1 Kings 3:5,7-12, Psalm 118, Romans 8:28-30, Matthew 13:44-52
Last month, when the lockdown started to ease a bit, a couple of parishioners asked if they could come with their metal detector and do some research on the grounds. I am always fascinated by these things and try to follow the proceedings. On this occasion they only found some scrap metal and, as far as I am aware, they didn’t unearth valuable treasures. At least, so far they haven’t made a bid to buy the field…
If they did, we would most likely not sell the field anyway; not because we would like to dig for golden treasures ourselves. It would be more because the grounds help us to enable people to dig deeper in an attempt to find a more valuable treasure. I mean the treasure that is referred to in the gospel: the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Kingdom of Heaven is not a country or a place, but the reality where God reigns with love and mercy. It is one of the key themes in Jesus’ proclamation. He often speaks about it and his deeds show glimpses of its presence among us. But the Kingdom of Heaven is difficult to grasp and Jesus usually describes it in parables and images.
Today’s gospel contains three of those parables. The Kingdom of Heaven is presented as something very precious and it is suggested that we would give up everything to obtain it. He suggests that, once we have experienced something of it, it will become the ultimate object of our desire.
Why is that? Perhaps because it connects us with the source and goal of our lives and connects us with the creator and redeemer God. Perhaps it is because the Kingdom of Heaven offers values for a way of living that liberates and is live-giving; a way of life that sets us free from structures and situations that are life-taking and oppress. It is the reality as God sees it, a reality characterised by living in right relationships. It is a reality characterised by love, compassion, acceptance and respect for all that exists.
The Kingdom of Heaven can be seen as utopia or wishful thinking, pie in the sky or nice fantasy. But that is not how Jesus talks about it. He presents it as something very real and, in fact, something that is not far away. ‘The Kingdom is very near, it is among you’ (Luke 17:21). And we see glimpses of it if we have eyes to see and look in the right direction.
During the past week, the widower of a former retreatant reminded me of what she used to say about this place: ‘Minsteracres is my bit of heaven’. And that is often how people who come here have described it. Somehow the veil between the seen and the unseen world appears to be very thin here. In that way, this place offers opportunities to connect with the unseen reality and make it bit our own so that retreatants may be able to see it more clearly in their daily lives at home.
Over the years I have wondered how this is possible that people have this experience in this place. I suspect a lot of it is grace and God-given. I also suspect it has something to do with the way we respond to this grace and create space for it. This relates to the spiritual space that is offered in the chapel and this church where the Lord is present in a sacramental way. I also suspect the grounds and the fields contribute to this because they offer the physical and natural space which makes it possible to connect with the Lord’s presence in creation. Hence my reluctance to sell the field!
But I also suspect it has something to do with the way in which people can enter a space where they can be who they are and are respected and accepted. When that happens, glimpses of the Kingdom of Heaven light up. People don’t really want to leave.
We provide that space through our ministry of prayer, presence and hospitality. We provide that space through the example of our life when we work for justice, peace and integrity of creation and relate with our neighbour and all that exists in right relationships, with respect and with love.
Through all these things and with the grace of God the Kingdom of Heaven will come a bit closer. The Kingdom of Heaven is attractive but it is also challenging because its pursuit may turn things upside down, disturb established ways and may challenge us to look with different eyes at the world as we know it. Jesus himself experienced this and it cost him dearly. But today’s gospel indicates that the quest for the Kingdom of Heaven is worth it.
At the end of today’s gospel, Jesus issues an invitation to become disciples of the Kingdom of Heaven. May we be those disciples, learning, probing and searching, using the wisdom of old and listening to the signs of these times. Then this place will continue to be a space where people find something of the ultimate treasure, the pearl of great price, the Kingdom of Heaven.
– Fr. Jeroen