Going for the Kingdom
GUIDING LIGHT - Rev. Fr. Benjamin Sim, Sj (The Freeman) - July 29, 2017 - 4:00pm

Some people say that the songs you know reveal your age.  I like the old love songs. The tunes are more melodious and the lyrics more romantic and poetic than the contemporary songs, which are often more of beat and rhythm, and the lyrics are of making love and sex. 

Old tunes like “Some Enchanted Evening” from the musical “South Pacific” advises, “Once you have found her, never let her go…” From “My fair Lady” we hear, “Let the time go by. I won’t care if I can be here on the street where you live.”  An old hit goes, “I only have eyes for you.” 

These and many love songs of old times express that the beloved is the most precious, and that nothing in this world can replace that treasure.  There is a decisive and radical choice involved.

Our Gospel today speaks of a similar decisive and radical choice about treasure and pearl of great price.  The merchant makes the radical decision to sell and sacrifice everything in exchange for what is most precious.

Jesus tells us that when someone discovers the Kingdom of God, he must not allow such opportunity to escape him.  On the contrary, in his own interest he should do everything in his power to grasp such a unique opportunity.

Unfortunately, Jesus made the access to him and his kingdom so easy to us that we no longer feel that his gift is a priceless treasure.  We often take Jesus and his kingdom for granted.

Jeremy Levin was the Cable News Network bureau chief in Beirut in 1984.  On March 7 of that year he was kidnapped by Shiite Muslims.  His captors blindfolded him and drove him to a dingy, cold house in the Bekaa Valley. 

There he was chained to a wall in such a way that he could only sit or lie down.  He remained that way for the next four weeks. Jeremy tried to keep his spirit up by positive thinking.  But he soon discovered that no amount of positive thinking could take away his terrible loneliness.  He longed to talk to anyone!

It was in this situation that Jeremy began to think about God.  He was an avowed atheist.  But the thoughts of God wouldn’t go away.  They became more and more frequent.  Then one day the question crossed his mind, “Could I talk to God?”

Jeremy rejected the idea immediately.  For as long as he didn’t believe in God he could never talk to Him.  Otherwise, he’d be living in a world of make believe.  He’d be kidding himself.  He’d be losing his grip on reality.

But the thoughts of God continued.  Soon Jeremy became preoccupied with them.  Phrases like “God loves you” and “God bless you” kept bombarding his mind.  Commenting on this, he wrote later:

“Even snatches of what little I had read in the Bible came back to me… [I] was like a thirsty man holding his mouth open to raindrops… I was consumed with pondering everything I had heard about God and the one called His Son, Jesus.”

It was in this frame of mind that Jeremy awoke on Tuesday, April 10.  On that day – just 12 days before Easter – Jeremy did something he never dreamed he would ever do.  He made an act of faith in God.

He spoke his first words to God.  They were very simple.  He said, “Oh Father, please take care of my wife and family.  Please reunite us.” 

Then Jeremy did something else he never dreamed he would do.  He forgave his captors and asked God to forgive them too. “For the first time in my life,” he said, “I felt whole.”

In the months ahead, Jeremy was moved to several other locations.  His guards became more friendly.  Then came Christmas Eve.  One of the guards asked him, “What do you want for Christmas?” 

Jeremy looked at him in amazement and blurted out, “A Bible!”  Two days later, Jeremy received a small red-bound New Testament.  He proceeded to devour it.  He was especially moved by Jesus’ words: “All that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.”

From that moment on, Jeremy prayed for a chance to escape.  On the night of February 13, 1985, 11 months after his capture, that chance came.  A guard got careless, and Jeremy bolted from the house and zigzagged barefoot down the frozen mountainside to safety.

Later, Jeremy Levin is the CNN bureau chief in Washington, D.C.  In his spare time he crisscrosses the country, sharing with audiences his new-found faith.

To discover Jesus is to discover a treasure.  Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a buried treasure or a fine pearl.  When they are found, they should be purchased by sacrificing everything else. 

Nothing is worth more than this treasure, this fine pearl: the Kingdom of God.  Jesus tells this to his disciples because he wants to instil in them the value of the Kingdom of God.  They must come to value God’s reign over their lives.  They must come to value justice, peace, and mercy.  They must come to value love of God and neighbor more than anything else. 

To value the Kingdom of God is the first step of discipleship.  Once the disciple recognized the value of the Kingdom, just like the merchant seeking fine pearls, and just like the man looking for buried treasure, only a driving desire could propel that person to seek for ways to make God’s Kingdom alive.  Such a person would be willing to endure setbacks, limitations, and trials.  With this driving desire, such a person could come to his destination – the Kingdom of God.

Through this Gospel, Jesus calls us to begin taking hold of the Kingdom of Heaven here and now.  The desire to be in the Kingdom should be our life’s journey.

Like King Solomon we must desire to make the world a place of justice, of understanding, and of charity.  We must be willing to forgo any desires of self-grandeur or self-preservation.

If we do not value God’s Kingdom, we will not have the desire to search for it.  If we do not have a driving desire to possess the Kingdom, we will not sacrifice to acquire it.  If we are not willing to sacrifice all to acquire the Kingdom of God, we will never possess it.

The third parable shifts the value of the Kingdom to the value of our lives.  When the day of the great dragnet collects us all, our value will be determined by how we valued, how we desired, and how we sacrificed for God’s Kingdom. 

If we have lived so as to possess God’s Kingdom, then we possess it.  If we have not – well, what would you do with something that is worthless?

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