HOMILY FOR THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A
HOMILY THEME: PRICELESS TREASURE
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
A story is told of some missionaries who travelled to a remote village and donated a copy of Scripture to a lovely and respectable elder whose name was Dangana. Dangana held the Bible tightly and regarded it as the best gift he ever received. A year after, one of the missionaries returned to the village and noticed that some pages of the Sacred Book were missing and when he asked Dangana why some pages were gone, Dangana answered: “When you gave me the Bible, it became my greatest treasure and I wanted to share it with my beloved ones. Therefore, I pulled out a page to give to my brother, another page to my sister, two pages to my nephew and niece. The list of his beloved ones went on and on. The story of Dangana tells us how we hold tightly to the things we treasure most. No wonder Jesus says: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be (Matthew 6:21).
After Solomon became King, the LORD appeared to him in a dream at night and said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you” (1 Kings 3:5). This sounds like handing over to Solomon a blank cheque to write whatever amount he needed. Surprisingly, Solomon did not ask for long life, riches or defeat of his enemies, but rather asked for something unusual. He asked for was gift of understanding. In his request for this gift he prays in the following words: Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours? (I Kings 3:9). He asked only for understanding and God gave him an additional gift of wisdom. Yes, this is how God answers prayers by giving us more than what we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Solomon must have been aware of Proverbs 3:5 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your understanding.” We are a people constantly seeking for understanding. We want to understand ourselves, we want to understand others, we want to understand the world in which we live, and we want to understand our differences. Please note that Solomon was very clear in his prayers about the kind of understanding he wanted: “An understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”
Solomon knew that he needed a profound sense of understanding so as to be capable of distinguishing right from wrong; to be able to differentiate between the right attitude in life from the wrong attitude; to be able to understand the complexities of life; to be able to make tough decisions; to be able to judge wisely, and to be compassionate; to be aware of his emotions and manage them; to be able to read and be sensitive to the feelings of others.
Solomon was aware of the importance of an understanding mind and heart in leadership. He knew that understanding is a treasure, ‘a pearl of great price’ and so he was willing to sacrifice every other thing in his life in order to acquire it. His gift of understanding made him different from other kings like Nebuchadnezzar who had sophisticated military power but lacked understanding and compassion.
The gift of understanding is absolutely important for everyone, including teachers, preachers and parents. Every preacher and teacher needs the gift of understanding to be able to make difficult topics intelligible to students, congregation and listeners. The Apostle Paul was a great teacher who made every effort to make the message of Christ to be understood by all. For example He explains one of the mysteries of living in faith: “All things work for good for those who love Christ” (Romans 8:28).
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus explains another mystery of the kingdom of Heaven. He describes the kingdom as a discovery, which makes someone go to sell everything he has and come and take possession of the kingdom. But it seems crazy to go to sell or give up all you have to enter into the kingdom of heaven. There are three categories of people who are willing to give up everything they have:
The first category: those who have fallen head over hills in love with another person. As a result of this love, they are willing to leave father and mother and settle down as husband and wife. The second category of people who would give up everything are those who have been hypnotized or charmed against their will; the third category of people who would be willing to give up everything are those who have deeply fallen in love with God and nothing else matters but him. When the fire of divine love consumes someone, he makes some radical decisions that make him appear stupid. This explains why the French say: “L’amour de Dieu est folie! (Love of God is folly!)”
Jesus says, one who discovers the love of God sells everything to cling to the newfound treasure. A proverb in Hausa language says: “Duk wanda ya kone rumbunsa ya san inda toka ke tsada” (Anyone who sets his barns on fire knows where ashes are expensive). This is to say that anyone who sacrifices precious possessions and relationships in order to obtain the kingdom has come to realize that entry into the kingdom surpasses everything in life. We are explorers in the world and we are looking for priceless pearls that last till eternity and we give our total commitment of time, energy and resources to secure the everlasting treasures we cherish most.
17th Sunday of the Year A/
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12;