A Graduate School of Theology and Ministry

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

July 30, 2023

Lectionary 109:

 I Kgs 3:5, 7-12

Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130,

Rom 8:28-30

Matt 13:44-52

Possible preaching themes:

 The greatest gift: understanding and empathy (connected to 1 Kings)

  • The joy of finding unexpected treasure (related to 1 Kings and the Gospel)
  • Encountering the kingdom of heaven in ordinary life — discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary, often by accident (from the Gospel)

 Possible scientific resources: 

Homily outline combining resources:  The Kingdom of God is a thing of astonishment and joy, waiting to be discovered — and closer than we may realize

  1. Introduction: Pondering the kingdom of God
  • Jesus sets out to explain the Kingdom of God to his disciples in today’s gospel.
  • He offers an extended series of similes built around the idea of discovery:
    • the kingdom is like a treasure found in a field;
    • it is like a merchant who discovers a fine pearl;
    • it is like a net thrown into the sea that catches all kinds of fish.
  • The prevailing message is that the kingdom is something both commonplace and rare — familiar yet surprising, filling the heart with joy when it is encountered.
  • He elaborates further, explaining that “every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven” is like one who “brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”
  • Jesus is suggesting here that the kingdom is something both ancient and new — both expected and unexpected – to be discovered and redefined by the disciples who are hearing these words.
  1. The scientific turn
  • One of the recurring themes in this gospel is the idea of discovery. The kingdom is found, perhaps, when least expected — and yields riches beyond imagining.
  • The scientific world is riddled with breakthroughs caused by happy accidents. Throughout history, some of the most important scientific discoveries have happened by accident or coincidence, such as
    • penicillin
    • plastic
    • and the microwave.
  • Researchers have found that we are, by nature, people on a quest. Our brains are wired to help us find what we seek. We search, we question, we dialogue with one another, all to discover what we are looking for.
  • The result of all this searching and discovery can reenforce a sense of awe and wonder. Scientists say being aware of wonder has emotional, psychological and even spiritual benefits.
  • Christ’s message to his disciples
  • In this fairly short passage, Jesus offers images of the kingdom that are both familiar and surprising — which is his point.
  • He also suggests that finding the kingdom takes some effort.
  • It’s interesting to note that in this passage, Jesus uses a series of similes or comparisons that would resonate with his particular audience:
    • someone digging up a treasure in a field,
    • a merchant looking for a pearl,
    • a fisherman tossing a net into the sea.
  • To modern listeners, they may seem antiquated or quaint.
  • But to the people of his day, Jesus was offering an astonishing idea: the kingdom is closer than you may realize.
    • It is accessible to anyone with (so to speak) a shovel, a net or the desire to find something of value.
    • All you need to do is dig, cast or look.
  1. The Takeaway: Seeking and finding the kingdom around us
  • All of us, in many ways, are people on a quest — seeking things of quantifiable value, such as more stylish clothing, a better car or a higher paying job.
  • Often we are further motivated to pursue more immeasurable values, such as dignity, self-worth, purpose, satisfaction, peace of mind, joy or love.
  • In this gospel, Jesus reveals that what we truly treasure is found in the kingdom of God, and it is closer than we may realize.
  • Jesus drives home the idea that the kingdom is not a place, or a destination, or a geographical point on the map.
    • Rather, it is a way of living and loving:
    • what the early followers of Jesus would call “The Way.”
  • The disciples were taught that this kingdom was something both familiar and surprising, and that discovering it would fill their hearts with unexpected joy.
  • All of us may be seeking to find the kingdom in our lives. Where do we find it?

Litmus test

  • Everything we seek does not always lead us to the kingdom revealed in Jesus.
  • Thus, we need some guidance for discerning what is of passing value and what is that pearl of great price.
  • The first reading gives us something of that litmus test
    • Solomon did not act in his self-interest
    • He did not ask for earthly riches
    • Nor did he seek revenge or violence on enemies.
    • Rather, he asks for an understanding heart.
  • God’s understanding heart is fully revealed in Jesus’ own sacred heart
    • A heart that communicated love for the stranger
    • respect for the marginalized
    • and justice for the outcasts.
  • Today we also pray for understanding hearts, that together we too might further God’s reign in our lives and in the world.
Liturgical: Advent
Topic: Psychology

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