30 July 201717 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
17 Ordinary Time
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
A Cycle - Matthew 13:44-52 or 13:44-46

An old Irish woman was so poor that the parish had to bankroll her. Her son had gone to America and become rich. Her pastor asked, "Mrs O'Leary, do you hear from Bob?" She told the priest, "Bob writes weekly and encloses a picture." "Have you saved them ?", asked the priest. "Certainly," said she, "they're in my Bible." The pastor found it stuffed with fifty pictures of Ben Franklin resting comfortably on US $100 bills. (Arthur Tonne) The problem with treasures, heavenly and otherwise, is they stare us in the face so long before we pick them up. Sometimes unhappily we never do. How disappointed Jesus must be. The concept of the Kingdom of God seems to be forever before Christ. Jesus refers to the Kingdom in the Gospels about 150 times.

In today's brief passage, there are four references. What does the Kingdom of God mean? What would it be for us right here and now? The Kingdom of God is the good life for all people in the present moment. (Joseph Donders) In the Kingdom of God here, Christ wants life to be a sunny beach with no jelly fish in the ocean for us all. How does Jesus feel that 1.2 billion people in the world exist on $1 a day? What does He say when He learns that the share of the US's income, earned by the very wealthiest, has doubled since 1980 while the share of the income earned by the bottom 90% has fallen? Jesus is identified with life. He was obsessed with life. When He met a deaf fellow, He shouted, "Stop being deaf. You must listen to Mozart." When He met a blind person, He said, "Cease being blind. How will you enjoy Matisse?" When He found a paralyzed man, He said, "Be lame no more. I want you to travel to Argentina and learn the tango." When He met the mute man, He shouted, "Let your tongue be untied. There are too many funny stories to tell." When He met the dead boy from Nain, the dead girl in Jairus' home, His dead friend Lazarus, He said, "Don't remain dead. You haven't seen Paris yet."

The Teacher restored life, tuned it up, and polished it. He gave His people a money back guarantee on life. Even Jesus could only take death three days. He found it dullsville. So, He broke out of the tomb like the Superman He is. He returned to life humming Beethoven's Ninth. He never allowed Himself to die again. He put the incident behind Him like a bad dream. He kept insisting, "I am life." He never said, I am death." Christ came not to rob life but enrich it. Life for us and for those whom we touch should be treasure time from the strong coffee in the AM to the scrubbing of teeth in the PM. In today's Gospel, the man who found treasure seized the moment for a fresh life when it came. He was willing to gamble with the new cards dealt to him. So must we. Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide. (James Lowell) A famous actress was chided for taking so long to find Christ. She replied, "It doesn't matter if you're a late bloomer as long as you don't miss the flower show." She reminded her friends that a catfish cannot become a swordfish, but we can leave our miserable selves behind, even when old, and become 24 karat. God loves us just the way we are, but He refuses to leave us that way.

He wants us to become just like Him. He wants us to become treasures. (Max Lucado) What one sentence do you want chiseled on your tombstone to describe your character? Decide. Then go for that virtue. Will we go for the gold or stay as unattractive as we are? We say mediocrity is only human. But do we Christians have to be only human? Jesus says no. Here are some helpful hints how to establish the Kingdom of God around you. "Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody." Regarding sharing the Kingdom of God with yourself. "Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Learn and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and work every day some. Be aware of wonder." (Robert Fulgrum) The Kingdom of God on earth then is a verb more than a noun. (Unknown) Be a spiritual and material treasure for others today, and don't YOU miss the flower show.
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
17 Ordinary Time
Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Wisdom

This Sunday's readings begin Solomon's request for Wisdom and conclude with a summation of the Lord's teaching on the parables. At the conclusion of the Dissertation on the Parables in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus states: "Every scribe of the Kingdom is like the head of the household who brings out from his storeroom both the new and the old.” Jesus spoke to the Jewish people, well versed in Hebrew scripture. The Gospel of Matthew was pointed towards Jewish Christians. Jesus is not replacing what we call the Old Testament with the New Testament. He is combining the best of the Hebrew Scriptures with the New Way, the Kingdom of God. The wise one, the scribe of the Kingdom, therefore, knows how to use what is old and what is new. It takes wisdom to understand how to deal with the past and the present. There are many people who idealize the past and want to return to life as it was, for example, in the fifties. There are many others who want to reject the past and concentrate only on the advancements of modern life. So, in the area of family life, the first group wants to re-create the Cleaver Family, and the second group sees a value in the Modern Family. In the area of faith, the first group wants to return to the pre-Vatican Church and the second group wants a Church without a visible structure. How do we best deal with the past and the present?

I believe that it was the Russian poet/philosopher, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko, who had this insight: He said that the trick to handling the past is to know what should be brought with us and what should be left behind. That is wisdom. For example, within the Church, we should bring with us from the past devotion to the sacraments, to the Mother of God, the importance of the Catholic Family, firm standards of morality, a determination to practice the faith. What should be left behind would include the subordination of the laity, the repression of the roles of women in the faith, the glorification of the clergy, and the diminishing of the study of Sacred Scripture. Perhaps a good example would be how we utilize the writings of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, the great teacher of the middle of the last century whose weekly program, Life is Worth Living, out drew even the comedian Milton Berle. So many of Bishop Sheen's teachings contain a profound spirituality. Here at St. Ignatius we use his meditations on the Seven Last Words in the Teen presentation of our Good Friday Evening Prayer, the Journey to the Cross.

At the same time, Bishop Sheen spoke at a time when the clergy tended to patronize the people and held as suspect anything that did not originate from a bishop or priest. The laity was seen as too simple to study and learn from scripture. I remember attending a conference given by Bishop Sheen for the laity of Paterson, New Jersey, when the Bishop, God bless him, told the people not to read the Old Testament, it would just confuse them. He was speaking as a person of his time, not our time. My point is that we need to know what to bring with us from the past and what to leave behind. That is wisdom. We should also apply this to our lives. All of us can look back on our lives and note numerous positive and multiple negative aspects of our lives. We have got to stop persecuting ourselves by dwelling on the negatives of our past. When we do this, we are bringing the past into the present. Leave it in th e past. At the same time, it is not pride to recognize the gifts we have shown and to be sure that we utilize our potential, or make our talents real in the present. So, for example, a person went through a period of life when he or she behaved immorally. Then, perhaps due to a religious experience most likely occasioned by love, that person changed his or her lifestyle and became the person he or she is now. He or she said, "I am getting married now. I am having a child now. I need to be a person of integrity.”

And that person grew up spiritually determined to live a new, dedicated Christian lifestyle. It would be so wrong for that person or any of us to dwell on the mistakes of the past. If sin was involved, well, remember the sacrament of reconciliation is given to us to leave the past in the past and to concentrate on the present. On the positive side, a person can look at his or her past and remember how volunteer work for the poor or sick was so important during high school or college. Perhaps, he or she might remember how others could not deal with a dying person, but how he or she was able to sit down and chat with the sick person and see that person, not the person's sickness. Reflecting on this, the person says, "Hey, I can do this. And it is important for me to use this gift God gave me. I'm going to volunteer as an AIDS buddy or as a hospice companion.” This is looking at the past and bringing the best with us to the present. You married folks really should do this when considering your relationship. If you are human beings, then you have made mistakes. Leave them in the past. You have also been supportive and caring. Bring this into your present. Sometimes, a couple will see me that is having a crisis in their marriage. Often, I'll mention that the present situation needs to be dealt with, but don't let this situation cause you to overlook all the good you have done for each other and the growth you have achieved as a loving couple. Some people are too quick to give up on marriage and end up realizing what they have lost only after it is too late. Solomon prayed for wisdom. Not a bad idea. It takes wisdom to combat the challenges of life. It takes wisdom to be a good parent, a good husband, a good wife, a good priest, a good person. It takes wisdom to discern what needs to be brought into the present and what needs to be left in the past. Where do we get this wisdom? The same place that Solomon received his.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
17 Ordinary Time
Spiritual Warfare Week 6: Make a Smart Investment (July 30, 2017)

Message: Now is the time to make a smart investment. Today's Gospel continues a theme we saw last week: the great separation. Jesus described a harvest where angels first pluck up the useless plants. These weeds they bundle for burning. Then they gather the valuable plants - the wheat - for God's joyful harvest. We see today a different image - a net that hauls in both marketable fish and scrap fish. The two kinds swim side by side: salmon, halibut and flounders along with mud sharks, rat fish and bullhead. God will eventually sort them out. Not my job. Not your job. We can relax - the separation belongs to God and his angels. Even in the church the good and bad swim side by side. Some spend time upset about bad priests, bad Catholics and bad pastors. With the internet and the 24-hour news cycle we hear many scandals. I'm saddened by those reports but the best I can do is pray and remember I have my own sins. Not my job to uproot bad weeds. It's different of course if you witness an abuse. We have an obligation to report any serious abuse.* But regarding scandals where you or I have no direct connection, we have to take a deep breath, pray and say, not my job. So if separating good fish from bad is not my job, what is? Jesus tells us: Make a smart investment. Jesus illustrates this by telling about a man who stumbles upon treasure buried in a field. Suppose someone in Gold Bar discovers the spot where an old mining company hid gold for safe keeping. It's a fabulous fortune but the mine owner dies. His associates search but they have no idea where buried it. The treasure lays there over a century until you stumble on it.

Now it happens that a developer has subdivided the land. You rush to find if anyone has purchased the lot. They haven't. Wouldn't you hock your computer, your car, anything you own, so you can make a down payment on that lot? Well, Jesus is asking us to do something similar: to risk all, to invest everything to obtain the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom has a hidden treasure with all the wealth of the universe. To put it plainly the treasure is nothing more - and nothing less - than Jesus himself. Now's the time. Just like that buried treasure in Gold Bar, tomorrow might be too late. Now's the time to make a smart investment. When we went to World Youth Day in 2011, many said their favorit place was Assisi. The city fascinates young people not so much for being a gorgeous medieval town but because of what happened there. At the beginning of the 13th Century, a young man gave away everything including the clothes off his back to dedicate himself to Jesus. His father reacted furiously. After all, he worked hard - travelling to France and other countries - looking for profitable investments in cloth and other fine goods. He didn't realize his son made the sharpest investment. You know who I mean. Our current pope took his name from him - Francis of Assisi.

Young people identify with St. Francis because youth is a time of decision. Pope John Paul said: "The decisions you make now, the friendships you form, the values you choose to live by, the goals you set for yourselves – these will shape your personal future and have an impact on the future of society." Jesus offers young people the opportunity to make a great investment. To risk all to gain hidden treasure. But today's Gospel is not only for youth. For those of us who have made our basic life choice, Jesus also wants us to make an investment. We call it Stewardship: Joyfully investing our time, our abilities, our financial resources in the kingdom of God. I remind you, we are in a spiritual war. Jesus' parables about wheat and weeds, good fish and bad fish assure us that the final victory belongs to God. When that day comes, I want you and me to be on the winning side. Now is the time to make a smart investment. Like the man who discovers a hidden treasure, "out of joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it." Amen.

************ *Fortunately an ordinary Catholic will not often be confronted with something so horrendous. For example, regarding clergy sexual abuse of a minor, in our archdiocese we have not had a new case since 1987. Older cases of course have surfaced but no new ones since 1987. I can be corrected on this but it seems to me Archbishop Hunthausen put us on a good trajectory when he confronted this issue in the mid eighties.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
17 Ordinary Time
17th Sunday of the Year, Modern Lectionary 109 Gospel: Matthew 13: 44-52

Listening is a skill often unpracticed today; we only need to note current political discourse, TV commentators on current events, and even observe carefully our own family communications to realize that we tend to talk a lot and listen relatively little. In the midst of a world where there is so much chatter and so little respectful attention we hear Solomon asking God in today's first reading for the gift of "a listening heart", preferring this disposition of openness to others more than power or wealth. For his part the Psalmist extolls the virtue of listening, the wisdom books of the Old Testament insist upon it ceaselessly, and our Lord himself often begins his teaching by urging his disciples to "hear a parable…" as we heard at mass two weeks ago. In that same passage Jesus explained why active, conscious listening was critical for those to whom he preached, and remains so for us; he says that if we do not make this effort: "they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand… they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them" (Matt 13:13, 15).

St. Benedict too, not surprisingly, gets in on the act, beginning his monastic Rule with the words: "Listen carefully with the ear of the heart…", and urging his monks to have a great esteem for silence and attentiveness. The wisdom that arises from careful listening enables us to discern what is truly important in life and in our faith; this is what Jesus was trying to explain in the parable of the buried treasure and that of the pearl of great price. We do not sell everything we have and use the proceeds to buy an object if that object is not of truly compelling worth. Circling back to the first reading for today we behold the great Solomon, faced with a momentous choice: God has offered to give him anything he asks for, even immense wealth, victory over his enemies, prestige—anything. The way Solomon responds is instructive: "I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong" (1 Kings 3:8-9).

What is rendered in the lectionary as an "understanding" heart actually means a "listening" heart in Hebrew. Perhaps the translators sought to explain what the metaphor of a listening heart is getting at, but I believe it requires no explanation. We all know how powerful language can be even when it is figurative: when we say or hear "my heart is broken", or "I jumped out of my skin". These are ways of capturing in limited human words the visceral reality of sadness or fear…or careful attentiveness. In any case Solomon recognized what was of real value in living his vocation as a follower of the Lord and as the King of Israel: the wisdom that only comes with "a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5). In turn this wisdom only comes to those who are humble enough to listen to it quietly and peaceably. May we attune our hearts to be listening and understanding so that the Lord's precious gifts might not be lost on us, and so we may share them generously, "like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old" (Matt 13:52).
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Classic Matthew 13: 44-52
Gospel Summary

This Sunday's passage contains the last three of the set of seven parables that Matthew placed in the center of his gospel. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field or a pearl of great price. When its great value is recognized, one gladly does all that is necessary to obtain it. The kingdom of heaven is also like a net that collects all sorts of fish. Just as the useless fish are eventually thrown away, at the end of the age the wicked will be rejected. The last parable is a sober reminder that even though Jesus is the presence of divine wisdom, many take offense at him, and because of their lack of faith are lost. Jesus then expresses concern that the disciples understand the parables because they like Jesus must instruct others in the mystery of the kingdom. Life Implications Three aspects of God's kingdom are highlighted in these parables: the necessity of recognizing its ultimate value, the necessity of responding with total commitment upon recognition of its presence, and the possibility of rejecting the gift of eternal life that it brings. Matthew in narrating events of Jesus' life provides good life-illustrations of today's parables that may help us hear them in a personal way. A rich young man approached Jesus and asked what he must do to gain eternal life.

Jesus sensed the possibility that this young man may have been keeping all the commandments except the first, the source of all the others: "… you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with you're your whole being, and with your whole strength” (Dt 6:5). He replied: " . . . go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor . . . Then come, follow me. When the young man heard this statement he went away sad, for he had many possessions” (Mt 19:16-22). In contrast, Matthew also tells us of two blind men who recognized Jesus as the "pearl of great price” they were seeking. They cried out to him in their poverty. Moved with pity, Jesus gave them sight, and they followed him (Mt 20:29-34). In Mk 10:46-52 the contrast with the sighted-yet-blind rich man is even more dramatically drawn.

The good news for us is that the Risen Lord is present in our celebration of the Eucharist not only to instruct us about the kingdom of heaven, but also to give us his Spirit. In the Spirit, through faith, we receive sight to recognize the presence of the kingdom in our world, and we receive courage to commit ourselves totally to God's reign with single-minded desire. In his Rule, Saint Benedict (one of those scribes who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven) gives us two sayings to help us keep alive in our hearts the meaning of this Sunday's liturgy. From the Prologue: "Oh, that today you would hear his voice: Do not harden your hearts” (Ps 95:7-8), and adapted from chapter 72: "Prefer nothing whatever to Christ.” Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
17 Ordinary Time
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In our Gospel today we are presented with three more parables about the nature of God's Kingdom. The first two about the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price tell us about the inestimable value of the Kingdom. The third one about the dragnet tells us about the great diversity of its make up. I recently visited a most interesting Auction House, I’d noticed it was viewing day and as I was in the vicinity went in to take a look. It’s a fascinating place; there were all kinds of interesting items of furniture as well as a lot of old crockery, jewellery, paintings and many other curiosities. There was only one day for viewing so the place was full of people examining the various items they were interested in and making notes in the catalogue. I watched a chap examining a collection of rather old clocks. He had a magnifying glass in one eye and was carefully peering into the back of each of the clocks to see the state of the mechanism.

He reminded me of the merchant in the parable today looking for the pearl of great price. This clock dealer was using his expert knowledge to see which of the clocks were worth buying. And who knows, one day he might discover a clock worth thousands that no one else has recognised! This is a very good image for the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is all around us but most people aren’t aware of it. But those of us who do realise that it is there do everything we can to possess it. The majority of people only have the very haziest notion of the spiritual; they think that there might possibly be a God but don’t see much evidence of his hand at work in the world and so forget about him most of the time. It is often only when they experience a crisis that they bring him to mind, but because they are so unfamiliar with the things of the Spirit they don’t know how to pray properly or how to call upon his aid. They don’t realise that one of the greatest signs of God’s presence in the world is the very fact that he doesn’t make himself overtly known.

Clear evidence of God’s presence is that he gives us the tremendous gift of free will and leaves us to make our own decision as to whether we acknowledge him or not. Paradoxically it is God’s apparent absence that shows how great he is. He doesn’t need to press himself upon us and make himself known. Actually, it would be a sign of weakness if he had to constantly advertise himself. He prefers anonymity and ambiguity, he wants us to discover him for ourselves rather than force himself upon us. In ordinary life to give an anonymous gift is regarded as something special. This is particularly the case when the gift is a large one. But most people, quite naturally, want a bit of credit and it is hard for them to resist the temptation to reveal themselves as the giver of a valuable gift. And yet there is a negative side to making oneself known because it can place an obligation on the receiver of the gift. They might feel that they have to be extremely grateful or obliged give something in return. This is the very reason why God doesn’t advertise his presence overmuch. If he let us know just how much he has done for us we would feel under such a heavy obligation to him that we would be completely paralysed and wouldn’t be able to do anything other than praise and thank him for the rest of our lives.

In the person of Jesus, God has revealed himself definitively to the world. Through Jesus he has shown us what he is like and he does this in a most particular way when Jesus makes the great sacrifice on the Cross that takes our sins away. But there is no definitive proof of this; we are invited to take it on faith. And so, the choice rests with us. The invitation is placed before us and it is entirely up to us whether we accept it or not. We are invited to believe in all that Jesus told us and to embrace the Gospel as our way of life, but there is absolutely no compulsion on God’s part to force us to believe in him. It could be that those of us who have taken Jesus at face value have a special sensitivity to the things of the Spirit or perhaps it is that we are simply more open than others to the action of God’s grace in our lives.

Whatever the reason, we have come to know God; we have come to appreciate that his Kingdom of love and peace is indeed the “pearl of great price” that we simply must possess. But unlike the merchants in the story or the man in the auction house we do not want to possess it just for ourselves because we understand that the Kingdom of God is not that kind of thing. We understand that it is not something that can be limited only to us; it is something that in order to fully possess it we must share with others. This is one of the great paradoxes of the Gospel. To possess the Kingdom means to share our knowledge of it with others. To truly believe in Christ means leading other people to the same knowledge; for secret faith is no faith at all. We need to be like the householder, mentioned at the end of our Gospel reading today, who brings out of his house things both new and old. We should be happy to bring out of the house that is our life all kinds of treasures to share with our neighbours. But these treasures are not things like clocks and pearls but rather attitudes and virtues such as love and justice and truth and hope and so on. What we bring out from our treasure store are the values of the Kingdom, the attitudes of Jesus and the knowledge of the one true God.
These homilies may be copied and adapted for your own use; however, they may not be commercially published without permission of the author.