02 August 2006

Field, pearl, treasure

Blessed Jane Aza: Jeremiah 15.10, 16-21; Matthew 13.44-46
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

The gospel has a price. No, I don’t mean that we ought to be charged admission to hear the gospel read and preached. What I mean is that though our redemption is freely given, a gift from God for His greater glory, the call to serve the Lord as apostolic witnesses to His truth and mercy comes with consequences and tasty temptations.

Jesus tells his disciples what will happen to them when they go out into the world to preach: rejection, persecution, violence, death, and the occasional, glorious conversion. Though they will be strengthened by his Holy Spirit, they will also be dogged step by step by forces contrary to the Word, forces dedicated to the slavery of the human heart and mind. These forces will flash meaty temptations to distract and to discourage the vigorous delivery of the gospel These forces will exact a price for the apostles’ obedient focus and their zealous hearts.

But Jesus also tells the disciples that the kingdom of heaven is worth the work, more than worth the price. Buried in a field the kingdom is a treasure worth the price of the whole field. The kingdom is a pearl worth one’s entire fortune. The question now is: you have the field with its treasure and the pearl worth your fortune, what do you do with them? I think our answer to this question shines a bright light on two temptations we face as a Church right now. The temptation to assimilate and the temptation is isolate.

Jesus charged his disciples with the task of preaching his Word. He did not charge them with the task of preaching the gospel of popular culture nor did he charge them with the task of hoarding the Word. He did not tell them to blend in and tell pleasing stories. Nor did he tell them to build walled cities and keep the gospel-treasure a secret.

We are tempted in our anxiety to isolate, to hold-up in safe and solid walls of familiar routine and rote formula. The treasure is too precious to tarnish with exposure and so it must be well-guarded. And here we succumb to disobedience. Go out and preach, Jesus says. Go out and preach. We are also tempted in our desire for popular approval to assimilate, to dissolve into our culture by dropping the difficult teachings of Christ. Surely it is easier to simply wave over potentially divisive teachings like his claim to be our only Messiah than it is to preach the uniqueness of the salvation he offers us. Both of these temptations are red meat for the beasts of our arrogance, our laziness, our pride, and our self-righteousness.

The treasure we have given our souls to possess is kept rich, plentiful, well-stocked, and desirable in the sharing of it, in the giving of it away. To hoard it for ourselves in our anxiety or to destroy it in our need for cultural approval is joyless, empty waste. When we hoard the gospel we cannot be heard behind our walls. When we prostitute the gospel to the our culture we have nothing worth saying.

God says to Jeremiah: “If you repent…if you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece. Then it shall be they who turn to you; and you shall not turn to them.”

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:17 PM

    what does it mean to prostitute the gospel? Do you mean twisting it around and conforming it to more more wordly standards so it would be more appealing and accepted? Also, what does the passage from jeremiah mean?