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Father Vincent Hawkswell

Jesus asks us to make a radical choice

Voices Jul 28, 2017

St. Peter, depicted by Peter Paul Rubens in approx. 1610, was given the keys to heaven by Christ, with the promise, "to exclude from the kingdom any whom Peter excluded, and to include any whom Peter included." (Wikimedia Commons)
17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
First Reading: 1 Kgs 3:5-12
Second Reading: Rom 8:28-30
Gospel Reading: Mt 13:44-52

We all try to discern what is best. Like merchants looking for pearls, or fishermen casting our nets into the sea, we ask, “What is worth keeping? What should we throw away?” No wonder Solomon asked God for the ability “to discern between good and evil.”

In this Sunday’s liturgy, Jesus gives the answer: like “a treasure hidden in a field” or “one pearl of great value,” the kingdom of heaven is worth everything else we own.

“To those who seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he has promised to give all else besides,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “Since everything indeed belongs to God, he who possesses God wants for nothing.”

What is the kingdom of heaven? Where do we find it? How do we become citizens?

Even the apostles were puzzled. For a long time they expected the inauguration of God’s kingdom to free Israel from the Romans.

Jesus first mentioned his kingdom at the beginning of his public life, when he said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe the good news.” Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium says he inaugurated his kingdom on earth “to carry out the will of the Father,” which is “to raise up men to share in his own divine life.”

To carry out this mission, Jesus chose twelve men to be with him and share his authority. To one of them, Peter, he gave the keys of his kingdom, promising to exclude from the kingdom any whom Peter excluded, and to include any whom Peter included.

Thus Jesus formed his Church, the seed and beginning, on earth, of God’s kingdom. By preaching, performing miracles, and sending out his disciples, he called all people to enter it.

We need not be perfect. Jesus came to call sinners, not the righteous, and proved it by the sacrifice of his own life for the forgiveness of sins.

However, we must repent our sins. Then we must detach ourselves from riches, like the poor widow who gave all she had to live on. We must prefer Jesus to everything and everyone else and be ready to give up all we have for his sake, like the merchant with the incomparable pearl.

To gain the kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough; deeds are required.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church

Jesus asks for a radical choice. As the Catechism says, “to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough; deeds are required.”

The paths to God’s kingdom are indicated by the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Church’s teaching, says the Catechism. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we follow these paths step by step, by everyday acts. For lay people, this means engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.

We cannot always see how our everyday acts help to establish and expand God’s kingdom. We must enter the kingdom, the Catechism says, in order to know its secrets. However, “we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,” St. Paul says.

The kingdom of heaven has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into his mystical body, the Catechism says. In the Church, it already exists.

However, “the Church, and through her the world, will not be perfected in glory without great trials,” it says. The Church will receive her perfection only at the end of the world, says Lumen Gentium. Meanwhile, she waits in exile, far from the Lord, longing for the full coming of the kingdom, when she will be united in glory with her king.

“There we shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise,” St. Augustine said. “What other end do we have, if not to reach the kingdom that has no end?”

Accordingly, we pray in the Our Father: “Thy kingdom come.”