Gospel Reflection 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Jesus knew and understood the people he lived with. His community was a poor one, an oppressed one. This is why many of his teachings were in parable form. The parables give a wonderful insight into the way Jesus thinks, and the love he has for those around him.
There are several beautiful images in today’s Gospel. We are going to look at the first one, in which the man finds a treasure in a field, goes off and sells everything he has and buys it.
Most of those whom Jesus was talking to had very little. They would not have been rich. So, to sell all they had would have been risky. But it is riskier than we think, because it isn’t all about possessions. The community around Christ valued family more than anything and their little land and home was deeply embedded in their past, in their present and in their future. It represented their cultural anchor, their welfare. So, can you see how risky it would be to sell it all and buy a field somewhere else, away from family land?
And what would this look like to the family? It would appear crazy. Yet, the man remains perfectly happy. He sells what he owns and buys the field, because he knows he has found riches beyond compare.
Think of this man, and consider his actions compared to our own faith. What is our most important possession, our most valued treasure? What are we willing to sell in order to attain the kingdom of heaven? What are we willing to change in our lives? This is what the treasure is, as Jesus says. It is the kingdom of heaven.
When we find that treasure, it eclipses everything else in our life. Yes, our home, even our family.
We monks have located that treasure. And the field in which it is buried is this monastery. We have come to the monastery, not because we like singing the Psalms or because we like the architecture or because silence is conducive for us or because we like dressing up in white robes. No, we have invested into this place at the cost of everything else because in this field is the kingdom of heaven.
It isn’t easy to make sacrifices, even when it is the right thing to do. Still, discourse about monastic life centres on what we renounce, what we give up. It is often our ascetic nature that we are known by. But speak to us and you will hear more. You will hear about what we have taken on, what we have gained by buying this field. This is why we are here. Through our ascetic regime, we aim to be the man in Christ’s parable who is happy after buying the field. Because, even though we have turned our backs on our former life, we are so happy to be living in the courts of the Lord that nothing else matters. For, as the Psalmist says, ‘One day within your house is better than a thousand elsewhere.’
A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew 13:44-52
‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.
‘Have you understood all this?’ They said, ‘Yes’. And he said to them, ‘Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old’.
The Gospel of the Lord.