Blog & Pastor Letters

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

07-30-2023Weekly ReflectionDeacon John Cantirino

Real estate, if chosen correctly, can be, over time, a fruitful investment. But the more desirable the land that is available, the more it costs to acquire it. Those who understand the potential for profitability, for growth, and for a way to make their future more secure will go to great lengths, make herculean efforts sometimes, to ensure that the valuable land becomes theirs. The basic point is that a person must first discern the inherent value, then commit to acquiring it through effort, and follow the right way to properly make it theirs to reap the benefits. There are no shortcuts.

The Gospel for today reflects what is needed for entering the Kingdom of heaven, and it has many of the same elements needed for being successful in acquiring valuable real estate. The first step for any of us desiring to acquire the Kingdom of Heaven, to enter it and become part of it, is to discern, to recognize, and to appreciate the inherent value of this valuable asset. If we don’t recognize the absolute importance of claiming it for ourselves, we likely will never move on to the efforts and commitments needed to make it ours.

In the Gospel, a man finds a treasure hidden in the field and this causes him to do what is necessary to make it his own. But to make it his own, he sells all he has; he has complete faith that this treasure and this field are worth giving up everything. What are we willing to give up to acquire life in the Kingdom? Giving up everything doesn’t mean we must sell all our possessions, but it does mean entering an exchange that may be even more difficult to do. The exchange is simply this: give up everything that impedes your relationship with Christ and exchange it for complete commitment to Him. Initially this may seem obvious and relatively easy to do. Upon deeper consideration, however, it may bring great challenges that can make us uncomfortable, uneasy, or perhaps angry.

It is no secret that many who claim fidelity to the church often have limited fidelity to the church and its teachings. The term “cafeteria Catholics” was coined to capture the reality of those who pick some of the offerings of the Church while consciously deciding that others may be ignored. Looking at the current situation in the Church clearly bears this out:

How many of the faithful attend Mass each Sunday and on holy days of obligation? Less than 20% do.

How many of the faithful believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist? Only around 30% do.

How many of the faithful cohabitate before marriage, or cohabitate and never get married?

How many of the faithful receive the sacrament of penance anymore?

Making that complete commitment to Christ will involve honestly looking at the spiritual life one is living and quite possibly involve radical changes and sustained effort. Courage, trust, discipline, and perseverance are needed to acquire that land beyond any price that can be named . . . The Kingdom of Heaven.

But unless the infinite value of the Kingdom is discerned, is understood, then the actions, commitment and effort involved to obtain it will fall short. The more valuable something is, the higher the price and the greater effort needed to obtain it. This is true in real estate and is true, to a much greater degree, for the field with treasure in it . . . the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Gospel story doesn’t tell us if this was the only treasure in the field. It is possible that other treasures were revealed once the land was acquired. Similarly, we know something of the value, the treasure, of the Kingdom of Heaven but likely not all. It may be that the fullness of the kingdom’s treasure will be revealed only after we enter it, only after we’ve done what it takes to acquire living in it. Saint Paul tells us “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Lastly, there is a subtle message for us if we wish to enter, rightfully, into the Kingdom of Heaven. The man in this Gospel story doesn’t cheat or steal to acquire the field and the treasure; he goes about it in the proper way. We cannot “cheat” in the sense of a self-crafted, self-serving, comfortable commitment to Christ and his Church if we truly want the Kingdom of Heaven. We need to buy it in the only way that is meaningful and fruitful: by living an authentic, holy, all-encompassing life in Christ and life for Christ.