Sunday Sermon for July 30, 2017, the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary time, Year A

Readings: 1Kg 3:5, 7-12; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52

In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like something that is hidden: a treasure buried in a field, a merchant searching for a pearl, or an item pulled ashore in a net. In each of these examples there is something hidden that, when found, requires a choice on the part of the one who finds it. One could say, for instance, that each of us is a pearl of great price which our Lord has found. He could have marveled at the beauty and value of the pearl, but decided that the price was too high. He could have found the treasure buried in the field and walked away because it would require too much work to purchase the field.

Thankfully, our Lord determined that the value of this treasure (our souls) was worth far more than any cost or difficulty that may be encountered in obtaining the treasure. Therefore, He was willing to pay a price that would cover any possible contingency. The only thing He could not cover is the possibility of our using our free will to reject Him. The reason this is not covered is because the only way to guarantee we will not use our free will wrongly is to take it away. If it was removed, then Heaven would not mean anything to us because we did not choose it nor did we have to struggle to get there.

One could look at free will as a detriment, but it is actually among the greatest gifts God has given us. Without it we would not be persons, without it we could not love, without it we could not choose to give God the worship and praise which are His due. If we did not have free will, we would not be able to receive the love of our Lord in His choice to make us His pearl of great price. His choice to die for us would mean nothing to us and His presence in the Holy Eucharist would be held in contempt or simply ignored. What a wonderful thing to know we are loved so much! How equally wonderful to know that God desires we use our freedom to love Him in return.

It is true we can violate our freedom and use it as license to sin. It is also true we can use selfishly the gifts God has given to us for the sake of building up the Mystical Body. We need look no further than the first reading to see a glaring example of this. Solomon was granted the gift of wisdom greater than anyone who had ever lived. The purpose of this, as he himself asked, was so he could properly govern the people of Israel. We all know he became a complete fool because he turned away from God and used the Lord’s gifts to serve his own selfish desires rather than using them to serve God and His people.

None of us has the wisdom God granted to Solomon, but we have all been endowed with some beautiful gifts from the Lord. Like Solomon, we have probably all used these gifts in the wrong way at times. But, even if we have done evil in the past, and there is always the possibility we will misuse these gifts in the future, we have hope and confidence because of what St. Paul tells us in the second reading.

First of all, he tells us that those God predestined He also called; those He called He also justified; those He justified He also glorified. Each of us has been called by God and we have been justified in Baptism and every time we go to confession. One could say that we have been glorified by receiving the grace of God and the Indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity. However, our ultimate glorification will take place only upon entrance into eternity (provided we choose the right way). So, we have this promise that God has called us and He will not reject us.

The second point is that everything works for good for those who love God. This means God will bring good even out of our foolishness. Think of how many people have found faith to repent and confidence in God’s mercy by considering the sins of King David or St. Mary Magdalene. How many people have greater faith because of the doubts of St. Thomas the Apostle. Many people have found hope because of the weaknesses displayed by St. Peter. If God can use their sins, faults, and weaknesses to help not only themselves but so many others, He will use everything in our lives to help us become the treasure for which He was willing to pay the highest price.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit