Sunday, 27 July 2014

Nothing really matters

Sunday Gospel

Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘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.’

Matthew rebukes the unbelievers for not paying attention. And in Matthew's account there is only one punishment for not paying attention. That eventually you will burn with unfufilled hope and rage with the pangs of eternal grief. Yet Matthew is full of motifs that may have spoken to the people of the time but mean little to our sense of understanding or experience.

The various treasures suggested by Jesus would touch the imagination of every person within the crowd. Their lives were predictable and long in tradition. The farmer, the fisherman, the trader - each a treasure-seeker in their own way. What was precious spoke to every generation with both a familiarity and an unreachability. Somewhere in every life, no matter how mundane, was the possibility of the 'one thing'.

I wonder how the Kingdom of Heaven would be described now.

In many ways, we have departed from the vocational and physical seeking in life. We are consumers with an understanding - like the Rich Young Man - that money can buy whatever we need. What is our 'one thing'? Problem may be that there are too many of them and they are all transitory. Too often we are rushed from one task to another; from one upgrade to another; from one latest model to another. Most of what we achieve is obsolete as we acquire it.

How do we ever learn what is most precious? What could we not live without?

Maybe it is whatever Jesus has - the pearl of wisdom, compassion, love. The eagerness to live for his Father and to die for strangers. The humility to kneel at the feet of his followers and the integrity to stand against injustice.

Yet that treasure of humility and sacrifice did not come out of the blue. It came out of the life that Jesus lived - in poverty, as a refugee, out of Nazareth, on the road.

It was in the toil and the sweat of the ordinary life that Jesus found his worth. In the step upon step, stone upon stone, word upon word, day upon everyday of life that Jesus came to his knowledge of the Kingdom. He is often accused of of doing nothing - as many moments in our own lives feel like nothing.

Yet fields must be dug, nets must be thrown, trade must be made, life must be lived. People must be loved. Relationships must be tested. Faith must be fed. Discernment can only be made in light of experience. Sifting through the mundane fragments that life throws up - measuring one against another. That God is in all things is perhaps the greatest pearl of all.

The treasure rises out of the everyday.


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