Daily Reflection
July 25th, 1999
Andy Alexander, S.J.
University Ministry and the Collaborative Ministry Office
The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Rom 8:28-30
Mt 13:44-52
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field ...
   like a merchant searching for fine pearls ...
      like a net thrown into the sea ...

Jesus transforms our thinking about the reign of God.  He does not want us to imagine "reign" or "kingdom" in ways that render us passive "subjects."  The arrival of the kingdom of God is not something that happens to us.  We don't just "sit back" and wait for it to come to us.  In fact, it is not about some movement external to ourselves.

The coming of God's reign is personal.  It is about God and about us.  It tells us about God's passionate desire for us.  It involves our desires and our passion.  It involves openness and choice.  Using images of purchasing, searching, gathering in, Jesus reveals how the kingdom of heaven works.  Like any powerful images, these work on several levels.

On one level, it is God who "finds" us, as buried treasure.  It is God who, out of joy, "sells all he has" to buy the found treasure.  God is like the merchant in search of fine pearls.  Finding a pearl of great price, God doesn't hesitate to sacrifice "all he has" to buy the pearl.  Isn't this a powerful description of the love God has for us?  We may be "lost," but God is in passionate search for our hearts.  God does not hesitate to sacrifice an only son that we might be liberated and become God's own.  And God throws that net out into the sea and draws everyone home, separating out only those who refuse the goodness God offers.

The other level of meaning is about our search.  Throughout our lives we are always on a search for "more," for what will make us happy.  We develop patterns, attachments, and sometimes addictions.  Things, relationships, accomplishments, credentials.  We acquire and gather and consume, in a restless search for fulfillment.  Perhaps through a crisis, or often through a humiliation or failure, we come to a gifted sense of God's love for us, at a deeper level than we ever imagined.  It is like discovering a buried treasure or the pearl of great price.  It may be that we've passed over this spot a hundred times.  Perhaps we weren't ready to dig or to sell all the rest of our stuff to make the purchase.  Once we discover the treasure we have been really searching for, all our other "possessions" take on a new value.  They are no longer "treasures" in themselves.  They help us acquire what we truly desire.

With this perspective, the inbreaking of the reign of God into our lives involves an ongoing process of openness to the presence of God in all things, and a profound "sorting out," or discernment, of their value.  No longer am I "picky," protective of my time and energy, or judgmental.  No longer do I travel the rutted awarenesses and convictions I have had for years.  It is like my senses become more highly attuned to discovery.  Intimacy with God can be found in the smallest of things, the most painful of encounters, the most stretching acts of risk and self-donation.  Each day I cast out a net of openness.  I bring it all in to my consciousness.  My attuned awareness lets me survey, with great attention, all the ways God might be showing me love, inviting me to intimacy.  In this wonderful openness to the presence of God in all reality and this placing of all reality into the presence of God, I can then sort it all out.  Everything's true value becomes more clearly apparent.  I sense immediately what the things, people, responsibilities of my life mean.  I give new importance to what was neglected before.  And, a lot that seemed so important before, seems insignificant.

"Do you understand all these things?"
    They answered, "Yes."
    And he replied,
    "Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
    is like the head of a household
    who brings from the storeroom both the new and the old."

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