Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: 30 July

What do you truly seek?

 What do you truly seek?  ING-030
28 July 2023

Those who approached the ancient temple of Apollo at Delphi seeking the oracle of wisdom, would first be confronted by the inscription over the entrance: “Know thyself”. The young Solomon in today’s first reading begs the Lord for wisdom, indicating thereby that to some extent he has already found it. This Sunday’s gospel challenges us with the question, “What do you truly seek?”

We have a trio of parables found only in Matthew. They are succinct, balanced in expression and evocative in their imagery. We are moving in the world of agriculture and compact fields, of lightsome beauty from the depths of the sea, of the heaving and creaking of fishing boats. The protagonists in all three parables are resourceful and determined as they engage in their various quests.

At first glance the parables of the treasure hidden in a field and the pearl of great value seem to be saying the same thing, a repetition rather like the parallelism we find in Hebrew poetry. There are, however, two notable differences, namely the symbols of the kingdom of heaven and the identity of the seekers. In the first parable, the treasure betokens the kingdom and the person who finds it is the questing human heart. It is thus a parable of our longing and our investment in what we really desire. In the second, in contrast, it is the seeking merchant who symbolizes the kingdom of heaven and the one who rules there. What then is the pearl? Could it in fact be the human heart that God desires with the intensity of his love? The two parables together suggest a reciprocal search, we for God and God for us.

As we take to the waters in the third parable, we see the almost reckless inclusiveness of the kingdom’s reach but at the same time, expressed in apocalyptic language, the stern expectation regarding the quality of the catch.

Have you understood all this? While seeking the kingdom of heaven, remember that the kingdom is already seeking you; establish your true priorities; hold nothing back; give whatever it takes. And you will have treasure in heaven.

By Fr Edmund Power, osb