Today’s Gospel concludes three weeks of readings from the 13th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Throughout these three weeks we have heard Jesus teaching crowds about the kingdom, and we have heard Jesus interpret some of his teachings for the disciples. In this week’s Gospel, Jesus offers three more short parables.
They talk of a man who finds hidden treasure in a field and sells everything to buy the field, obviously without telling the owner about the treasure trove. Then there’s a jeweller who comes across a costly and rare pearl and sells his entire stock to buy it. In both these illustrations, there’s an element of renunciation, of divesting everything to gain something of enormous value.
Again, the fishing parable has a sting in its tail. It talks about judgment, some final reckoning based on our choice: “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.” As if to finally confuse us, Jesus reveals his meaning in these words: “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “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.”
One can see the surprise on the faces of those listening to him. They thought they understood him and indicated that they did. Preachers rarely ask congregations whether they understand a sermon; perhaps that is just as well.
What was a scribe? In a day when most had only the most elementary education, the literate person who made that skill available was highly esteemed. They wrote letters for people and seem to have acted for clients in local courts. Jesus usually presented a rather low view of the scribes, lumping them together with Pharisees. In this parable, Jesus talks about good scribes, just as there were also good Pharisees like Nicodemus and Gamaliel. What, then, is a scribe who has been trained for the Kingdom of Heaven?
This person is someone who has decided to dedicate her or his life to being what we might call a Kingdom person. One of the biggest temptations we confront is to regard our faith as an add-on, a pursuit for our spare time. It is so easy for us to put our political and social opinions first and then somehow shape and mould our faith to accommodate these views. Our form of justice becomes God’s justice and our form of mercy becomes God’s mercy however the Gospel dispels such a notion; for Christians, God’s reign is first. Jesus said, “seek first the kingdom of God.”
We have been called to be those who work for God. We are to work and pray for God in our homes, streets, communities and our nation. We plant little seeds of goodness and mercy and they blossom into visible signs of God’s presence. We give up the things that clutter our lives or disguise the fact that we belong to Christ. In the meantime, we fish for people, and in some manner, the way we do this fishing will determine how we will be judged. The Kingdom is yet to come. We can’t create it. But we can create communities dedicated to God’s mission, places where people selflessly serve each other in serving Christ, so that the watching world may catch a glimpse of what God intends.
Jesus’ Gospel discloses what Paul, in today’s second reading, calls the purpose of God’s plan. That purpose is that Jesus be the firstborn of many brothers. His words give understanding to the simple, the childlike. As Solomon does today, we humble ourselves before God, giving ourselves to His service. Let our prayer too be for an understanding heart, one that desires only to do God’s will.
We are called to love God, to delight in His law, and to forsake every false way. And we are to conform ourselves daily ever more closely to the image of His Son. Chances are we’re going to have to make some changes, take some risks, and . . . take a chance on Christ.
In response to the message to us from Jesus our Teacher in our Readings today, will we, in fact, be more determined than ever, to live as true images, true mirrors, true reflections of Jesus Christ to others? Will we, as two of today’s colloquial sayings express it, ‘just go for it’ and ‘just do it’? Will we?