Sunday Homily and Bulletin
Readings & Bulletin
for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
They can also be found on our website,
Readings for Sunday, July 26th
If you haven’t read or heard today’s Mass readings for this 17th Sunday of the Year please read them first, particularly the Gospel, and then return here for my thoughts.
Friends, for a couple of weeks we’ve been listening to Jesus describe the kingdom of heaven in parables. And today, two more brief parables. They focus on the joy of really knowing God.
First, there’s one on buried treasure.
It’s fascinating how much we love stories of buried treasure, stories of Blackbeard and pirate ships and secret maps. When we were kids someone would produce a treasure map and we’d try to follow it to find the missing loot.
In the late 1950s my kid brother, Pete, and his friend, Johnny Mazza, had the impression that somehow Nazis had slipped into New York during the Second World War and left money and secret information behind in the Mazza home in Bronxville. I remember these two boys: tapping on walls, looking for secret passages in the house and contemplating taking apart Mrs. Mazza’s nice hardwood floor. Oh, yes! They would have got into big trouble if that project had been pursued. Better minds prevailed.
Stories of buried treasure were rampant in ancient times too, very often based in reality. Today, Jesus capitalizes on this fascination with treasure.
You’re a farmer and you learn an invading army is about to attack you. So, you bury your valuables in the field and “take off” for the hills. But you never return. You’re either killed or you re-locate. And the valuables are long forgotten. A century or two goes by and a farmer is plowing the field and discovers the treasure. He’s so overjoyed he quickly covers it up, goes off to town to buy the field, and comes back to cash in.
One of the greatest archaeological discoveries ever was found in Palestine in 1947, when a teenage boy found one of the Dead Sea Scrolls by simply throwing a rock into a cave way over his head in a remote desert location called
; a treasure left behind by some monks when the Roman army came marching through in the year 70. That discovery led to hundreds of other scrolls being found.
By way of analogy, what’s Jesus getting at? Sometimes God breaks into your life by complete surprise!
You’re busy with life. You’ve got all kinds of preoccupations. You’re “plowing along.” Then, very suddenly, God breaks into your life in a way you don’t expect and everything changes. You start looking at life in a whole new way and find it thrilling.
Last week we celebrated the feast of St. Camillus de Lellis. In the 1500s he founded a religious order dedicated to care for the sick. Before that he was argumentative and an inveterate gambler, repeatedly losing even “his shirt.” Then one day he heard a priest give a sermon. One sermon! It went straight to his heart. He changed and became so happy.
In today’s first parable the Lord is saying that sometimes there’s that surprising quality of conversion and you can’t help but act on it. It’s like finding buried treasure.
The second parable, where the merchant finds one great pearl and sells everything to buy it, throws light on a different aspect of the Kingdom. That’s where you’re the one actively searching for the truth and you find it and that also brings great joy. You don’t stumble on it. You’ve been searching.
Fine pearls in the ancient world were extremely expensive and diving for them, very dangerous. Many lost their lives in pursuit of that one fine pearl.
A pearl is formed when a piece of dirt or a foreign substance makes its way inside the oyster. The oyster secretes a protective layer around the dirt. That layer is what becomes the pearl.
Jesus is saying it’s almost like there’s an “irritant” in us, something that keeps nagging at us. It’s like people searching for the truth. We keep looking, often painfully, for a long time. And when we find it we’re filled with joy.
In modern times Dorothy Day comes to mind, that incredible woman who established the Catholic Worker Movement back in the 1930s. As a young woman she was an atheist and led a Bohemian lifestyle. She always had great compassion for the poor and was very good to them but something was missing. For a time she was a Socialist but found that a dead end street.
She was restless until she could discover a larger truth. She read and read, all kinds of great literature. And that helped her. You might say she read herself into Christianity and the Church. When, ultimately, she found the Lord she knew it was the “pearl of great price” and never looked back. She didn’t have an easy life but she radiated joy!
Two parables: two different aspects of the Kingdom.
In the first, God is chanced upon, like discovering treasure. In the second, God is pursued over time. What they have in common is discovering God’s love.
Whether God discovers you or you discover God, discovering His love is the most powerful experience in life. And the result is that
in a new way. Discovering God, you put your former preoccupations behind you because you find God’s love irresistible! And you learn to make God first in your life! And you know what? Your joy at this discovery assures that God doesn’t take second place!
Homily for July 26th
Bulletin for July 26th
on Sunday, July 26 at 10:00AM