This year the Diocesan Priests Retreat, held at Mariannhill from 5-10 October, was given by Fr. Bob Jones SVD and was called an Earthen Vessel retreat.
TODAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 13: 44 – 52]
continues one of the especially significant elements of Matthew’s version of the Good News – the so-called Parables of the Kingdom. This Sunday’s verses bring Matthew’s record of these parables to an end. These parables, taken together, confirm the fact recorded in our reflection for the Fifteenth Sunday – the KINGDOM has already arrived, even though not yet fully established. As citizens of the kingdom we are all involved in the work of making it a greater reality. It was Mahatma Gandhi who said: “be the change you wish to see in the world.“
We should also note the question posed by Jesus towards the end of our extract – “have you understood all this?” The word understand
(understood or understanding) has been used many, many times in the reflections of the previous weeks. In particular we should recall Jesus’ words from the Fifteenth Sunday which remind us that “any one (who) hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand … it will be snatched away.”
Reflect on the phrase word of the kingdom. We do not need to hold a doctorate in scriptural studies to realise that Matthew’s kingdom parables must be important. These parables contain all the basic challenges for an authentic discipleship – as well as important messages of encouragement in the face of our failures and ineptitudes. We need to really understand and make our own these words of the kingdom. If we remain ignorant of the truths contained therein, we lose out on what is essential.
The overriding theme of these parables can be summed up in one word –
I am immediately reminded of the wisdom of one of my former theology professors who told me – ”
if you ever get a chance to grow and don’t take it, that’s a sin.” The concluding words of Matthew’s kingdom parables are recorded at the end of today’s Gospel reading – “therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” As disciples of the Lord we are trained FOR the kingdom – not for ourselves nor for any private agenda. It is growth which trains us. It trains us to be householders – rightful citizens of the kingdom. It trains us to be capable of bringing out our own individual treasures for the growth of the kingdom.
It may well be helpful if we take another translation of this concluding sentence – “when, therefore, a teacher of the law has become a learner in the kingdom of Heaven, he is like a householder who can produce from his store both the new and the old.” I cannot be a communicator (teacher) of the Gospel message unless I am willing to
GROW. I cannot grow unless I am prepared to become a permanent learner. I am incapable of producing anything of value unless I am always growing. Finally, what I produce must be a treasure, something of real value and which is recognised as such by others who, as a result, want to share in it.
Finally, as we reflect on today’s Gospel, we must consider, in terms of the Kingdom, the real meaning of producing as part of the treasure “what is new and what is old.”
I am called to produce – not reproduce the same old tired things. In other words I am called tomake things happen, bring things out into the open, and it has to fit the present age. The Kingdom belongs to the present age and it must become clearly and authentically available to contemporary society.
Any laboured and somewhat boring insistence that old Church customs are part of the treasure – and that these should never change – is a load of codswallops. At the same time, the notion that any new idea or activity must automatically be accepted as a valuable addition to the treasure is simply nonsensical. As our Gospel extract tells us we have to sit down and sort things out. This ‘sorting’ requires time and thought – so the Spirit has to become involved. It is the Holy Spirit
(as we heard last week) who knows what is “according to the will of God.“
It is also important to accept that the basic value of what is old must be found in whether it can be made new – presented in contemporary language as well as adapted in such a way as to be authentic and understandable to the Twenty First Century mind. At the same time, what is new must retain a clear link to the basic truths and values of what has gone before.
TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [1 KINGS 3: 5, 7 – 12] tells us we must learn “how to go out or come in.” Here we are able to add a few thoughts from OUR NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [ROMANS 8: 28 – 30]. First of all, never forget “that in everything God works for good with those who love him.” Then Paul reminds us that we “are called according to his purpose.” Each one of us is called by God. There is no exception. We are called, not for our benefit but forHIS purpose – which is the growth of the Kingdom.
Be the change you wish to see in the world, in the Church, and in the Kingdom.