1 Kings 3: 5, 7-12 Romans 8: 28-30 Matthew 13: 44-52
The kingdom of heaven.
There have been many attempts to describe it.
Articles and books have been written.
in the Gospel Jesus tells his disciples and us
about a person who finds a buried treasure.
on land that he does not own.
The person decides to keep the treasure safe by reburying it.
He is so happy with his find
that he sells all his possessions
to purchase the field and, therefore, the treasure.
And Jesus says that the treasure is like the kingdom of heaven.
The parable tells us that we are to find the same treasure,
keep it secure and joyfully do all that we can to possess it.
Notice that nothing is said
about the character of the person making the discovery.
It could be a person who has led a terribly wicked life,
not caring for others, even taking advantage of others.
Or it could be a righteous person
who was able to gather enough money
through the sale of his property to buy the field.
Since Jesus gives no information on the person,
one must presume that it makes no difference
whether the person seeking the kingdom is righteous or wicked.
I think that is a key element of the parable.
The treasure of the kingdom of heaven is available to all.
* But just what is the kingdom of heaven ?
Many have tried to describe it.
Clearly it is not a place somewhere “out there,”
some geographic area.
Elsewhere in sacred scripture,
Jesus has told us that the kingdom of heaven
is in our midst and in our hearts.
While the fullness of the kingdom
may be light years away (or maybe tomorrow;
after all, we know not the day nor the hour)
it is already planted within us
by Christ’s Paschal Mystery.
It may be just a seed or a growing sapling,
but it is nonetheless rooted within us.
The kingdom of heaven has been likened to God’ grace
because God’s grace is within us
and our cooperation with his grace
is our participation in the kingdom.
Just as the values of the treasure hunter
led that person to “go for broke” for the treasure,
so also must our values, as the citizens of the kingdom,
lead us to seek the truest treasure,
the fullness of this kingdom
at the expense of all of our other desires.
We must take every opportunity to accept God’s grace,
to help us to become more like His Son, Jesus.
The treasure of the kingdom is there to be found by us,
undeserving sinners though we are.
God’s grace has been planted within each of us
for us to discover and nourish.
It is there, within us, God’s free gift.
We do not earn God’s grace by a certain lifestyle,
nor do we lose it by a certain lifestyle;
it’s a gift to all.
The Church speaks of two types of grace,
actual grace and sacramental grace.
The actual graces are those graces present to aid us
in every situation in our lives.
It is by God’s grace that we are able to deal with situations,
to forgive our enemies,
to heal others of their illnesses and their sorrows,
to care for those who cannot care for themselves,
to guide those who may be lost,
to defend life at all stages.
to ward off temptations.
For every situation God puts us in,
he also gives us the actual grace to deal with it.
It is by sacramental grace,
which we receive through the sacraments,
that we become members of God’s family,
that we come here each Sunday to receive the Lord,
that the married are able to give themselves to each other,
that the clergy are able to serve the Lord as ministers,
that we are strengthened in the face of sin and illness.
All of these graces help us to be more Christ-like
and to bring Christ more into our lives.
They are a gift for us to find, not something we earn.
Just as we would be joyful if we found a buried treasure,
so also we are joyful when we experience God’s grace.
But our joy is not complete in finding a treasure
that we possess for ourselves alone,
for our own exclusive benefit.
Our joy and God’s joy are complete in our receiving a gift
that we share.
In the kingdom of heaven,
parents forgive their children,
because they themselves have found
the treasure of forgiveness in our Maker.
In the kingdom of heaven
a friend helps to heal an angry heart in another,
because the friend has experienced
the gift of the healing presence of Christ
In the kingdom of heaven
a nurse cares for the sick,
not so that she might be worthy of some earthly treasure,
but because she has experienced the gift
of the caring of Jesus on the cross.
A teacher helps his students,
not to merit an earthly treasure,
but because he has experienced the gift
of guidance of the Holy Spirit.
A priest prepares a couple for marriage,
because he has experienced the gift
of the marriage of Christ to the Church.
The field of the parable is composed of all of us;
the kingdom of God is truly in the field.
And we didn’t have to buy the field,
the field was bought for us by Christ on the cross.
Just who are we that God should provide us with this gift,
the gift of the kingdom,
the gift of grace,
the gift of however else we choose
to describe the kingdom?
What is it about us
that would prompt God to offer us such a gift?
This past week I heard the story of a psychology professor
who was doing a research project
wherein he gave some test subjects
a 3" x 5" card and a pencil.
He asked them to write on the card
their description of themselves.
Take a few seconds to think about what you would write,
if I asked you to do the same.
What would you write to describe yourself? (PAUSE)
When the professor asked this question of street people,
most of the responses were along the line of
“1’m a failure; I’m a terrible mother; I’m irresponsible.”
When he asked the same of his class of college students,
the descriptions on the cards were much the same:
failures, inadequacies, negative qualities.
What would you have you written on your imaginary card?
Would it also be much the same?
Too often we tend to characterize ourselves by our failures,
by our sins.
It makes me wonder
if we have forgotten our most important quality?
We are adopted children of God.
We are made in the image and likeness of God!
That is what God would write on each of our cards,
Made in my Image and Likeness! My Child!
It is our most important quality.
That is why God has presented to us
the gift of the kingdom of heaven.
We are the heirs to that treasure.
So it is not just a matter for the “old” law
of living a good life before God.
Now, we must bring from the storeroom the “new” law
of God’s gift of His saving grace.
May we figuratively sell all that we have
to make room for God’s grace.
And may we allow it to be our guide to the kingdom.
* This section partly based on Homily for 17th Sunday - Year A July 24, 2011 by Rev. Jeffrey M. Kemper The Pastoral Preaching Web Site, Athenaeum of Ohio,