|At the end of the
gospel lesson today, Jesus tells us that everyone who becomes a disciple
is like that householder who can produce from the storeroom things both
new and old. Commentators tell us that this is a reference to Matthew,
the one who brought together these words and sayings of Jesus and put them
all into one gospel. Matthew is reminding us that, as a disciple,
he had to learn how to, first of all, record the words of Jesus as they
had been proclaimed. But then, 30, 40, or 50 years later, as he put
the gospel together, he was in a new period of time. So he had to
find new ways to apply those words of Jesus to the new times in which he
It is important for us
to remember that as we, too, come to listen to the gospels and especially
to parables, that they are stories that have no particular application.
They are open ended. As Iíve explained before, we always have to
remind ourselves as we listen to parables that we have to find the way
this parable relates to who I am, where I am, and what is happening in
my life and in the world around me. Thereís no one application.
And so Matthew had to
draw from his old traditions and apply those parables to the way the church
was when he was writing.
Now we have to do the
same thing. We can learn from the old. We can learn how Matthew
applied the parables, how other people maybe have applied them. But then,
too, we have to look at what these parables mean for me and in the time
in which I live and where I am.
And there is something
else that we must remind ourselves Ė weíve been talking about these parables
concerning the reign of God for the last three weeks now. We must
remember what the reign of God is. In fact, Matthew uses the term
kingdom of heaven, but Mark and Luke always talk about it as the reign
of God. And I think this is a more clear expression of what Jesus
was speaking of.
When you say kingdom
of heaven, you might think of a place where God is king, that image that
we sometimes use. But Jesus isnít talking about a place. The
reign of God is more of a situation. It has to do with relationships
-- with Godís relationship with us, our relationships with one another.
The reign of God happens when Godís love -- which is Godís basic relationship
to every one of us -- when Godís love is guiding everything that happens.
And the fullness of that
reign, of course, will only come at the end of time when Godís love will
totally permeate every person, every situation, and the whole universe.
But, even now, that reign of God begins to happen -- when Godís love, the
way that God acts towards us and the way that we then act toward one another,
imitating Godís love.
And so thatís why, as
we look at the parables today, we might begin to understand why someone,
discovering what the reign of God means and wanting to be part of that
reign of God, would let go of everything else.
The treasure buried in
the field. Get that field and have the treasure. Everything
else can be let go. Or the merchant searching for pearls over a long
period of time and suddenly finds one that is worth everything else.
And we, perhaps, will
understand this best if we truly reflect on how the reign of God is Godís
relationship to us, Godís love.
Iím sure we are familiar
with this, but it helps to remind ourselves. Itís written so beautifully
in the first letter of Saint John: ďMy dear friends, let us love one another.
For love comes from God. And this is love; not that we loved God,
but that God first loved us.Ē Thatís the treasure. If we could
get hold of that and really understand and experience that God loves me
and loves me first. I donít earn that love. I donít have to
worry that I have done something that I think is wrong. God loves
me and that love of God is unbreakable.
See, thatís what the
reign of God means; that Godís love is present. Godís love is reaching
out to me at this moment. Godís love is ready to fill me, to raise
me up, to make me know the deepest joy and the most profound kind of peace.
Thatís the reign of God.
And, perhaps, if we pray
during this liturgy and enter into it very deeply, we will come to understand
that God does love me. God loves me without limit and preconditions.
Itís extraordinary. And once weíve gotten hold of that, then we will
begin to, I think, understand how we have to reach out to one another and
that will make the reign of God really break forth in our lives.
And hereís where we have to make some very special efforts because itís
so easy for us, in our relationships with one another, to let those relationships
breakdown -- for various reasons, sometimes our pride, our selfishness,
our greed and so on. And if weíre going to really discover the reign of
God breaking forth in our midst, we have to try to heal those relationships
that have sometimes broken down in our personal lives.
This past week, the 16th
week of the year, was the week when, three years ago, my brother died and
I celebrated his funeral mass. Iíve shared this with us before, but
to me itís such a powerful thing that every year, when I come across it
in my prayer book, I find it just so compelling. My brother, as he
was dying, had written out and kept by his bedside these words: ďYouíll
never be happy if you canít figure out that loving people is all there
is. And that itís more important to love than to be loved.
Because that is when you feel loved by loving somebody else. Iíve
learned that you get the rewards of love by giving love.Ē
And thatís true, isnít
it? But itís so important, though, that we not wait until weíre on
our death bed to realize that. We really have to make it happen now,
heal every relationship in our lives; reach out, be ready to forgive, to
be forgiven, so that we heal ourselves. That makes the reign of God
happen, thatís what the reign of God is.
Yesterday, at the Pax
Christi meeting, we had a young man present whose brother had been killed
on September 11th. He spoke about an organization that he and others,
who had family members killed have formed, called ĎPeaceful Tomorrows.
í The words are taken from a part of a sermon that Dr. King preached where
he called for peaceful tomorrows and told how they could happen.
Well this group of people,
all of whom had someone killed on September 11, has protested our governmentís
violence against the people of Afghanistan. And they have pleaded
that, what happened to them, would not happen to any other family anywhere;
in Afghanistan or here in the United States. And that we can never
make peace through violence. Theyíve gone to Afghanistan and theyíve
reconciled with other families in Afghanistan.
It was very moving to
hear Ryan Amundson speak about this; how his family went through such suffering
and still suffers and, yet, they want to heal, they want to be forgiven
and to forgive.
To me, thatís an extraordinary
example of how the reign of God can break forth--if not only individual
families did that, but if our nation did that too.
If our nation was really
committed to trying to reconcile, to make peace happen between ourselves
and the Al-Qaeda and Afghanistan, that would make the reign of God happen.
If we would do it on the basis of what Pope John Paul has said: ďThe only
way to end that violence, to respond to terrorism is to build peace on
the two pillars that only can make peace, the pillar of justice and the
pillar of the special kind love we call forgiveness.Ē Thatís what makes
the reign of god happen.
And thatís what can make
the reign of God happen in your life, in my life, and in the life of our
Jesus teaches us today
that the reign of God is out here. All we have to do is enter into
it. Itís like that buried treasure that we can find or the special
pearl that we can also come across. Itís right there waiting, but
we have to make the effort to find that treasure and to find that pearl
and to life according to the ways of God.
In a book that he wrote
shortly before he died, a spiritual leader, Fr. Anthony DeMello, told a
story that I think helps to understand what I hope we will take from todayís
scriptures. He tells about a wise man, who had reached the outskirts
of a village and had settled down under a tree for the night, when a villager
came running up to him and said, ďThe stone, the stone, give me the precious
stone.Ē ďWhat stone?Ē asked the wise man. ďLast night, God
appeared to me in a dream,í said the villager, ďand told me that if I went
to the outskirts of the village at dusk I would find a wise man who would
give me a precious stone that would make me rich forever.Ē The wise
man rummaged in his bag and pulled out a stone. ďHe probably meant
this one,Ē he said, as he handed the stone over to the villager.
ďI found it on a forest path some days ago. You can certainly have
it.Ē The man looked at the stone in wonder. It was a diamond;
probably the largest diamond in the whole world, for it was as large as
a persons head. He took the diamond and walked away. All night
he tossed in his bed unable to sleep. The next day, at the crack
of dawn, he woke the wise man and said, ďGive me the wealth that makes
it possible for you to give this diamond so easily.Ē
Thatís the wealth that
we need, the wealth that is really the reign of God. Give everything
else away and have that wealth which is Godís reign, Godís love for us
and our love for one another.
In the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.