Lectio Divina - Sunday, July 30th, 2017
Sunday, July 30th, 2017
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading from Matthew 13:44-52
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12, Romans 8:28-30
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.45Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.46When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.47Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.48When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away.49Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous50and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Treasures New and Old
51“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.”52 And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”
Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household
who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”
Matthew brings the kingdom of heaven teachings of Jesus to a conclusion in this week’s Gospel reading. Jesus evokes three new images to reveal the kingdom. Each respective image is meant to direct his disciples in their need to be diligent in anticipating the kingdom’s appearance, to be surprised when it is found, and then to be willing to risk everything to secure the treasure, the pearl of great price, and the bountiful harvest of the sea.
In the first image Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a great treasure that is wonderfully discovered in a field. The finder risks all he has to purchase that field and with it the treasure. No risk, no reward. Land transactions in biblical times were long, drawn out affairs. Land rarely changed hands because it was kept in the family for future generations. Consider, for example, the parable of the prodigal son, where the father is willing to liquidate family property to fund his younger son’s shameful departure. This would have shocked Jesus’s original audience.
The second kingdom image imagines a merchant in search of the perfect pearl. In the New Testament period pearls were more valuable than all other gemstones, including emeralds and sapphires. Pearls still have great value—consider the 2011 sale of the pearl known as La Peregrina for $11.8 million! Our biblical merchant scours the world to find the best example of the only gem formed by a living organism, and when he finds it he is willing to sell all he has to purchase that single pearl. No risk, no reward. He knows its great value and is willing to risk everything to acquire the pearl for himself.
Jesus then compares the kingdom to a dragnet used by local fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Most of the Twelve and many other disciples would be familiar with this image as they were professional fishermen. It was hard work laying out the dragnet between boats. When the net was full you had to exert great effort to bring it to shore. You were working against the water and the fish the net contained, not knowing whether the catch had any market value. Still, you were willing to do the heavy lifting. Once on the shore your work is not done. You still have to sort out the clean (finned and scaled fish) from the unclean (catfish and eels) before you could send the haul to market. Is the hard work worth the reward? If the kingdom of God is discovered then the answer is a resounding yes!
Jesus asks his disciples (his students) if they understand all of this. Without hesitation they respond “Yes.” Jesus honors these men and women by referring to them as scribes who are trained for the kingdom of heaven. They are going to be the new religious leaders who will carry the message of their Rabbi into the world. They hold a treasure that is rich with the old teachings of the Hebrew Bible, now enhanced by the new revelations of their Rabbi, Jesus. It is time to get to work.
Diligent seeking combined with good fortune will require demanding action for those who find themselves worthy of the kingdom. These kingdom images convey the risk versus reward aspect of Jesus’s teaching. Entrance into the kingdom is costly. It requires selling all you have, risking everything to see the kingdom realized in our lives and in our world. It can also be hard work, a large catch that has to be sorted before it can be sent to market. Are we up to the challenge? Are we willing to expend the effort? Are we willing to take the risk? Are we willing to spend the capital? What would all of that mean in our lives? What would that look like today? The kingdom of heaven is in our midst, but do we notice it? Does it direct our lives? Are we growing in our understanding of what it means to be children of God, the King of Kings? Let these questions direct our meditation on these three kingdom teachings of Jesus.
Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray in Matthew 6. In the prayer we call the “Our Father,” Jesus instructs his disciples to pray that the kingdom of heaven will be revealed on the earth and in our lives. Pay special attention to this intention as you pray the Our Father in your time with the Lord today.
Faith in action. That is always the challenge of the Christian life. Don’t tell me what you believe—show me. A rabbi friend once shared that in Jewish theology, “deeds always trump creeds.” What you do for God is more important than what you believe about God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to take some chances and act on what we believe. He wants us to buy the field, find the funds to purchase the pearl, and be willing to do the hard work needed to haul in the net full of the bounty the Sea of Galilee provides. Where is the field of potential hidden in your life? What perfect pearl would motivate you to sell everything just to have it? What has to be sorted out in the net that is your walk with the Lord? Use these images to contemplate the meaning of the kingdom of heaven from Jesus’s teachings this week.