From Father's Desk

Dear Parish Family,

This is week 3 of our message series: Discipleship and the Kingdom. We are meditating on the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew’s Gospel (chapters 13 & 14) and asking ourselves what it means to be a disciple. Today, three more parables about the kingdom, each of which shines like a facet of a diamond on one aspect of this beautiful and complex reality.

Parables are drawn from common life. The examples should not seem far-fetched. Our three parables involve a farmer, a merchant and a fisherman: three common trades of the day. And while buried treasure discovered in a field may seem the fanciful tale of pirates, during Jesus’ day many fields were rented, and many people buried their valuables before times of war and uncertainty. The earth was the original safety deposit box! So the treasure, the pearl and the dragnet really speak from the reality of common life. I hope these images can resonate with us so many centuries later. These familiar situations help us to see that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, close, in our midst. The gift of faith, seeing reality with the eyes of Jesus, helps us to recognize the beauty of the Kingdom right here in Maple Shade. Jesus, help us to see your beauty in our common life.

At the same time, the treasure and the pearl are not daily events. The beachcomber with the metal detector does not find a gold Rolex everyday! Thus while touching common experience the Kingdom is an immeasurably valuable prize, hidden and needed to be pursued. One is willing to forsake every other possession to grasp hold of the kingdom. How precious is the gift of faith in your life? What would you be willing to forsake to obtain it? The merchant must sell all his other treasures while still hoping that the beautiful pearl will still be for sale when he returns. Urgency of action coupled with immeasurable beauty.

Balthasar writes, ‘At stake is the loss or gain of the whole meaning of human existence. Just as the farmer and the merchant are shrewd enough not to hesitate for a moment, so too the Christian who has grasped what is at stake will take action immediately.” (Light of the Word, 112). Is the kingdom, knowing Christ, the center of our existence? Without the kingdom as the centerpiece of our reality, it would be as if the sun were torn from

the sky leaving only a gaping dark hole. Such is the radicality of the kingdom. These parables remind us of the rich young man who is left by the roadside and does not continue to follow Jesus, because he had many possessions. Many attachments clung to him such that he lacked the freedom to follow where his heart led. Does anything hold us back from following?

The last element to ponder briefly is the dragnet. The kingdom gathers all. Indiscriminate - just the opposite of the other two parables - the net captures all in its sweep, only to be separated and thrown “ into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” Why so severe? Why not just throw the stuff you don’t want back into the sea? This searing image recurs from the parable of the wheat and the tares. A sorting, a redemption and a punishment will occur. It is not for us to administer. In both cases the angels do the sorting (Mt 13:39 & 13:49). But there is a separation, not unlike the sheep and the goats (Mt 25:31-46).

The Kingdom of Heaven: valuable, worthy of pursuit, admitting all, but not all who cry

Lord, will be found worthy to remain. In Christ,

Fr. Wilson