17th Sunday Ordinary Time – Homily (Msgr. LoPinto)



With today’s parables, we come to the end of that section of Matthew where he has his presentation of the parables of Jesus. And all of those parables basically are related to the Kingdom of God. You’ll see that even more focused today in the parables that are presented. 

But I would suggest to you that Jesus is talking more than just about the kingdom of God, the magnificence of the Kingdom – how precious it is, how radiant it is, how wonderful it is – but he is actually talking about the life of a disciple. 

Perhaps, the key is you go back to the first reading, and you hear Solomon – the youngster who succeeds his father David as king, and he is overwhelmed by the responsibilities that are being imposed upon him. And so God comes to him in a dream, and says, Solomon, what is it do you need in order to be successful, in order to be a righteous king? Solomon’s answer to God was, give me an understanding heart. God responds with amazement that you haven’t asked for long life, you haven’t asked for power, you haven’t asked for wealth, but you asked for an understanding heart, that you may be a just king. 

My sense is that Jesus’ parables are basically saying to us, do you have an understanding heart? Do you have an understanding heart that allows you to see what is the gift, the seed that I planted in you. Do you have an understanding heart, that enables you to be called the gift of the Kingdom that is being entrusted to you.

And so the stories that he uses about the person that fires the treasurer and sells everything else, or the person that sees the pearl and sells everything else is basically, how do orientate your life with an understanding heart in service of the Kingdom? Are you willing to put your time, your talent, and your treasure in service of the Kingdom? That is what the Lord is getting at.

But I think we lose that in a certain sense today, because of all of the distractions. And perhaps, one of the great sadnesses of the modern Church is that we’ve lost our history.  And that history is filled with outstanding individuals – we call them saints – but they remain somewhat distant and apart from us in many ways. People who had the understanding heart, saw the Kingdom, and gave themselves fully and completely to its service, that they might join them. 

You think about Francis of Assisi – literally having seen the evil of the world, having been wounded in war, all of a sudden came in that time of healing – which was not only physical healing, healing of soul and mind, – came to experience the Kingdom. And so much so, that he threw away his inheritance – literally shed himself of all that was precious in order that he might devote himself totally and completely to the Kingdom of God. 

We think, they know this week, we celebrate the memorial of Ignatius of Loyola, the great founder of the Jesuits. Again, through the horror of war and the incapacitation of his wounds put him in a position where he had time to develop an understanding – he did, interestingly enough by reading the lives of the saints. He realized this was where he needed to put his life. 

Or you think more recently of someone like the Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, who again knew, knew what it would cost him, if he, in effect, he took the position of speaking on behalf of the poor. And basically called for respect for those considered the least and the less important. He knew it would cost him his life if he begged the soldiers to put down their guns and to show reverence and respect. And he did that because of an understanding heart that allowed him to behold the Kingdom, and his responsibility for the building of that kingdom.

And so we see from their example how the parables are lived, because Jesus is saying to each and every one of us, I hope that as you have grown in your journey, I hope that you are developing an understanding heart. And that understanding heart is allowing you to experience the Kingdom of God. Experiencing the Kingdom of God are in a sense recognizing that while the gift is there, the seed is is planted, it’s been said in other occasions, just putting the seed in the ground is never enough. We have to work, we have to work around. 

So the understanding heart not only helps us to take hold of the seed, but also gives us the courage to be the workers that grow the gift, and the gift is the Kingdom. And each and every one of us can grow it by simple gestures, simple gestures. That call to make to an elderly neighbor. That reaching out that you do to someone who is in need. The kindness that you show to the person alongside of you. The willingness to put your talent, your time, and your treasure in service of others. 

Some of you do that, I know on Thursday mornings, when you go over with Fr. Bill to pack those bags with food in order that they can be given out to people in need. Those are signs, those are signs of our willingness to live by the guidance of the parables. Literally, in a sense, give up of ourselves, in order that we might on Earth building the Kingdom, by being people who live in loving service of others.

Let us pray that, as we hear these words, they will inspire us to ever greater action.

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