Today’s gospel concludes the thirteenth chapter of Matthew and its seven parables about the growth of the kingdom of heaven on earth.

The Parable of the Sower from two Sundays ago describes how those who hear the proclamation of the gospel will have different responses to the Word of God, only one of which will bear fruit.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares – or weeds – from last week informs us that the Church on earth will include both those striving to love God and neighbor… and those content to remain in their sin.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed foresees the growth of the kingdom from a small group of apostles and disciples into the universal Catholic Church that will eventually reach every corner of the world; but it also describes the working of faith that transform the individual Christian.

The Parable of the Leven alludes to God’s grace at work in the world to prepare and nurture those who will hear the Word; and that grace works in the disciple who shares the Gospel with others.

The three parables In today’s gospel provide us with powerful and lessons to help us embrace God’s will and live the life He desires for us.

The first two, The Parable of the Hidden Treasure and The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, teach us that the Kingdom of Heaven is of greater value than anything we can possess in the world. 

The Parable of the Net completes the parables on the Sower of the Seed and the Wheat and the Weeds, showing that although the righteous and the evil are found together in this life, there will come a future time for each of us when judgment will occur, separating the saved from the damned.

It is vitally important to understand the lessons taught by our Lord in these parables. Jesus says later in this Gospel (Matthew 16:26), “For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” Our eternity depends on this.

First, we should never forget that God loves us. Even when we think that no one loves us and even when we don’t love ourselves, God loves us. He persistently seeks us and provides us the grace to respond to his invitation to enter his kingdom.

St. John of the Cross says that our first thought of God is not our doing at all, but rather God places the thought of himself in our heart.

St. Augustine says that the reason that Jesus asked the woman at the well for a drink was so that she would thirst for him.

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price shows that God rewards those who search for Him. But The Parable of the Hidden Treasure shows that it is possible, even when we are not searching for God, to stumble providentially upon his loving call.

No matter how we discover this treasure, we should remove from our life anything that keeps us from receiving God’s love. The more we detach from sin, bad habits, and disordered desires for earthly treasure… the more we seek his love… the greater the capacity we will have for receiving God’s love and grace.

The Parable of the Net teaches us to be vigilant and strive for holiness.

Most of us take precautions in life. We seek financial security, good nutrition, preventative healthcare. We guard against danger from criminals, reckless behavior, and nature. However, Jesus warns us that these are not the dangers we should fear (and prepare for) the most.

He says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

We live in an increasingly dark time in terms of how the world views the Faith. More and more the truths of our Faith are considered bigoted and hateful. Not only our governments, but also people throughout society are trying to prevent Catholics and other people of similar moral and religious convictions from living according to the Lord’s teaching.

Christians are told we must accept and approve of behaviors we know to be sinful and beliefs we know to be morally evil.

It would be all too easy to simply go along to get along. Why fight it? 

The answer is in the words of Christ. We must speak the truth in the light and love. We are called to acknowledge Christ as Lord and lovingly proclaim His truth. To go along to get along is to love our bodily lives more than we love God and more than we love those who do not embrace the truth.

No matter the personal cost, no matter what we might lose, God’s love of us and our faith in the Lord and obedience to his teaching is more valuable than all the worldly treasures and human relationships combined.

Jesus tells us not to get comfortable with sin, even though it is around us as part of our daily experience. There will be a reckoning when the good will be separated from the bad. He says, “The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:49-50).

These seven parables invite us to urgently reflect on our life.

Am I striving to love the Lord more each day and to live in the Kingdom of Heaven? Am I aware of what keeps me from growing more deeply in faith? Am I prepared and willing to lose everything so as not to lose the Lord?

Nothing is more urgent and important in my life for me, for my family, and for those God places in my path. Pray with me, “Teach me dear Lord that this life on earth is short and the life to come eternal.”

Into the deep…

The scripture readings at Mass for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) are: First Kings 3:5, 7-12; Psalms 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52 or 13:44-46.

Image credit: The Last Judgment by Michelangelo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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