This is a slightly edited version of the homily for Sunday, July 30, the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, given by Deacon John.
Today’s gospel is part of all the parables Jesus told in one day’s time while sitting by the sea with large crowds and his disciples. Parables are stories with a message about how we are to behave and treat others or what will happen when we accept Jesus as the Son of God and follow him.
In the parables we just heard, Jesus tells us about what the kingdom of heaven is like and the possible response to hearing about it. The value of learning and knowing about Jesus is far greater than anything else in this world. That is the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price. Our faith. Faith is a gift given to us by God. Do you have faith? Sitting here at Mass and receiving communion does not necessarily mean you have faith. You may or may not. That is between you and God. I can ask you this question, though, have you said yes to Jesus in response to the faith God offers you?
In all things, we have free will. We can look at the gift and accept or reject it. Think about how many gifts you have received in your life. I’m sure some were amazing and just what you wanted. Sometimes gifts seem odd at first, and then you come to see the value in them. I have found, in my own life, that the best gifts don’t come from the store but from God. My life, family, friends, and sometimes even difficulties are gifts.
The gift we are offered is faith, belief in the Kingdom, in a savior. The man in the parable receives that gift with great joy and does whatever he needs to do to buy the field where the treasure is buried. Was it difficult to come up with the money to buy that field? Were sacrifices made? Jesus does not say because whatever was required, it was done with great joy! That is how exciting it was to find out about Jesus, to be given faith in something, someone bigger than what is in front of you in the world. Can anyone compare with Jesus? No one. Do you want faith that strong that you are willing to do whatever it takes to live as Jesus calls us to live? Let’s be clear on what faith gives you – on earth; it gives us a roadmap of how to live, and at the end of our life, it means we can be in heaven.
Jesus invites us to faith. And if we say yes, we receive the grace to believe. Faith helps us to live as God wants us to live. And how exactly does God want us to live? To learn that we can turn to his word, the scriptures, and read them. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of instructions. I’m going to give you some highlights to get you started.
The 10 Commandments are a good place to start. Think about those as being the guardrails so you don’t fall off the road. We are also reminded that we are to love and treat others as we love and treat ourselves. Jesus warned against thinking we are better than others – that means humility is important. He taught us to pray, in particular the Our Father. The Our Father is an excellent prayer to pray every day; it reminds us that God is God, he is holy; that his will be done; we are to rely on him for our needs. We ask to be forgiven for our wrongdoings in the same way we forgive others. And we are reminded to turn to God when we are tempted to do something wrong.
Jesus shows us joy. And he wants us to have a life of joy. One of the best ways for that to happen is to accept the gift of faith offered and live it out every day of your life. It may not always be easy, but the reward, salvation, and, of course, ultimately, heaven is worth the sacrifice.
If you think your faith is not strong enough, ask for more. Each day, pray the Our Father and ask God how you are to live it out today. Don’t think about what will happen tomorrow, or next month or year. Each day, turn to God and tell him you are relying on him to guide you. Relying on the Father will bring you great joy, just as the treasure did in the parable.