Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Homily, July 24, 2011 Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Spring of 14 A.D. Simeon was out plowing.  This was not unusual, since Simeon was a plowman.  That is how he made his living, if you could call it a living, working all day in the sun and rain at monotonous, back-breaking toil, his only companion an ox, and this for just enough money to live on!   And all the while the absentee landlord, a Sadducee, lives in luxury in Jerusalem, thanks to Simeon's sweat and aching muscles.
As usual Simeon was brooding on how unfair life is, on what a rotten deal he got, on how much he despised the rich, when his plow struck something.   "Oh no!  not another rock!" spit Simeon, and he uttered epithets and curses I cannot here repeat.
However, on investigation Simeon discovered it was not a rock, but a chest. Simeon opened the chest to find it full of treasure!  Roman coins and gold and jewels!  What luck!  In Palestine, with lots of wars, invasions, unrest, and no banks, things got buried for safe-keeping.  So this was Simeon's day!
Simeon buried the treasure again.  The treasure legally belonged to whoever owned the field.  Simeon has to buy the field and the treasure is his!  But where will he get the cash?  His credit cards are maxed out.  Junk bonds have not yet been invented.  He will have to sell what he has to raise the money. 
So Simeon has a yard sale.   He sells some useless items, clothes that don't fit,  unwanted gifts he received from aunts.
But he soon realizes this is not going to raise the sort of cash he needs.  He will have to sell his ox and his plow.  But Simeon is hesitant to do this because this is his livelihood!  Of course, when he is rich he won’t have to work, but....  He will also have to sell his house; but where will he live?  Of course, he can buy a new one, but,  ¿what if the treasure is fake, what if someone steals it from him?  Can he part with his car, his flat screen TV, his computer, his smart-phone?  It is difficult.  Simeon knows he needs to sell everything if he wants that field and the treasure, but it is hard for him to do; scary to take that giant risk, to let go.   So he thinks about it.
Meanwhile, the owner of the field wants to get it plowed, so he goes out and hires the man in today's Gospel to finish the job.  This man also finds the treasure, and he too  hides it again.  
Unlike Simeon, this man does not hesitate.  He sells EVERYTHING.  And the Gospel tells us, he does it out of joy!  No holding back!   His house, his furniture, his clothes, family heirlooms, things of sentimental value, his ring, his e-reader, his X-box, is I-pad,  ALL HE HAD; everything goes.  Finally he has enough to buy the field, and he buys it.  The treasure is his.  He is fabulously rich. 
And Simeon keeps plowing for the rest of his life.

Scripture scholars tell us that the point of the parables we hear in the Gospel today is not so much that the Kingdom of God is like the treasure or like the really valuable pearl - not the object - but rather the action: God's reign, God's rule in our life is like the case of a man who finds a treasure in a field and sells everything to get it; or like the case of a merchant who finds a really valuable pearl, sells everything he has, and gets it.
This, says Jesus, is what God's reign is like.  It is a risk everything, go for broke, all-or-nothing kind of affair.  God's rule in our life is NOT a warm, fuzzy, comfortable, safe, measured and reasonable kind of thing; but rather a gutsy, risky, passionate, bungee-jumping, roller-coaster ride.
The reign of God is like the case of an investor who learns of a new technological break-through.  He sells everything - stocks, bonds, cashes in his CD's, empties his retirement account, cashes in his life insurance, and puts everything into netwidget, the newest hot technology item.  And makes a fortune.  It is a gutsy move.
God's reign is not safe.  It is not prudent.  It is not cautious.  God's reign is a risky, passionate, total investment.  God is a jealous god, who never settles for half-hearted measures and partial compromises.  God loves us with wild, passionate abandon.  God loves us so much he gave us His all, His own Beloved Son, holding nothing back.  That is what the reign of God is like, and that is the kind of response God calls us to.  God does not want only our worship, or our sacrifices, or our obedience.  God yearns for our very selves: our hearts, minds and souls. 
In the first reading we hear Solomon asking for wisdom.  True wisdom, God's wisdom, does not mean always playing it safe.  True wisdom is knowing how to risk everything on the treasure, on the really valuable pearl, on God's will in my life. 
Simeon was a fool, because he did not know how to risk lesser things on what was really most valuable. 
We are called to risk in relationship - going beyond isolation to community with others and union with God.  We are called to risk on vocation - following God's will for my life in service to others, wherever that may lead.  And we are called to risk on living - as children of God in a world of violence and despair and fear that does not know God.
The reign of God is not for sissies or the faint-hearted.  The reign of God is a risk.  The Kingdom of God demands a TOTAL, RADICAL RESPONSE, risking all we have and all that we are.            But it is worth it.  Buy the field.        AMEN.

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