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Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time A

July 26, 2020

Matthew 13: 44-52

By Rev. John Tran

A few years ago, someone sent me a video by E-mail that I wish I could show to you today.  It was made by Thai Life Insurance Company, and included subtitles.  At the end of the 3 minute plus commercial, I sat transfixed.  With soft music playing, we see a young man going to lunch on a busy street.  As he goes, a water spout comes to life and wets him;  he takes a dry, dying pot plant, and places it under the falling water. Next, he encounters an middle-aged vendor woman trying to push her cart up a steep curb and helps her. She only grudgingly acknowledges him. Then, as he eats lunch of white rice and a roasted chicken quarter, a dog comes up, puts his paw on his leg, and he give the dog his uneaten chicken.  The cook just makes a hopeless shake of his head. Eventually, the dog follows him home.

As he leaves lunch, he sees a woman and her daughter of about 7 years old, sitting on a dirty mat trying to sell homemade objects displaying a sign saying: For education.  He takes most of the remaining bills in his wallet and gives them to her.  A shopkeeper looking out only gives a hopeless shrug. On his way home that evening, he gives his seat to a young woman on the subway;  she smiles.  When he gets home, he puts a bunch of small bananas on the door of a neighbor; she comes out after he’s gone and takes the bananas with a puzzled look;  she’s an elderly white woman. Too make this shorter, he repeats these gestures two or three more times, which represented many more. He prays at home each night. Then, one day as he goes to work, the young daughter is not there;  he looks worried.  Then she comes up, transformed, clean, in a school uniform with a book bag.  He smiles, as she and the mother do;  the shopkeeper looks on in amazement, obviously touched.

The add asks: Why does he do this everyday?  What does he receive? He was never on TV.  He will not get richer.  He will always be anonymous and not a bit more famous.  Rather:

  • He receives emotion:  and we see the gratitude of the daughter and mother; the dog following him home    

  • He witnesses happiness:  we see the  lady vendor smiling and giving lagniappe; the

  • He receives deeper understanding:  he is shown praying.

  • He receives love:  we see the old white woman catching him in the act of his gift, and giving him a heartfelt hug; the look from the mother and child;  the devotion of the stray dog.

  • He receives what money cannot buy:  a beautiful world:  the plant growing and in good shape.

Then the commercial asks:  And your life?  What do you desire most?

This advertisement stops short of bringing us to Christ.  But it does bring out the point of today’s parable.  What do you choose?  What is important to you?  Do we receive the understanding heart of the young Thai man?  Where was his treasure? The parables of the Kingdom today invite each of us to consider what the most valuable things in our lives are;  then we are forced to choose accordingly.  Will we choose, day after day, the things, action, people that lead us to the Kingdom?  Can we make a small difference, like the Thai man, to bring it about?  What is your treasure? When we find our treasure, whether a fine pearl, or human beings, or the presence of the Kingdom, our life is changed for ever.  We can no longer go on living in the same old way we have been.  But, such an insight will cost us something.  We are called to give up something, whether it be money, time, or comfort.  However, we do not look on this as something that causes pain or suffering.  We do it out of joy;  we are so overcome with gladness that we have found our way.

When we find the meaning of the Kingdom for us, when we see our purpose in it, we run toward it with enthusiasm.  It changes us, we are transformed.  We come out of ourselves and put on Christ.  We become his very body, doing what he would do in the world around us. 

What have you been called to do or be?  Do you feel the joy, the excitement? Is the Father's Kingdom your Treasure?

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