of Creighton University's Online Ministries
July 24th, 2011
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignation Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
It is the middle of summer vacation time in this part of the world. In thousands of cars the ancient prayers are being complained from the back seats, “Are we there yet?” “How much longer?”
When I was the young pray-er I wanted to know only when we were half way, so I would ask if we were half way yet. The desire to arrive, to be freed from seatbelts and the contagion of siblings, gave urgency to the pleading.
In my home state all farms, fields, woods, small towns and filling stations looked alike and were not passing by quickly enough. Arrival, not the journey was the important thing. Now as we journey along in the life of faith, arrival does not concern us enough, but being attentive to the farms, fields and living spaces through which we go does.
For us, the answer is “yes” we are there, or more clearly, we are where we are. We are always arriving to the awareness of where that where is. The Eucharistic gatherings toward which we are living, bless us in our journeys and arrivals. We are asked often in our days, “How are you?” A better question, which is never asked, is more important, “Where are you?” The proper answer of course would be, “I am here and arriving to the next there.”
A wonderful spiritual freedom is ridding ourselves of having to know exactly where we are and how are we doing. The Eucharist blesses the now and accompanies us to the next then.
King David has died and his young son Solomon is anointed as David’s replacement. He has gone out to the mountain and offered a thousand holocausts in accordance with tradition. While sleeping that night, God appears to him and invites Solomon to ask for anything. In kind of an Inauguration statement, Solomon asks for the gift of an understanding heart with which to govern the vast people the Lord has called him to govern.
He does not ask for riches, a long life, nor dominating power. God blesses him with this kind of wisdom which reveals the wisdom of God. The very next event of Solomon’s reign, following what we hear today, is the story of the two women who claim to be the mother of the one boy-child. Solomon’s wisdom is for deciding what is right according to God’s sense of sensitive justice. Solomon lived out a dream of his and a kind of dream of God that all would be right and in order. Wisdom proves to be more than logic, pragmatism, or strategy. It seems for Solomon and for us as well that wisdom is an approach to the questions of life as if there were a real God, loving and laboring with us to bring back the order of the original creation.
We have three more parables to ponder in our Gospel for today. The kingdom of heaven is a kind of treasure which a person, just digging around, happened to find among the other “stuff” buried in the field. Some questions arise in my mind. What was the person looking for in the first place, and what was the treasure? Why did he bury it again and go to buy the whole field?
The finding is one thing, but buying the whole field is the center meaning for me. No matter what we are searching for, if we keep digging we will find God. Buying into God’s being God and all that this relationship invites us to, is buying the whole field including those things we do not understand or want. The person bought the field for what he believed to be treasure and later could have found other things which time revealed to him as perhaps even more a treasure.
The second parable pictures a merchant who knows what he wants - a pearl - and he finds it and the other possessions he sells off to buy the pearl. My question of this parable is about what the merchant was going to do with the newly-purchased pearl. I suspect he will gain something even more important to him by selling the pearl. He did not buy it just to look at it or be known as a Fine-Pearl haver.
The kingdom of heaven, that is, the ways of Jesus required for entering, a letting go or selling off of the importance of “pearls” for the great pearl of allowing Jesus to be Savior and Lord.
The Gospel ends, as a professor might end his/her semester. Jesus asks if the disciples understand these teachings, even the last parable about the net’s catching all kinds of good fish and less good. They answer they do. They do for now, but will learn the deeper realities as they walk along with the Master. He tells them that like a good storekeeper, He brings out the good of the old and the good of the new. Jesus is not negating the former revelations, but building on them and the disciples will be the scribes of the new who cherished the old.
So the question for the last parable is about the ultimate worry. Is each of us a “good” or “bad”. Do we get placed in the heavenly “bucket” or thrown into the fiery ocean and grind our teeth for eternity without any Novocaine? The net is the words of Jesus, but who are the bad? Can anything be bad that God made? Parables are meant to help us ask questions and try to come up with answers based on the call of Jesus to allow Him to be our Savior, Instructor, and priceless pearl, treasure and bucket.
“O bless the Lord, my soul, and remember all his kindness.” Ps. 103, 2
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