A Cycle – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time 20
Mt. 13: 44-52
You must admit it we really do not know what heaven is like. We have been exposed to tales from individuals who have had experiences with life after death. We have watched movies about people who experience heaven. We may have had some personal experience but in the end, we just do not know what heaven is like. What we do know is the scriptures tell us it is a place where we will live in the presence of a loving God. We know from the scriptures the trials and tribulations of this life do not exist in heaven, there will be no mourning, no death, no sickness, for we will live eternally filled with joy in the presence of God.
But all we know is not an experience we can share it is simply what we have been formed to believe. Because we have no personal experience of heaven, we naturally want to know what it is like. I have always found it ironic that Jesus in his parables tells us what heaven is like without revealing to us exactly what we will experience in the presence of God.
Just this week a jeweler in Michigan was on the evening news because he has buried one million dollars in gold, silver, and precious stones in various places around the state of Michigan. He has buried a GPS tracker with each item so there is no chance of it being lost forever even if it is never being recovered by the hoard of people now searching for those items. He has posted clues and it is now a full-on frenzied treasure hunt.
Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field. I know we desire to be worthy of that treasure but there is a difference in us desiring to be worthy and us being so excited by the promise of the treasure we will make every attempt to discover it. Jesus, speaking to his disciples said we are to have faith in him for he has gone to prepare a place for us. To discover the treasure of the kingdom of God, it would seem to me that all we must do is to have faith in Jesus. Perhaps this is too simple a step for us because we have been indoctrinated by a concept that says we must be worthy to enter heaven.
If heaven can be earned by our effort, then we never needed a savior. If we can earn heaven by our righteous deeds, Jesus did not have to suffer and die. When Jesus said have faith in me, this means he demands more from us than obedience, it demands trust in the promises of God. It demands an absolute belief in God’s promises, and it demands we act upon that belief.
If all the treasure hunter does is spend their time deciphering clues, they never will go out into the field to discover the treasure. The same applies to us, we must at some time leave the comfort of religion and step into the unknown realm of the Kingdom of God on earth where God is present and Christ speaks to our hearts inviting us to follow him.
If we can discover the Kingdom of God on earth, we will stop speculating about the Kingdom of God in heaven because we will experience wonder and awe in our lifetime. If we dare step out of our comfortable religion, we will discover a merciful, loving God. If we seek the treasure Jesus is speaking about, we will discover nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing, not our sins, not the wounds of abandonment, abuse, dependencies of every kind, sickness, brokenness, cancer, loneliness, jealousy, or general frustrations of life will not separate us from knowing and feeling God’s love and forgiveness. That is a treasure worth seeking and the scriptures are full of those encounters. I do not have to list them for you. Even if you have never read the scriptures you know those stories where Jesus defies our concept of worthiness and you know the resulting joy experienced by the person touched by Jesus.
This is what we should desire more than anything on this earth. The touch of Jesus healing our wounded self and making us whole. We must desire the Spirit to plant in our hearts a desire for the treasure of feeling the presence of Jesus in everything we do and in everyone we encounter. There will be times when it is hard for us to desire that touch because we know our weaknesses and sinfulness. We want to flee from Jesus just as Peter did in the garden after he denies Jesus. But the story does not end there for Jesus came to seek the lost and Jesus seeks Peter out. He goes to him on the shore and the treasure of forgiveness is poured upon Peter. Jesus is a lover who will not abandon the pursuit of us even if we fail to respond immediately.
The centurion at the foot of the cross looked upon the broken body of a man he only heard about but never desired to encounter what Jesus offered. Yet, when Jesus was at the point of death, he acknowledges that truly Jesus was the Son of God. Something happened at that moment and the scriptures do not tell us what it was, but we can imagine how this gentle nonjudgmental Jesus desires to open our eyes to see what we do not want to see. We do not want to see our sin which he took upon himself.
Expecting nothing more than to be remembered the thief on the cross acknowledges Jesus was undeserving of the cross. He did not understand “how Jesus dying for the sins of all” worked but he knew Jesus would be in a place he could not attain because his own wretched life put him on a cross next to Jesus. He was not a follower and most likely he was not a believer, but he knew instinctively Jesus was not guilty of any crime deserving what he was receiving. Yet that very day he attained paradise because he encountered Jesus that day.
There is a treasure waiting for us to discover and once we understand its value to us, we are invited to believe that treasure is ours in faith. We must trust Jesus will show us the treasures in store for us in this life and the next. We must trust what Jesus is offering us is not hard to find but we must have a desire to discover it and discover life in the kingdom of God.