Homily for 17th Sunday year A 2014
A woman came into the beauty shop one day to get her hair fixed. Her hairdresser was noted to always be complaining about almost everything. The customer stated that she was planning on leaving for Rome in a few days.
Hairdresser: Rome…Rome…Why that is one of the dirtiest cities you could ever go. How are you going to get there?
Customer: We are flying Continental Airlines.
Hairdresser: Continental…They are the worst airline! And they have the ugliest hostesses. Where are you staying?
Customer: We are staying in the Villa.
Hairdresser: Villa…Villa! Why that is so overrated and way too expensive. I wouldn’t stay there if I were you. What are you going to see?
Customer: We are planning on seeing the Pope.
Hairdresser: Why girl, you would be lucky to even see him from long distance. Don’t you know everyone wants to be around him. You won’t be able to get within a mile of him.
A month went by and the customer went back to the Hairdresser, hoping to break her of her bad habits. The Hairdresser asked her what she has been doing and the customer replied that she had just got back from Rome.
Hairdresser: Rome…I bet your flight was bad.
Customer: No, the flight was great. They had actually overbooked the flights and gave us first class seating and fed us steaks all the way to Rome. And our hostess was the most handsome man I had ever seen!
Hairdresser: Well. What about the Villa?
Customer: Funny you should ask. The Villa had just completed a $5 million restoration. They were also overbooked and we were forced to stay in the owner’s personal villa. Wow! The accommodations, the service, we had everything, we lived like kings!
Hairdresser: Well…what about the Pope?
Customer: We took the tour to the Vatican. One of the guards tapped us on the shoulder and stated, “The Pope often entertains a few people now and then, would you like to have a personal visit with the Pope?”
Hairdresser: I can’t believe that. What did the Pope say?
Customer: He took one look at me and asked, “That’s the worst hair-do I had ever seen! Who fixed your hair?”
This might just be a joke, but sometimes in life, it’s true that we get caught by our own negativity and pessimistic view on life in general. Unfortunately, this is not only true in life, it is also very true with regards to our view on our faith, on our approach to Christianity, on our dealings with one another and on our relationship with God. The thing about negativity and pessimism is that it reveals our lack of patience, our lack of trust, our short-sighted approach to life- e.g. giving in to despair immediately.
We would notice this when we expect too much on our faith, as if a seed can grow big overnight. But of course, things generally are not like that. It is more so with God. God is not a magician, nor he is an illusionist. He doesn’t make things happen in a magical way, because He wants us to experience the beauty of the journey and the wisdom in the process of looking for the fulfillment of our longings and desires.
This is clearly evident in the parables of the Kingdom of God that Jesus tells us in the gospel today: that of the treasure hidden in the field and being found; that of the merchant looking for fine pearls; and that of sifting the good fish from those that are no use in the parable of the dragnet.
In a way, Jesus is telling us that the kingdom of God is not beyond our reach. In fact we can find this ‘most valuable treasure’ within us and among us- thus we need to go and do something about it. We must make ‘heaven’ and ‘eternal life with God’ the treasure to which all our human endeavors would find their fulfillment and perfection, and from which all our human efforts get their meaning, bearing and significance in our Christian journey.
“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all his righteousness” (Mat 6:33), so Jesus would urge his disciples and us here today. As noted in the parables in the gospel today, Jesus here is assuring us that we can really find this treasure. We need to do something though.
First, to find this ‘treasure’ we need to walk closely with Christ, because He is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6). He is the key to the Kingdom. Pope St John Paul II would tell us the reason why we need to know Jesus Christ more personally and to walk with him more closely. In his Address during the Vigil of prayer on the celebration of the 15th World Youth Day held in Rome in 2000, Pope John Paul II said:
“It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.
Second, to find this treasure, i.e. the Kingdom of heaven, we need to pray for God’s wisdom- to help us discern and choose the good from and evil, the right from wrong, the truth from lie, and the life from death. Like Solomon in the First reading we need to humble ourselves before God and acknowledge our limitations and pray: ‘Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil…’
Thirdly, to find the treasure that assures of eternal life and secures us for life is to love what we have, rather than longing to have what we love . By this I mean we love and accept who we really are rather than pretending to be someone we are not. This also means we learn to appreciate what we have and be thankful to God for all the gifts we have received from him. One good reason we thank God for is the faith he has gifted us with. Let us thank God for this and let us love this, because this is one valuable treasure that would lead us to find the real source of all riches. ‘Faith’ says Pope Benedict in his encyclical on Christian hope (Spi salvi) ‘gives life a new basis, a new foundation on which we can stand, one which relativizes the habitual foundation, the reliability of material income’ (SS 8).
Finally, unlike that hairdresser, let us be positive and optimistic about life. Yes, it’s true that as Christians, the Cross is a big part of our discipleship and we may have noticed that the closer we try to be with Christ, the heavier the Cross we have to carry. Yet, we can unload our burden unto him and as the saying goes: “God may not make the mountain smaller, but he can make the climb easier.“
Let us also remember we are Easter people, this means that though at times, we may experience ‘the Good Friday’ we are also living in hope of the resurrection. There is more to life than just the negativity and pessimism we may have perceived. We can learn from Jesus in the way he transformed the negativity of the cross into a redeeming power and to make it a necessary gateway to life for us. Let us live in hope then, because this keeps us going, this keeps us grounded, this keeps us strong in the face of many adversities, trials and tribulations we might be facing at the moment.
As we continue our celebration of the Eucharist, let us remember most especially those people who are facing trials and challenges for their faith and for those who considered only the material things to be the be- all and the end- all of their lives. Let us pray that they may realize the real treasure that God has reserved for them for eternity.