29 and 30 July 2017 Seventeenth Sunday Ordinary Time A Homily
First Kings 3:5, 7-12
My sisters and brothers in Christ.
The scriptures today present an abundance of rich images.
I could go on and perhaps on about the elegance and spontaneous request of Solomon for an understanding heart, his declaration of his youthfulness and “not knowing at all how to act..”
Solomon is rewarded by the Lord with a heart that is “wise and understanding.”
The Letter to the Romans suggests the inevitability of the free and gracious gift of salvation to those who are:
Really I think the Word speaks to us in a very specific way by means of the three parables in the Gospel today. Jesús wants us to embrace our search for and appreciate the gift of the Kingdom.
Not everyone receives the gift of the Kingdom and as we heard two weeks ago, not everyone receives the “seed” or “word” of the Kingdom in “good” or “rich soil”.
The Kingdom Jesús says is like a:
Treasure hidden in a field.
A Pearl of great price.
A net full of fish that must be separated to discern what was good and would be kept and what was bad and needed to be thrown away.
I would like to share today with you about three people whom I know personally found a “treasure” hidden in a field and a “pearl” of great price.
First a literary reference might be helpful. John Steinbeck, the author wrote a famous book, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, about the Oklahomans or “Okies” who moved to California when they lost their farms in the great depression in the nineteen thirties.
He wrote many books but one is called “The Pearl”. It is about a poor Mexican family who live on the coast. The father dives for pearls in the ocean. He brings home, after work, one day a “once in a lifetime” discovery of a pearl.
The man tries to sell the Pearl to local buyers of pearls but they fix a very low price.
The man decides to go to a larger city with his wife and infant son to seek a better price after someone destroys his small boat as a warning to him that he should accept the unjust price.
The family is followed by robbers who fatally injure the infant child. The man goes back to the village, takes the pearl and hurls it into the sea.
This particular Gospel about the “pearl” of great price was read on a Sunday in Catholic churches throughout the world in the summer of 1984.
A month or two before this Gospel was read I was asked by then Archbishop Salatka of Oklahoma City if I would got to work in the Archdiocesan Mission in Santiago Atitlan, Solola in Guatemala Central America.
I had first met Father Rother’s parents when I visited the Mission Santiago in July of 1983. I got to know them and even was challenged by Stan’s dad Franz Rother to consider coming to minister to this huge congregation that had not had a resident priest since his son Father Rother had been killed in the Parish Rectory in July of 1981.
As it turned out after a number of twists and turns I was “sent” “missioned” to do exactly what Franz Rother had asked me to do.
I visited Franz and Gertrude Rother and their son Tom in Okarche prior to my move to Guatemala several times. In fact I usually tried to see them once or twice a year on my home visits after I started to serve in Guatemala.
Our visits were sometimes at their farm house outside of Okarche but usually we met at a locally famous bar – restaurant called “Eischen’s”.
Eischen’s is a more than a restaurant. It is a cultural artifact. Unless the menu has changed it is or was fried chicken, store bought white bread and of course beer. The food was served very simply. There were napkins and baskets but to my recollection no or very few plates.
After one particular visit with Franz and Gertrude in July of 1984, I was mulling over Sunday’s message for the good people of Saint Peter and Paul Parish in Hobart, Oklahoma. I would soon be leaving Hobart to move very far to the South.
The “pearl” of great price and the “treasure” hidden in the field were the subject at hand.
What Franz and Gertrude had communicated to me, indirectly and unintentionally, during our visits, was that Stan had found the “pearl” of great price and the “treasure” in the field.
The “treasure” and “pearl”of the Kingdom were the people Stan served in Guatemala.
Through Stan, Franz and Gertrude, had also found the “pearl” and the “treasure” that Stan had
sold all for,
left all for,
and given his “all” for.
I have never been a parent.
I have accompanied families through the loss of a child.
I am not sure I had ever met a set of parents who could be so at peace with the death, even a very violent of a child as Franz and Gertrude Rother.
May the Kingdom be revealed to us.
May we receive all the Kingdom has to offer.
May we generously share our experience of the Kingdom that has been so freely given to us.
Jesús asks us to embrace and share the many riches of the Kingdom as he concludes the Gospel today with these words:
“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.”