Homily, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.

First Reading 1 Kings 3:5,7-12

Second Reading Romans 8:28-30

Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52

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The Treasure

What’s the treasure in your life?

A ticket collector in a train found an old worn out wallet in a compartment full of people. He looked inside to find the name of its owner. There was no clue. All that there was in it was some money and a picture of Jesus Christ. He held it up and asked, “Who does this wallet belong to?”

An old man said, “That’s my wallet, Sir, please give it to me.” The ticket collector said, “You’ll have to prove that it

is yours. Only then I can hand it over to you.” The old man, with a toothless smile, said “It has a picture of Christ Jesus in it.”

The ticket collector said, “That is no proof; anyone can have a picture of Christ Jesus in his wallet. What is special about that?” Why is your picture not there in it like most normal people?”

The old man took a deep breath and said, “Let me tell you why my picture is not there in it. My father gave this wallet to me when I was in school. I used to get a small sum as pocket money then. I had a picture of my parents in it.

The old man’s eyes brimmed with tears as he went on.

“When I was a teenager I was greatly enamored by my good looks. I removed my parent’s picture and put in one of my own. I loved to see my own face and my thick black hair. Some years later, I got married. My wife was very beautiful and I loved her a lot. I replaced my picture in this wallet with a picture of her. I spent hours gazing at her pretty face.

“When my first child was born, my life started a new chapter. I shortened my working hours to play with my baby. I went late to work and returned home early too. Obviously, my baby’s picture occupied the prized position in my wallet.”

The old man’s eyes brimmed with tears as he went on. “My parents passed away many years ago. Last year my wife too left her mortal coil. My son, my only son, is too busy with his family. He has no time to look after me.

“All that I had ever held close to my heart is now far, far away from my reach. Now I have put this picture of my Christ Jesus in my wallet. It is only now that I have realized that He is the eternal companion. He will never leave me nor break my heart. Alas! If only I had realized this before, if only I had loved the Lord all these years, with the same intensity as I loved my family, I would not have been so lonely today!”

The ticket collector quietly gave the wallet to the old man. When the train stopped at the next station, he went to a bookstall at the platform and asked the salesman, “Do you have any pictures of God?”

The Salesman replied, I have only those of Jesus Christ remaining.” Then the ticket collector said, “that’s actually what I meant. I need a small one in my wallet”

Solomon in his prayers amidst every possible attractive things like riches, long life, life of our enemies, etc which we in our days deem most valuable, asked for understanding to discern between good and evil and thus lead in the right way. This is righteousness and it brought other good things not even asked for. It brought Kingdom of God on earth to him in it’s abundance.

Does that not sound a realization of “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well (Matt 6:33). Kingdom of God is righteousness first. This even points to the gospel.

The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found
Parable of the hidden treasure

Many of us usually think that the Kingdom of heaven is only about life-after. No, the Kingdom of God begins with righteousness, life-after is only for those who have lived in the Kingdom of God on earth, that is righteousness.

In the first parable of the kingdom in the gospel, a man happens to find a treasure “by chance,” and in the second, we have a trader who finds a pearl “after a long search.” One is due to luck; the other to diligence. Jesus is teaching us that the Kingdom of God is both a gratuitous gift from God and the fruit of searching on our part; Grace and effort working together.

Jesus even emphasizes how valuable the Kingdom of God is and calls it “the most valuable.” The most valuable brings other good things. Righteousness brings security, prosperity, peace, progress, development, spiritual and physical renewal, eternal life and what have you? The Kingdom of God is a treasure that is more valuable than any other one can think of. All efforts and sacrifices must be made to acquire it. It saves and exalts nations. Grace and effort is very necessary in order to find it.

The Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of pearls...
The parable of the found treasure

In effort to be righteous, one must give up many other things like black magic, certain customs, polygamy, adultery, political theft, fornication, masturbation, over drinking, some forms of friendships and some places, etc for grace to be effective. Some of us are like people who have even worked and walked in fields with treasures without knowing, while outsiders who by grace and effort know the value come and possess it, this includes even priests and sisters. That’s why many look so unhappy because they don’t know or have forgotten what really matters.

Many of us don’t really know that the road to success generally depends so much on our choice of what really matters spiritually and otherwise, thus we make mistakes, and begin to fail gradually and totally. Don’t we need understanding first?

Child of God, be wise now like King Solomon to pray, understand and choose carefully what really matters first because this is exactly what shall keep you in your life. Our life is both mortal and eternal.

If only Christians and others can struggle to acquire this Kingdom of righteousness on earth, every other good thing shall be acquired. Then, we shall understand that in everything God works for good with those who love him. God doesn’t want us to be making mistakes than shall affect our salvation spiritually and physically.

In your prayers and dealings, always ask the grace and wisdom like Solomon to remember and understand what really matters and what we choose to do with our lives. It shouldn’t always be found very late like the old man. Why wait till very late? Why not now?

Let’s thank God who has revealed the mysteries of His Kingdom to us today.

©Fr. Henry Charles Umelechi

Truth Series

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