First Reading: 1Kgs 3:5. 7-12; Psalm: 119. R. v. 97a; Second Reading: Rm 8:28-30; Gospel: Mt 13:44-52
THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND OUR VALUE QUOTIENT
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
The gospel of today is embellished with three rich parables. The first two are essentially similar but differ a bit narratively and in character. The third parable however is parallel to the parable of the wheat and the weed which was the gospel of the immediate past Sunday. That will not be our focus at this mass. Today, we shall be reflecting on the first two parables, the parables of the hidden treasure and fine pearls, to relish on the hidden riches embedded in them.
Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a hidden treasure and fine pearls which a man and a merchant found, sold all they had and bought them. The similarities in these two parables are pretty obvious. Firstly, both the hidden treasure and fine pearls are assets of inestimable value. Secondly, they were both hidden and scarcely visible. Thirdly, they were both found; the latter through search; and the former by chance. And finally, they were bought at the cost of one’s livelihood.
Since Jesus compared the kingdom of God to these two assets of inestimable value; it will be imperative to understand what Jesus meant by “The kingdom of God.” So, what exactly is this kingdom of God?
The kingdom of God can be seen from three dimensions. From the Christological dimension, the kingdom of God is a person. “The kingdom of God is itself a veiled Christology. By the way in which he speaks of the kingdom of God, Jesus leads men to realise the overwhelming fact that in him God himself is present among them, that he is God’s presence.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth). So, the kingdom of God is Christ himself. It is Jesus revealing to us that in him is God made manifest.
From the Mystical dimension, the kingdom of God is God within our hearts. It is discovering that God resides within us. And from the Ecclesiastical dimension, the kingdom of God is the Church of Christ. And just as the third parable of today’s gospel illustrated, the Church is a mixture of the good and the bad, saints and sinners who are striving towards perfection until the Day of Judgement when we shall all reap the fruits of our works. So summarily, we can say that the kingdom of God is the salvation of man. And this salvation is of inestimable value; it is veiled by earthly realities; and we need to find it. But sometimes we stumble upon it.
From the above understanding of the kingdom of God, we can see that all that Jesus said about the kingdom of God were obviously true. Some of us were born into the faith (Church) while some of us discovered the faith and became Christians after a sincere search for salvation. And as members of this kingdom of God, the Church never ceases to deepen our faith in Christ who now lives in our hearts through the Word and Sacrament. But here comes the reality check. How many of us have embraced this gift of inestimable value with all that we have? Of what percentage is our commitment to the salvation that Christ has offered to us through the Church? Can we boast to have sacrificed all that we have to secure this kingdom of God?
It was for the sake of the kingdom of God that St Paul said; “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 3:8). This submission of St Paul is the right disposition to acquire the kingdom of God. The clause “he goes and sells all that he has” was a metaphor that Jesus used in this parable to highlight our need to consider all things as refuse or rubbish if only we can have him. So, what value and attention do we give to our faith life? Do we honestly consider all things as rubbish for Christ’s sake? If we are not sure about this, I would be glad to take us through some reality checks.
Have we cancelled Sunday masses because of a party we had to attend, an assignment we had to do, a visitor we had to wait on, an exam we had to write or because we were busy with some petty works that could wait and the world would not collapse? Have we spent the week working, visiting friends, attending parties, braaing and drinking but only to begin to feel tired to give God only an hour or less on a Sunday?; a hallowed day given by God to be kept holy. If the winter could not stop us from going to work because we fear losing our jobs; why should the same winter stop us from being at Mass on Sunday without the fear of losing our salvation? Any excuse that does not border on the sustenance or respect for human life is insufficient to excuse us from carrying out a holy obligation.
But then it is not just enough to be at Church. To acquire this kingdom of God of inestimable value we need to do something more. Each time we gather for mass, we gather with our imperfections as Christ patiently sows the seed of his word in our hearts and nourishes us with the sacrament of his body to gradually purge off those imperfections. On our part, we need to open up our hearts for this seed to bear fruit so that we can keep alive that kingdom of God that now lives within our hearts. And the more we open up our hearts, the more we would discover more hidden treasures that we would cherish and guard jealously.
Now, there is something we must not forget. The kingdom of God is often veiled with earthly realities. The man in the parable found it within a field. And the merchant had to search diligently to find it; which implies that it is scarcely visible to the eye. This is why certain lifestyles are naturally easy to live by that we would need to work hard to unlearn them so as to discover the eternal values hidden behind them. So potentially, there is a saint in every sinner; and there are discoverable good values in every bad person. And this is where the third parable tenons well with the first and the second; in that as we strive to discover and acquire this kingdom of God, God waits patiently for both the good and the bad to utilise their opportunities until the end of time when all will be judged accordingly.
So, to acquire the kingdom of God, we need to remove those earthly realities veiling our salvation. We need to remove the veil of selfishness to learn how to give. We need to break down the walls of hatred and prejudice to see the need to love. We need to remove the blinders of racism to see the potentials in our differences and the beauty in our blend of colours. And we need to put an end to war and violence to see the value of peace. Our salvation is often veiled by our imperfections. And our selfishness many a time overshadows the things that matters most. And here comes another reality check.
Does the amount we spend splurging at the pub anywhere close to the offering we give at mass or our generosity to those truly in need? Does the percentage we give for our planned giving a fair reflection of our incomes and earnings? Should it not bother us that the expenses and the municipality bills of the church are becoming cumbersome if we had enough to help? Do we prioritise our comfort and spendthrift behaviour over the sufferings and pains of those we could help to alleviate their condition? The kingdom of God is often hidden in most of the things we trivialise and overlook.
Solomon in the first reading of today asked God for wisdom and not wealth. And wisdom is the discernment to separate what is worthwhile from what is worthless. Jesus tells us today that the kingdom of God is not only worthwhile but also an invaluable treasure that we should go after and acquire. May the wisdom to make this choice not elude us. Amen.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, give us the wisdom to discern wisely the things of heaven from the things of earth. Amen.