Homily 17th Sunday Ordinary Time – 30th July 2023
The images used by Christ this weekend mean to tell us just one thing really about the Kingdom, and that is that it is good. It is valuable, we should be striving for it. So much so that we should be willing, if need be, to sacrifice everything to become a part of it.
To seek the Kingdom means to accept God’s design in place of our own, even without understanding why, even when that design seems not to make life very satisfying but instead seems to make it fairly frustrating.
And it is perfectly true that some of God’s design just doesn’t seem very satisfying at first glance. When we find ourselves offended, it is hard to see how turning the other cheek could be very satisfying. Common sense would seem to indicate that finding some way to clobber him back would be infinitely more satisfying. It is hard to see how taking one more job, one more responsibility, could be more satisfying than saying something like “I have done more than my fair share. It’s time for some of those lazy bums out there to shoulder some of the burden.” It is hard to see how doing with less materially could possibly be more satisfying than gaining more. It is hard to see how the practice of self-discipline could be more satisfying than giving in to every impulse that is felt. And on and on.
The value of the gigantic pearl is self-evident. It can be measured and weighed, and once a person has seen the possibility of owning it, it is not difficult for him/her to convince himself/herself of the wisdom of sacrificing some smaller goods in order to get hold of the big one. That, after all, is just common sense. Well, the Kingdom of God is not self-evident. It cannot be measured and weighted. It has little to do with common sense.
That is why God’s invitation is called revelation, and our own response is called faith. A share in the Kingdom of God is not built in a laboratory, where effect always follows cause, where precise techniques yield precise results. Rather, that share is pieced together in a very confusing world where the virtues of trust, faithfulness, forgiveness, and love, are the only techniques that really work.
We may not understand God’s design, but we can act on it. And if we do, we have found the pearl of great price in the Gospel. And the satisfaction that comes with being in possession of that final good, the best that life has to offer will be ours.