Sunday, July 27, 2008

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52
The gospel today gives us two short parables about the kingdom of heaven. The first one is about a person who, after finding a treasure buried in a field, sold everything he had in order to buy the field and take possession of the treasure. The second is about a merchant who, after finding a pearl of great price, sold everything he had in order to buy the precious pearl.

“Parables are earthly stories with heavenly meanings.” What are the lessons that we should learn from the parables we just read?

First of all, we should not think that the parables are asking us to buy the kingdom of heaven with our money. The kingdom of God is priceless and is given free to all those who will be found worthy. An evil person cannot enter heaven even if he has all the money in the world. To get into heaven, a person needs only the riches of his heart – like gentleness, generosity, compassion, and mercy.

The most important lesson of the parables is this: the kingdom of God must be first in all our priorities. The person who wishes to be in heaven or to enjoy life with God must be ready to lose everything for it. If we choose God in our life, we must be willing to let go of other treasures that we enjoy possessing. “God may well be taken as a substitute for everything; but nothing can be taken as a substitute for God.” The kingdom is more valuable than all the riches in the world: “For what does it profit to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Such is an important reminder for all because many of us have misguided priorities in life.

If we are given the choice, what do we prefer: gold, glory or God? It is easy for us to say that we prefer “God” in our lives, but sadly enough, this is not what we see in people’s priorities today. Often, the desire for wealth and honor would push people to spend all their precious time for work and business. The prevailing culture suggest that to be happy, one must have more and achieve more, and people would tend to believe it. Hence, many are willing to sacrifice their time for the family in order to earn more money. Many also are ready to surrender their Christian principles and values just to keep their fame and glory.

The story of Solomon should inspire us all. In a dream, God offered to give him the one thing that he wanted. Being young, Solomon could have asked for wealth or glory or long life. But realizing the great task ahead of him, Solomon decided that what he really needed was the wisdom to rule his people well in the ways of God. Wisdom or God’s inspiration is what Solomon asked. And God was so pleased with Solomon and He promised him more than the gift of wisdom, including riches, glory and long life. The song we always love to sing is right: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all good things shall be added unto you.”

Mother Teresa of Calcutta and John Paul II both died leaving no property, for they had not accumulated treasures on earth. They found their treasure in a life given totally to the service of God and of the Church. The parables are true: Those who discover the treasure of the kingdom will be happy to let go of everything to follow and be close to Jesus.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13:24-43

A man said to his wife: “You are beautiful but stupid at the same time.” The wife responded: “You are correct. God made me beautiful, and for this you got attracted to me. God made me stupid, and for this I got attracted to you.”
(The story is told by Fr. Jerry Orbos)
The parable of the weeds among the wheat provides an interesting description of our earthly condition: There is in every person the presence of the good (the wheat) and the bad (the weeds). Beauty and stupidity exist together in us. Even the most beautiful person has a dark spot or a negative side. Because we wish to be pleasing in the eyes of people and of God, our human frailties sometimes make us down and discourage.

The parable inspires us to be patient with ourselves, to trust that God is not finished with us yet. If God is patient with us, why couldn’t we be patient with ourselves? If God forgives us, why couldn’t we forgive ourselves, too? The infinite mercy of God should make us humble and open, ever willing to learn from our mistakes. Paradoxically, our failures could be the first step of the road to holiness. Christian maturity begins when we realize that we are helpless in the midst of our own weakness and sinfulness. It is important to recognize our great need of God as we traverse the path of righteousness.

Good and evil exist not only in us but also among us. There are good and bad citizens, hardworking and lazy workers, sensible and foolish teenagers, responsible and neglectful parents, honest and corrupt politicians, etc. If this is the situation, what are we supposed to do? Canonize the good ones and annihilate the bad ones? Why not bring all bad people to the lethal chamber? This is the suggestion of the servant in the parable: Let us get rid of the weeds by pulling them out! This, however, is not the way of God. He remains patient and hopeful even in the most desperate situations.

Some people today think that by killing people they can change the world and that by sowing terror there will be peace. But we know that these people are misled. We cannot deliver peace by terrorism and we cannot bring progress by killing people. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa and John Paul II – made a difference in the world by their discipline, self-sacrifice, hard work, and personal convictions . . . but never with violence. The path of terror is a misguided attempt to get a quick-fix solution to world’s problems. King, Gandhi, Theresa, and the great pope followed the way of God in their compassionate waiting, secured with the knowledge that the great harvest will come at the prescribed time. In God’s time, goodness will triumph over evil: the good will be gathered in the house of God and evil will be thrown into fire.