Give Me Jesus – A Sermon for the 17th Sunday

By Manfred HeydeThis file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
By Manfred Heyde This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Gospel today asks a fundamental question: “What is it that you value most?”  In other words, “What is it that you most want?” Now be careful to answer this question honestly. We tend to answer questions like this the way we think we “should” answer them rather than genuinely. But when we’re with the doctor (and Jesus is our doctor) the best bet is to answer honestly so that we can begin a true healing process. And the fact is, we all need a heart transplant. That is, we need a new heart, one that desires God and the things waiting for us in heaven more than any earthly thing.

So let’s take a look at this Gospel, which sets forth in three fundamental movements the Picture and the Price of the Kingdom of God along with a Peril that reminds us that we have a choice to make.

I. The Picture  – The Gospel uses three images for the kingdom, two of which we will look at here, and the third of which we will examine later. The first two images are that of the buried treasure and the pearl. Both of these images have some significance elsewhere in the Scriptures and studying them will be helpful in fine-tuning our understanding of the gift of the Kingdom, which Jesus is discussing.

A. Buried Treasure – The concept of treasure (buried treasure in this case) is mentioned elsewhere by Jesus:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt 6:19-21).

Hence although we tend to think of treasure as a bunch of “stuff,” this image of treasure that Jesus uses in today’s Gospel is more of an image for the heart and for our deepest desires, because our treasure is linked to our heart. One of the greatest gifts that God offers us is the gift of a new heart which values most what God is offering, namely, holiness, and God himself. One of the most fundamental prophetic texts of the Old Testament announces what Jesus has fulfilled:

Oh, my people, I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Thus, the great treasure of the Kingdom of God gives us a new heart, for by choosing this treasure our heart is changed. To have a new heart is to see and experience our desires change. We are less focused on passing, worldly things and more interested in the lasting treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven. We begin to love what and whom God loves. We begin to love holiness, justice, chastity, goodness, righteousness, and truth. We begin to love our spouse, family members, the poor, and even our enemies the way God loves them. Our hearts become alive with joy and zeal for the Kingdom of God and an evangelical spirit impels us to speak what we believe and know to be true.

Yes, the buried and hidden treasure of the Kingdom of God unlocks our heart and brings new life coursing through our veins and arteries, through our very soul. In choosing this treasure we get a new heart. For where our treasure is, there also will be our heart.

B. Pearl The second image, the pearl, comes from the Wisdom tradition, in which holy Wisdom is likened to a pearl. And here, too, is described one of the most precious gifts of the Kingdom of God: the gift of a new mind through holy Wisdom. And what is the new mind? It is a mind that begins to think more and more as God thinks, a mind that shares His priorities and His vision, a mind that sees as God sees; it is the mind of Christ (cf 1 Cor 2:16). With this new mind we see through and reject worldly thinking, worldly priorities, and worldly agendas. We come to rejoice in the truth of God and to grasp more deeply its beauty and sensibility. What a precious gift the new mind is, thinking with God and having the mind of Christ!

So here are two precious manifestations of the Kingdom of God: a new heart and a new mind, which is really another way of saying, “a whole new self.” God is offering us a new life, a new self, a complete transformation. This, then, leads to the next movement of the Gospel.

II. The Price – What are these offerings of the Kingdom worth and what do they ultimately cost? The answer is very clear in today’s Gospel: they cost, and are worth, EVERYTHING. Regarding the hidden treasure and the pearl, the text says that both men went and sold all they had for these precious offerings. They were willing to forsake everything for them.

Now be careful not to reduce this Gospel to a moralism. Notice that these men were eager to go and sell, to forsake, everything else. They did this not so much because they had to, but because they wanted to. They wanted to pay the price and were willing to do so even with eagerness because they were so enamored of the glory they had found. And here is the gift to seek from the Lord: a willing and eager heart for the Kingdom of God, so eager that we are willing to forsake anything and everything for it.

For ultimately the Kingdom of God does cost everything and we will not fully inherit it until we are fully done with this world and its claims on our heart.

But the gift to seek from the Lord is not that we, with sullen faces and depressed spirits, forsake the world as if we were paying taxes. No! The gift to seek is that we, like these men, be so taken by the glory of God and His kingdom that we are more than willing to set aside anything that gets in our way, that we should be so eager for the things of the Kingdom that the world’s intoxicating and addictive trinkets matter little to us and the loss of them means almost nothing.

Do you see? This is the gift: a heart that appreciates the true worth of the Kingdom of God such that no price is too high. Scripture says elsewhere:

  • What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Phil 3:8).
  • For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor 4:17).
  • I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom 8:18).
  • No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).
  • But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:13-14).

Yes, the Kingdom of God is more than worth any price we must pay, and ultimately we will pay all for it. Pray for an eager and willing spirit that comes from appreciating the unsurpassed worth of the Kingdom!

III. The Peril – The final movement contains a warning about judgment. For ultimately we either want the Kingdom of God or we don’t. Hence the Lord speaks of a dragnet that captures everything (and this is the summons all have to come to the judgment). Those who want the Kingdom and have accepted its value and price will be gathered in. Those who do not want the Kingdom of God and do not accept its value will be escorted off.

For there are some who do not value the Kingdom. They may desire Heaven, but it is a fake “heaven” of their own making, not the real Heaven of the fullness of the Kingdom of God. The true Heaven is the Kingdom of God in all its fullness. The Kingdom of God includes things like forgiveness, mercy, justice, chastity, the dignity of life, love of the poor, love of one’s enemies,  and the celebration of what is true, good, and beautiful.  The Kingdom of God has God, not me, at its center.

Now there are many who neither want nor value some or even most of these things. When the net is drawn in, the decisions are final. And though we may wish for a magic, fairy tale ending in which the opponents of the Kingdom suddenly come to love it, God seems to say, quite clearly, that at the judgement one’s decision for or against the Kingdom is final and fixed forever.

An old song says, “Better choose the Lord today, for tomorrow, very well might be too late.” Thus we are warned: the judgment looms and we ought to be earnest in seeking a heart from the Lord that eagerly desires the Kingdom and appreciates its worth above all people and all things. In the end you get what you want. Either you will have chosen the Kingdom or not.

So pray for a new heart, one that values the Kingdom of Heaven above all else. We ought to consider ourselves warned.

The Gospel today is about what we truly value, in three movements.

This song says, “You can have all this world, just give me Jesus.”

Photo Credit AIRO via Creative Commons

14 Replies to “Give Me Jesus – A Sermon for the 17th Sunday”

  1. Many years back, a science fiction writer named Parke Godwin wrote in a story, “Your real religion is what you want the most.” That has stuck with me.

    For some, it is respectability, or luxury, or convenience, small gods which are never noticed or acknowledged.

    Strangely, it is rarely wealth, sex, or power, the three Big Boogies of any age. As Uncle Screwtape might have observed, “Why rope them in with a Big Sin, if you can catch them with a small one?”

    What do I really want?

  2. What do I really want?

    I want the Sanctity, the Life and the Kingdom of the Divine Will as communicated by Jesus through Luisa Piccarreta!

    I like your starting point on this Gospel, Msgr.!

  3. I want LOVE! Family and God are my true loves.
    I want to love and be loved by them.
    And I hope we all meet in heaven.
    Your little lamb, Monsignor….

    Ps. Hope you are blessed, Jas!!

  4. Thank you Msgr. Pope for clearly summarizing the real possibility of damnation. Some wrongly think that “God would never do THAT, (that is, condemn someone to hell), when in fact we must first recall that “God would never do THAT (that is, force his love and Kingdom on another person).

    1. Hell is not something that God inflicts, rather it is the chaos outside of His ordering love – that ordering love that has been rejected by the damned.

      What is outside of God is necessarily torment and disorder, as God is the only source of true goodness that exists.

  5. The problem that we face is that people associate religion with all the opposite things that Christ taught us: with wars, intolerance, gold and even child-abuse. I find that Pope Fracis is doing a good work to acknowledge occasions when church members deviated from some of Christ’s key messages. Pope Benedict too; crucially when he apologised for the crusades.
    Many people reject the church teachings because they mainly see the mistakes made. Maybe they value truth but do not use the church’s help because, sadly, they associate the church with lies.

  6. Yes, greater holiness now, Love and Life in Christ forever! Honestly, what else is there?
    God bless!

  7. Msgr, thanks for the quotes from 1Cor, 2Cor, Rm and Ph that help us understand the true worth of God’s Kingdom. However, don’t leave out the last of the 4 parables which, I think, tie the other 3 together. (Maybe it’s hot in DC, and you didn’t dare go on too long. o{|:>) I wound up my homily this way:
    “There is a fourth parable in today’s Gospel, but it’s so short and so condensed that we easily overlook it. Here Jesus answers the question: what good are the people who accept the Kingdom and pay the necessary price? He says, “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.” A scribe was a learned person, an expert in the Jewish law. A scribe learned in the Kingdom of heaven was one who knew that he didn’t know it all. He was willing to let Jesus lead him forward, and show him how the Jewish law would be completed in the Kingdom. This is the person who has something to give to the members of the household. He brings out of his storeroom both the new and the old.
    “What does it mean for us today to be learned in God’s Kingdom, and to bring forth for people both the new and the old? Jesus is telling us to hang on to the wisdom of the past. God continues to speak to us through the wisdom of our parents, the words of our teachers and priests in years past, and (if we’re old enough), through our experiences in the pre-Vatican-Council Church.
    But Jesus is also telling us not to be so in love with the past that we can’t move forward. How do we find our voice in a world that embraces the drug culture and the death culture more tightly every day? What do we have to say to a world that feels threatened by anyone who teaches that no, you can’t make up your own morality?” How do we act as a Church in an age where lay people must take more responsibility for evangelization and service to the poor? The answer is not to re-create the 1950’s or 1960’s or whichever decade represents the Church’s golden age to you. The answer is to treasure our roots in the past, but then to ask, ‘What is the best thing we can do to share God’s message today?’
    “Yes, it’s tricky – yes, it’s risky to answer that question. That question will make fights break out even among people who love the church. Asking that question is as risky as selling everything to buy one field or one pearl. But we don’t give up struggling to answer that question: “How do we share God’s message today?” And we trust that where we will find Jesus is in the struggle.”

    1. The best thing we can do to share God’s message today is to live it. It’s like singing the blues. If you want to sing the blues, you got to live it. if you want to share the message of God you got to live it. It is not about seeing the fruits of you labor while on earth but rather in heaven. As Willie Landum, fishing guide to the stars always says, “Have faith and keep a tight line.”

  8. Msgr.

    So if we answer that first question honestly and find that it is something other than God and Heaven, how do you stop wanting that?. How do you change lanes?

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