17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Sunday, July 30, 2017
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

On Monday I went to visit some friends in Clear Lake.  As we took a boat ride, my friend spoke of a house in town that recently caught on fire.  When the woman noticed the fire, she immediately grabbed a bunch of stuffed animals that her grandchildren like and escaped.  Then she remembered something, and later had the firefighters go in and get her husband's cremains.  A somewhat funny commentary on priorities.

     A crisis reveals what we truly treasure, which is the focus of today's readings.  The first reading is about King Solomon, who is known for two things:  wisdom and wealth.  In a dream the Lord tell him that he will grant whatever Solomon wants, which will show what rules the king.  He chooses not a long life, not riches, not success.  He asks for wisdom.  Solomon becomes a great king, and even today 3000 years later, we will still speak of the wisdom of Solomon.

     The idea of choosing what we treasure carries over to the parables of the Gospel.  This week I learned the historical background of the first parable in a commentary by Fr. Bob Beck of Loras College in Dubuque.  Jesus speaks of the kingdom of heaven as a treasure buried in a field, which when found is hid again, and then the man sells all he has and buys that field. 

     I never understood why the treasure is buried in the first place, but this actually happened.  Israel is on a narrow corridor between the two great powers of the time, Egypt and Mesopotamia.  So there was a lot of traffic. Armies would march through there, and live off the spoils of the people.  So if people saw an army coming, they would bury their valuables.  If they survived, they would dig them up.  If not, the treasure would stay there until someone found them later.

     The parable invites us to reflect on what we truly treasure.  Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is the greatest treasure, worth more than a long life, riches and success.  And most of us would agree with that, at least in our thoughts and words.

     The rub comes in another aspect of this parable.  He has to sell all he has to get that treasure.  He has to lose something to receive something better.  In other words, he has to will the one thing, which is what keeps many people from advancing in holiness.  We want the treasure, but we also want lots of other things, we want it all without selling anything.

     Solomon chose one thing, wisdom.  Wisdom is the ability to know what matters, and equally importantly, what does not matter.That is a daily task for me, in the course of a day to sort out what matters and focus on that, and to let go of all that does not matter.  Being smart does not make one wise.  In fact, remember Jesus' words of how what is hidden from the learned and the clever is reveals to the little people.  If we want to know wisdom, spend time with the little people of the world because that is wisdom often lies.

     So wisdom comes from structuring daily prayer in our life, to look at our lives from the perspective of God, of eternity.  Wisdom comes from spending time with someone who has grown through the experience of failure.  Wisdom comes from talking with someone as they approach their death.  Wisdom comes from learning from someone who has made and kept a lifetime commitment at great personal cost.  Wisdom comes from  finding someone who has a deep inner joy and asking her where this comes from.

     A house fire or some other crisis reveals to us what we have already chosen as our treasure.  Jesus invites us to ask ourselves, what do we need to sell to receive wisdom?  What are we willing to give up in order to be truly happy?

     If we pray for wisdom often, and if we surround ourselves with wise people, then we like Solomon can know what truly matters, and what does not.