Reflection for Sunday – July 30, 2017

Readings: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8: 28-30; Matthew 13: 44-52
Preacher: Sr. Karen Dietz

Quite a few years ago, when I bought my first car, my dad insisted we buy a standard rather than an automatic. I had only had a few lessons with him, but my dad was confident I could master this skill. My family brought it from Massachusetts to my new home in New York State leaving me to figure out how to make this car go! I struggled and jerked along the streets of Geneva until one day a letter from my dad arrived. It was a step-by-step set of instructions for me. I learned much more quickly from that moment forward. My dad had done enough word problem homework assignments with me over the years that he knew exactly how my mind worked! It did the trick.

A few years later I lost that letter. I had many others my dad had written over my college and early career days, but that one was gone. I searched everywhere. I went through files and boxes and drawers, but it seemed that letter was gone forever. It was not until my last move two years ago that I found it. When I did, I cried and felt that I had finally retrieved a part of my dad and our relationship that I did not even realize was missing. It and the memories it evokes are part of the hidden treasure of my life.

Today’s Gospel has Jesus likening the kindom of God to a hidden treasure or a pearl of great price. Jesus’ story helps us understand that to truly rest in God’s reign is to focus on what is most important in life. The Gospel story contains some hints as to how we might do this. The farmer sold everything he owned in order to buy the field and claim the treasure. His attitude was one of great joy. The fisherman catches both good and “not so good” fish and is prepared to sort the good from the less tasty, discarding the bad.

We are being called by Jesus to sell everything we have that is extraneous to our relationship with God. In releasing ourselves from what holds us bound, and perhaps what impedes our spiritual growth, our bodies, minds and hearts are opened up to receive God’s Word in the many ways it is revealed every minute of every day. The more we let go, the more energy we have to avail ourselves to God’s love. I believe this task of “selling everything” takes a lifetime. We think we need our stuff, and even our prayers, when all we really need is God.

Letting go of everything that holds us bound is one step, but to do so in a spirit of great joy can be an entirely different matter. Not only is Jesus urging us to simplify, he is asking us to pay attention to our intent. Jesus wants us to be able to do so with a joyful heart. This too takes a certain freedom that develops with prayer and time.
The third grace is the willingness to sort the good from the “not as good” and to discard the bad. I can be the kind of person that hangs on to things, feelings and prior hurts. My dragnet (were I the fisherwoman) would contain those and they might sparkle deceivingly, tempting me to hang on longer than I ought. It takes prayer and discipline to recognize the bad fish and to discard them before bringing in the catch.

Someone recently said to me that there are three things necessary for spiritual growth in today’s culture: solitude, silence and asceticism. I think this is right. I want to have that treasure; a deeper relationship with God and God’s people. For me to recognize this treasure, I need to take time apart from the busyness of my life—so that I might be found by God. I need to quiet my mind and heart so that I can be hollowed out and space be made for God alone to fill. Finally, I need to ask myself what personal discipline do I need that will help me root out that which interferes with my union with God.

These are some of the practices that can help us retrieve and develop our relationship with God. We might discover we didn’t know it was weakening or even missing. This is the beginning of wisdom greater than Solomon’s indeed!

Sr. Karen Dietz, SSJ
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