YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE!
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: * 1 Kg 3 : 5 – 12, Rom 8 : 28 – 30, Matt 13 : 44 – 52.
Jesus used 3 significant parables to teach us the following 3 important points about the Kingdom ;
(a) IT DEPENDS ON GRACE ; The 1st parable describes the Kingdom like a farmer who discovers a hidden treasure by chance (grace). The role of wisdom here now lies in what he does after the discovery – He decides to go and sell all he has to purchase that field.
(b) IT ALSO DEPENDS ON HUMAN EFFORT; The next parable describes the Kingdom like a merchant who embarks on a deliberate search for pearls of different values until he finds one of great value. The role of wisdom again makes him sell every other things he had acquired in order to buy that one.
(c) IT ALSO DEPENDS ON GOD’S JUSTICE ; The next parable describes the Kingdom of God with the fisherman’s drag net thrown into the sea gathering fishes (people) of all kinds ; the good, the bad and the ugly. The Angels must be asked to come out and separate the evil from the righteous. Divine judgment is imminent and the four last things are inevitable ; death, judgment, heaven or hell. Wisdom again demands that we begin to set our values and priorities right.
B. OUR VALUES VS OUR PRAYER POINTS
Our level of wisdom determines our values while our values determine our prayer points. Our prayer points determine our spirituality and this spirituality begins from our ability to discover God’s will like a hidden treasure or pearl of great price.
Taking a case study of Solomon in today’s 1st reading, we see that he first of all impressed God by his prayer point. For him to have asked for wisdom in place of other values like long life, riches or the life of his enemies, that means that he had some bit of spirituality. He was interested in governing God’s people well rather than his personal aggrandisement. This ability to tune our prayer points/values into the wavelength of God’s will is the supreme challenge of spirituality.
We are told in today’s 2nd reading that those who love him – those that are called according to his purpose he turns everything to their good. It looks like a thesis on predestination but it is not just that. These people that he foreknew, predestined, called, justified and glorified are the people who love him – who make effort to pray, work and act according to his purpose. It is only in divinity that act and potency coincide ; freedom and predestination interweave ; foreknowledge and forejustificati
on go together. Sounds like a mystery? Immanuel Kant calls it ‘antinomies of pure reason’.
The most important message of today’s gospel is that whenever a believer through the Word of God discovers the demands and prospects of the Kingdom of God, he forfeits every other things in order to make it. Wisdom helps us to organize and set our values /priorities right while the grace of God enables us to make the sacrifice we need for holiness.
Philosophers tell us that a value is that which we will sacrifice all other things for. According to Fr Carr, ‘Value is the ground root of our being. It is the heart of our life’. As soon as Solomon’s values changed, his destiny torpedoed. As soon as his heart was no longer set on pleasing God but on building structures and pleasing his women, wisdom left him since ‘the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom’, and he knew that, Prov 1 : 7. Finally, the kingdom of Israel was split under him because he could not combine the grace that God gave him with requisite human effort. St Paul says ‘we must work on our salvation in fear and trembling’, Phil 2 : 13.
The Church is like a drag net which on judgment day gathers all sorts of fish. There will be a final sorting of the spiritual believers from the fleshly believers (if I may borrow Watchman Nee’s phraseology). It is important that we take advantage of the Word of God in sorting out and setting our values right. It is true we need long life, riches, marriage, good health, protection from our enemies, etc but some other values like good leadership and the interest of the people should supercede our individual interest.
* Should a young lady for instance jettison her faith/ religion just because she needs to marry and the only option that appeals to her is from another Church? If she does, than her faith is of a lower value.
In Nigeria today, the demand for restructuring is failing at the legislative house not because people don’t know we need it but selfish interests of the leaders will not allow it. The fight against corruption is capsizing not because people don’t believe in it but many big people are involved.
We need to begin early to monitor the values we acquire from the following sources ; our parents, teachers, priests /pastors, peers, our cultural environment, social media, television, books, music, friends, etc. These values affect our character so much. We must note that the greatest source of wisdom and good values is the scriptures. The message of salvation contained in the scriptures and interpreted by the Church is that pearl of great price that we can’t afford to lose. We must be ready at all time to jettison every other conflicting values and chose the spiritual. Happy Sunday beloved friends!
FR BEN AGBO.