life: let us choose him.

In fact, with the two short parables of the treasure hidden in the field and pearl of invaluable value, the Messiah teaches two things.

The first is that the Kingdom requires a decisive and quick choice like that of the man who immediately sells all his possessions to buy the field with the treasure, or the merchant who, without wasting time, sells everything he has to buy a pearl of exceptional value.

The second is that the choice, which implies a total detachment, springs from having found something of inestimable value. This is the true teaching of the parable. The reason that compels the disciple to leave everything, is the joy of having found the treasure of life. The motive of joy is explicit in the parable of the man who buys the field: “Then he goes, full of joy, and sells all his belongings. “The Kingdom of God is demanding, but finding it has one hundred times value and eternal life.

I’ll explain it better. The two parables describe two different kind of people: the first tells us of a farmer who works a field that is not his, the second speaks to us about a merchant who is very rich. In my opinion, these two characters are the main characters only on the surface. The real protagonists are the treasure and the pearl that seduce the two men. The farmer and the merchant act because they are totally “grasped” by the treasure and the pearl they came across. If we recognize that the precious pearl or the invaluable treasure are Christ and His Kingdom, we also understand that the Redeemer does not say an obvious thing: it is obviously a real deal to buy something that has a value higher than what we pay for. Extraordinary is that with the offer we not only have more, but we are more: children of God, because we have “earned” the treasury of life: Christ. In this case it’s not just a lucky shot, but a wonderful grace to which to respond with prompt decision a total abandonment.

2) True Gain

An example of this decision and of the abandonment of what we have, comes from Saint Paul. He writes: “More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3: 8). The expression “I may gain Christ” has some strangeness. It is generally said to earn something, or to reach a goal, but not a person. If we pay attention to the Greek verb katalambano, we can perhaps recognize in it a note of aggression, almost of bullying so much so that some translate: “I continue my race to try to grab the prize, for I was also grabbed by Christ Jesus “(Phil 3:12).

I like this interpretation of the verb chosen by Paul because it indicates that to be a Christian requires strength of character. The violence that he has ventured against the Christians and Christ before his conversion, he now puts at the service of the truth. Is it not true that even Jesus had to say: “From the days of John the Baptist the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent seize it “(Mt 11:12)?

In the letter to the Philippians that I mentioned just above, the Apostle of the Gentiles acknowledges to have fallen into a terrible mistake. He realizes to have married a wrong cause. Now he, enlightened by that same light that at first blinded him, confesses that it was a false gain, indeed a damaging gain, obviously alluding to the privilege of birth and education, and to every religious and moral effort.

In this re-reading of Paul’s conversion, we see the fruit of grace that heals emerging from the event of Jesus’ passion and death, but we can also acknowledge the action of illuminating grace that can only come from the event of the resurrection of Christ. Having been violently thrown from the horse to the ground is just one pale sign of the Jesus’ Easter victory over Saint Paul. His encounter with Christ on the path of Damascus has led him to formulate a new scale of values, subverting the ones that had previously characterized his life. What had seemed a gain now has become a loss, what seemed richness now has become rubbish, what looked just now has become unjust.

We can surely compare our experience to the one of Saint Paul. At a time in our lives, we have all been urged by the word of God, we all have encountered Christ who has called us into this dynamism of the faith that saves and that -first of all- comes from the heart of God and the heart of Christ. At a time in our life, Christ has met each one of us.

The consequence that arises is that a Christian, in order to be able to say that he is Christian to his/her deepest and to be able to say that he has been at the school of Jesus, must reproduce in himself the Christ like features of the crucified Christ. He must even look like the dead Jesus.

To do this, we must not be an exceptional person. We must have one pretension: that of crucified humility, such as that of St. Paul, who – presenting himself to the Christians of Corinth advanced a single claim: I had in fact decided not to teach you anything other than Christ and Christ crucified” And in order to not preach without meaning, he adds: “I presented myself to you weak, full of fear and worry “(1 Cor 2: 2-3).

It is important to propose to others what we have experienced on ourselves, without avoiding the “command of love” which binds us to the total gift of ourselves. A wonderful synthesis of this itinerary of ascesis to the Kingdom and of this exodus towards the Father’s House, is always given to us by St. Paul, when he writes: “Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus., “(Phil 3: 13-14).

3) The “gain” of the consecrated virgins.

Some might object: if the Apostle of the Gentiles was completely fascinated by his Lord, why should he feel the need to “earn” Christ?

Christ had already revealed himself clearly and had upset his life, filling him with joy. Yet despite this, Paul felt “forced” to earn the heart and love of Christ. Paul’s entire being – his ministry, his life, and the intrinsic purpose of it- was all focused only on the desire of please his Master and Lord. All the rest was rubbish, even the “good” things. Why is it “necessary” to gain the heart of Jesus? Are we not already the object of God’s love?

In fact, His benevolent love extends to all humanity. But there is another kind of love which must always grow and “earn” the beloved. It is the affectionate love for Christ, similar to the on between husband and wife. This love is expressed sublimely in the Song of Songs. In this book, the Bridegroom is portrayed as a kind of Christ, and in a passage the Lord speaks of his bride saying, “You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride with one glance of your eyes with one bead of your necklace. How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride, how much better is your love than wine.” (Song of Songs 4,9-10)

The Bride of Christ is the Church, which aim to please his Lord. In the Church this spousal relationship is lived and witnessed in a special way by the consecrated virgins, who are called to live the love of Christ in loving and confident obedience, separating themselves from all earthly things, because their heart is abducted by Christ. Saying yes to Christ they let themselves ” to have their heat stolen “by Him, on Him they are called to focus, and in Him they love the neighbor, serving Him with joy.

Fri, 07/28/2017 - 22:12
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