This Sunday's Gospel

Exegetical notes and homily themes to get you started this weekend:

6/4/2023 – Holy Trinity
6/11/2023 – Body and Blood of Christ [ROMAN lectionary]
6/11/2023 – Pentecost 2 [COMMON lectionary] 
6/18/2023 – Sunday 12/Pentecost 3
6/25/2023 – Sunday 13/Pentecost 4 

7/2/2023 – Sunday 13/Pentecost 5
7/9/2023 – Sunday 14/Pentecost 6
7/16/2023 – Sunday 15/Pentecost 7
7/23/2023 – Sunday 17/Pentecost 8
7/30/2023 – Sunday 18/Pentecost 9

June 4 – The Holy Trinity [A]

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son . . . for God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.”
John 3: 16-18


As Ordinary Time resumes, two “solemnities of the Lord” are celebrated on the next two Sundays.  Today’s celebration of the Trinity originated in France in the eighth century and was adopted by the universal Church in 1334.  The solemnity focuses on the essence of our faith: the revelation of God as Creator, God’s re-creation of humankind in Jesus the Redeemer, the fullness of the love of God poured out on us in the Sustainer Spirit.

Today’s pericope omits the context of this Gospel.  Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, comes under the cover of darkness to meet the remarkable rabbi he has heard so much about.  In their exchange (today’s Gospel), Jesus speaks of the need to be reborn “from above” and of the great love of God who gives the world his own Son, not to condemn humankind but to save it.


Today we celebrate the essence of our faith manifested in our lives: the loving providence of the Creator who continually invites us back to him; the selfless servanthood of the Redeemer who “emptied” himself to become like us in order that we might become like him; the joyful love of the Spirit that is the unique unity of the Father and Son.

As revealed to us by Jesus, our God is a God not of endings but beginnings; a God who does not demand the payment of debts but who constantly offers unconditional and unlimited chances to begin again; a God who does not take satisfaction in our failures but rejoices in lifting us up from our brokenness, despair and estrangement from him and from one another. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges Nicodemus to move beyond old, incomplete and “childlike” images of God in order to grow toward a more complete, “adult” faith that recognizes the God who works and moves from his Spirit of unfathomable love; the God who constantly takes the initiative to be reconciled with us, despite our failings; the God who is not removed from his creation but constantly present in every act of love and compassion and forgiveness.

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June 11 – The Body and Blood of the Lord [A]

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
John 3: 16-18


Today’s celebration of the Body and Blood of the Lord originated in the Diocese of Liege in 1246 as the feast of Corpus Christi.  In the reforms of Vatican II, the Corpus Christi festival was joined with the feast of the Precious Blood (July 1) to become the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord.  Today we celebrate Christ’s gift of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our life together as the Church.

In the “bread of life” discourse in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ revelations concerning his Messianic ministry take on a Eucharistic theme.  The image of Jesus as “bread from heaven” echoes two dimensions of the same First Testament image: the wisdom of God's Law nourishing all who accept it and God's blessing of manna to feed the journeying Israelites.


The gift of the Eucharist comes with an important “string” attached: it must be shared.  In sharing the body of Christ, we become the body of Christ.  If we partake of the “one bread” (Reading 2), then we must be willing to become Eucharist for others – to make the love of Christ real for all.

Our coming to the table of the Eucharist is even more than just reliving the memory of Christ’s great sacrifice for our redemption – in sharing the Eucharist we re-enter the inexplicable love of God who gives us eternal life in his Son, the Risen Christ.

In the course of our lives we come to realize a “hunger” that food and drink cannot come close to satisfying: a hunger to belong, a hunger to matter, a hunger to be at peace, a hunger to love and be loved.  The “bread” that satisfies that hunger the “bread” this is Jesus: his spirit and example of generosity and compassion that mirrors that of God. 

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June 11 – Second Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 5A]

Jesus saw a man named Matthew sitting at a customs post.  He said to him, “Follow me . . . ”
“Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”
ROMAN lectionary:  Matthew 9: 9-13
COMMON lectionary:  Matthew 9: 9-13, 18-26


In today’s Gospel, Jesus repeats the words of Psalm 51: God seeks no greater gift from us than our extending his mercy to others.  Mercy — to extend love, peace, compassion, forgiveness and support to those who have done nothing to deserve them — is the cutting edge of the Gospel. 

Jesus’ “foil” for his lesson on mercy is a tax collector named Matthew, whom Jesus has just called to join his circle.  That Jesus would even speak to a tax collector raises eyebrows among his Jewish hearers.  Tax collectors like Matthew were despised by the Jews.  Matthew’s profession was considered corrupt and a betrayal of Judaism.  And there was good reason for this antipathy.  Realizing it could never efficiently collect taxes from every subject in its far-flung empire, the Roman government auctioned off the right to collect taxes in a given area.  Whoever bought that right was responsible to the Roman government for the agreed upon amount; whatever the purchaser could collect over and above that sum was his commission.  How he “collected” those taxes was of little concern to the Romans.  It was a system that effectively legalized corruption, extortion and bribery.  The Jews considered tax collectors (also known as publicans) collaborators with their nation’s occupiers who became wealthy men by taking advantage of their people’s misfortune.

Jesus’ including a tax collector in his closest circle, as well as welcoming known sinners into his company, scandalized the Pharisees.  Citing the words of the prophet Hosea (today’s first reading), Jesus states unequivocally that his Messianic mission is universal in nature and spirit and not limited to the coldly orthodox and piously self-righteous of Israel.  Christ comes to call all men and women – Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, saint and sinner – back to the Father.  Because of their concern with criticism instead of encouragement and condemnation instead of forgiveness, the Pharisees (the self-proclaimed “separated ones”) fail to understand that God speaks directly, not through legal proscriptions and impersonal theological treatises, but through compassion and reconciliation to all human hearts.

In the Common lectionary, today’s Gospel continues with Matthew’s account of Jesus’ curing of the twelve-year daughter of an “official” (Matthew gives no other description of the father) and the woman who has suffered from hemorrhages for 12 years.  Matthew’s story parallels the story of Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5: 21-43, though Matthew has left out many of the details included in Mark’s account (Matthew does include two details that would resonate with his Jewish audience: the flute players prescribed for Jewish funerals and the “tassels” on Jesus cloak, worn by all Jewish men as talismans of God’s commandments.  The two healing stories exalt the faith of the anguished father and the suffering woman.

Both stories in today’s Gospel – Matthew’s call and the healing of the young girl and the woman with hemorrhages – focus on the reality that faith begins with realizing that we deserve nothing from God, not even the gift of life itself.  All that we are and have are the blessings of a God whose profound and unimaginably limitless love has compelled God to create, nurture and bless us.


In citing Psalm 51 (“I desire mercy, not sacrifice”), Christ demands of us, if we are to be his disciples, to make our churches, homes, schools and communities places of welcome and harbors of mercy for all.   Our worship means very little if we are conscious of our faith only for this one hour each week – our praise of God should reflect and celebrate the joy and love we live every day of every week.

To follow Jesus, as Matthew is called to do, is a matter of acting out of the spirit of compassion and generosity as Jesus does in the Gospel, no matter what “booth” we work at, no matter what our skills. 

Our simple acts of charity, our joyfully giving and sharing whatever little we have, our reaching out to someone whose needs are as great as our own, can be the “fringe of Jesus’ cloak” that the poor, the sick, the troubled and hurting can grasp and be made well. 

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June 18 – 11th Sunday of the Year / Third Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 6A]

Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, “ . . . As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.  Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”
Matthew 9: 35 – 10
: 8


Today’s Gospel serves as a narrative transition from Matthew’s recounting of Jesus’ miracles and works of wonder (chapters 8 and 9) to Jesus’ missionary discourse (chapters 10 and 11). 

The missionary dimension of discipleship is centered in two images: the “sheep without a shepherd” and harvest in need of laborers.  Having established his identity as God’s Christ in his work as a healer, Jesus now commissions the Twelve and his Church to heal hearts and souls in a ministry of reconciliation:

“cure the sick” – bring back to God those who are alienated, those who are lost, those who are weak (the Greek word used in the text of today’s Gospel asthenes means “weak”);

“raise the dead” – lift up those hopelessly and helplessly dead because of sin, who are blind and deaf to the grace of God, who are entombed by poverty, racism and violence;

“cleanse lepers” – bring back the sons and daughters of God who are rejected or estranged from the human family;

“drive out demons” – liberate those enslaved by sin and evil.


Jesus compassion for the “shepherdless” calls us to bring to the lost, forgotten and marginalized (those Pope Francis calls those on the “periphery”).  Today’s Gospel reaffirms our responsibility as disciples of Jesus to welcome rather than condemn, to lift up rather than judge, to seek reconciliation with those from whom we are estranged or separated for whatever reason.

Every one of us, in our struggle to make sense out of life, seeks absolutes by which to guide our decisions, formulae to determine what is fair and good, yardsticks to judge success and failure.  Masters and gurus, saviors and deliverers, parties and movements of every stripe preach to their followers how to secure fortunes but not how to live, how to feel better but not how to cure what afflicts, how to conquer one’s enemies but not how to live lives of justice and peace.  Christ the “shepherd” walks with us on our life’s journey through hurt and change and maturity and wholeness to the dwelling place of God.  

The defining mark of discipleship is the willingness and commitment to bring healing to the broken, comfort to the afflicted, hope to the despairing.  In his first “organizational meeting” of the Twelve, Jesus commissions them to take on the work of healing, restoring, reconciling.  As God humbled himself to become one of us and be part of our lives, we are called to the same humility in order to bring the compassion and forgiveness of God to the poor, the needy, the helplessly and hopelessly “dead,” the alienated, the rejected and the abused. 

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June 25 – 12th Sunday of the Year / Fourth Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 7A]

“Fear no one.  Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.  What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”
Matthew 10: 26-33


In Matthew’s missionary discourse, Jesus instills in his disciples of the need for courage and discernment in their preaching of the Gospel.  The disciple who faithfully proclaims his Gospel can expect to be denounced, ridiculed and abused; but Jesus assures his followers that they have nothing to fear from those who would deprive “the body of life,” for their perseverant and faithful witness to the Gospel will be exalted in the reign of God.


In the Gospels, Christ reveals a God who loves us and cares for us and every “strand” of creation.  Sometimes we are called to be the vehicles of God’s love for those desperate to realize that presence in their lives; sometimes we are the recipients of such blessings of forgiveness and compassion.  The providence of God who has “counted . . . all the hairs of your head” manifests itself in the love of family, the comfort of friends, the support of church and community. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls us beyond our fears and insecurities; he invites us to embrace a spirit of joy and possibility beyond our comfort zone.  Three times in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid, that we have nothing to fear before God who has proven his love and acceptance of us unreservedly.  Christ calls us in to embrace a vision of hope that is the opposite of fear — hope that matches our uncertainty of the unknown with the certainty of the love of God; hope that can only be found and embraced once we reach beyond our own fears to confront the fears and heal the hurts of others; hope that the Good Fridays of our lives will be transformed into Easter completeness.   

We “disown” Jesus, not only by what we do, but by what we fail to do.  We “deny” Jesus by our silence in the face of injustice, our protecting our own interests at the expense of the common good, our failure to respond to Christ calling us in the cries of the poor, the abused, the desperate and the lost.

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July 2 – 13th Sunday of the Year / Fifth Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 8A]

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me . . . and whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me . . .
“And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple – amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
Matthew 10: 37-42

Today’s Gospel is the conclusion of Matthew’s collection of Jesus’ missionary discourses, in which Jesus speaks of the sacrifice demanded of his disciples and the suffering they will endure for their faith.  In today’s pericope, Jesus clearly is not attacking family life; he is warning his disciples of the conflict and misunderstanding they will experience for their proclaiming the word.  To be an authentic disciple of Jesus means embracing the suffering, humility, pain and selflessness of the cross; to be an authentic disciple of Jesus means taking on the often unpopular role of prophet for the sake of the kingdom; to be an authentic disciple of Jesus means welcoming and supporting other disciples who do the work of the Gospel.


God calls every one of us to the work of the prophet: to proclaim his presence among his people.  Some are called to be witnesses of God’s justice in the midst of profound evil and hatred; others are called to be witnesses of his hope and grace to those in pain and anguish; and many share in the work of the prophet/witness by enabling others to be effective witnesses and ministers of God’s love.  The gift of faith opens our spirits to realize and accept our call to be witnesses of God's love borne on the cross and prophets of the hope of his Son's resurrection.

The most difficult part of imitating Jesus is the cross and what it stands for: unconditional forgiveness, the totally emptying of ourselves of our wants and needs for the sake of another, the spurning of safety and popular convention to do what is right and just.  

To “receive the prophet’s reward” is to seek out every opportunity, to use every talent with which we have been blessed, to devote every resource at our disposal to make the love of God a living reality in every life we touch.

Authentically committed disciples of Jesus possess the vision of faith and determination of hope to use anything — from a cup of cold water to a sign to protect the most helpless of creatures — to make God’s reign of compassion and peace a reality in our time and place. 

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July 9 – 14th Sunday of the Year / Sixth Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 9A]

“ . . . although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones . . .
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart . . . ”
Matthew 11: 25-30


Rarely outside of John’s Gospel is Jesus’ intimacy with the Father so clearly portrayed as in today’s Gospel from Matthew.  Jesus offers a hymn of praise to his Father, the holy Creator of all who deeply loves his creation as a father loves his children.  The great love of God for all of humanity is revealed in the love of his Son, the Messiah.

Religion as a “yoke” was exactly how Jesus' Jewish listeners saw the Law.  They saw their faith as a burden, a submission to a set of endless rules and regulations dictating every dimension of their lives.  But Jesus describes his “yoke” as “easy.”  The Greek word used here that we translate as “easy” more accurately means “fitting well.”  In Palestine, ox yokes were custom-made of wood, cut and measured to fit a particular animal.  Jesus is proposing here a radical change in attitude regarding faith:  Our relationship with God is not based on how meticulously we keep a certain set of rules and regulations (a direct challenge to the long-held view of the scribes and Pharisees) but in the depth of our love of God, reflected in our love of others.  Our relationship with God is not based on subjugation and weariness but on hope and joy.

There is also an important political dimension to these verses.  Matthew’s Gospel was written a short time after the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. by the soldier-emperor Vespasian.  For both the Jewish and the new Christian communities, it was a time of painful introspection:  Would Israel’s hope for the political restoration of the Jewish state ever be realized?   While orthodox Jews maintained unwavering fidelity to their people, language and sense of nationalism, the Christian “cult” saw their ultimate destiny not in the political restoration of Israel but in the coming of the reign of God – a reign that embraces not just Jews but all men and women, even Israel's most despised enemies.  Jewish suspicion of the Christian community was growing as the new group became more and more disaffected by the Jewish political agenda.  Jesus’ words on gentleness and humility set off sparks between loyal Jews and Christians who were abandoning the cause.


When Christ calls his disciples to embrace the simple faith of “little ones,” he is not saying that our approach to faith should be “dumbed down” to the level of children.  Christ is calling us, instead, to embrace a faith that is centered in the “simple” but profound love, compassion and hope of God: love that is not compromised by self-interest and rationalization; compassion that is not measured but offered totally and unreservedly, completely and without limit or condition; hope that is centered in gratitude for the many ways God’s presence is revealed in our midst.  It is an approach to faith that is not compromised by “adult” complexities and complications but embraced with “child-like” directness and optimism. 

To love one another as God has loved us, to serve one another as Christ the Savior serves God’s people, is a “yoke” that is “easy” (“fitting well”) in calling us to love as we are, using whatever gifts God has given us to give voice to our faith; a yoke that is “light” in its sense of joy and the fulfillment and meaning it gives our lives.

Today’s Gospel calls us to embrace Jesus’ spirit of humility: recognizing that before God we are all debtors, that we have done nothing to deserve the life we have been given, that we are owed nothing from God or life.  Humility is to realize how blessed we have been by God through no merit of our own, and to respond to such goodness with a constant sense of gratefulness, realizing that every breath we take is a gift from a Creator whose love knows neither limit nor condition.  

Faith is neither “childish” nor pretends the world is a perfect fairy tale where everyone lives happily ever after.  “Child-like” faith is focused on people rather than things, seeks what is right and good above all other considerations, cuts through the complexities we invoke to justify our self-interest. 

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July 16 – 15th Sunday of the Year / Seventh Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 10A]

The parable of the sower: 
“Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear . . .
“The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
Matthew 13: 1-23


Chapter 13 of Matthew’s Gospel is the evangelist’s collection of Jesus’ parables.  The word “parable”comes from the Greek word parabole, which means putting two things side by side in order to confront or compare them.  And that is exactly how Jesus uses parables:  He places a simile from life or nature against the abstract idea of the reign of God.  The comparison challenges the hearer to consider ideas and possibilities greater and larger than those to which they might be accustomed. 

Jesus’ hearers expected God’s kingdom to be the restoration of Israel to great political and economic power; the Messiah would be a great warrior-king who would lead Israel to this triumph.  Jesus’ parables subtly and delicately led people, without crushing or disillusioning them, to rethink their concept of God’s kingdom.

In Palestine, sowing was done before the plowing.  Seed was not carefully or precisely placed in the ground.  The farmer scattered the seed in all directions, knowing that, even though much will be wasted, enough will be sown in good earth to ensure a harvest, nonetheless.  The parable of the sower (which appears in all three synoptic gospels) teaches that the seed’s fruitfulness (God's word) depends on the soil’s openness (the willingness of the human heart to embrace it).


The parable of the sower challenges us to see how deeply the word of God has taken root in our lives, how central God is to the very fabric of our day-to-day existence. 

Christ invites his followers to embrace the faith of the sower: to trust and believe that our simplest acts of kindness and forgiveness, our humblest offer of help to anyone in need, our giving of only a few minutes to listen to the plight of another soul may be the seeds that fall “on good soil” and yields an abundant harvest.

Jesus challenges us in the parable of the sower to be both sower and seed: to sow seeds of encouragement, joy and reconciliation regardless of the “ground” on which it is scattered, and to imitate the seed’s total giving of self that becomes the harvest of Gospel justice and mercy.      

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July 23 – 16th Sunday of the Year / Eighth Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 11A]

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.  While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat . . .
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . . the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants . . .
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”
Matthew 13: 24-43


Matthew’s Gospel has been called the “Gospel of the Kingdom,” containing some 51 references to the kingdom or reign of God.  Three of Jesus’ “kingdom” parables make up today's Gospel:

The parable of the wheat and the weeds:  God’s kingdom will be “harvested” from among the good that exists side-by-side with the bad.  Palestinian farmers were plagued by tares
weeds that were very difficult to distinguish from good grain.  The two would often grow together and become so intertwined that it was impossible to separate them without ripping both weed and plant from the ground.  Jesus teaches his impatient followers that the Lord of the harvest is more concerned with the growth of the wheat than with the elimination of the weeds.  The time for separation and burning will come in God's own time; our concern should be that of our own faithfulness.

The parable of the mustard seed:  The smallest and humblest are enabled by the Holy Spirit to do great things in the kingdom of God.  From small and humble beginnings, God’s kingdom will grow.

The parable of the yeast:  A small amount of yeast mixed with three measures of flour can make enough bread to feed over a hundred.  In the same way, God’s reign is a powerful albeit unseen force.
Matthew’s Gospel was written some 50 years after Jesus’ death and 15 years after the destruction of Jerusalem.  By this time, it is clear to the community of Christians that Jesus is not going to be accepted by all of Israel as the Messiah.  In citing these parables, the writer of Matthew encouraged the largely Jewish Christian community to see itself as the legitimate heir to God's promises to Israel.  They were the “good wheat” existing side by side with the “weeds” that would destroy it, the small mustard seed that would give rise to the great and mighty tree of the Church, the small amount of yeast that would become bread for the world.


“The wheat and weeds”:  We often approach religion as a deadly serious business; we lose the spirit of joy and the sense of hope that are part of the promise of the Risen Christ.  We become so concerned about pulling out the weeds that we forget to harvest the grain; we become so focused on the evil and abuses that surround us and “threaten” us that we fail to realize and celebrate the healing and life-giving presence of God in our very midst; we become so intent in upbraiding and punishing sinners that our own lives become mired in gloom and despair.  The task of judging sinners belongs to God; to us belongs the work of compassion and reconciliation.

When we hear Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds, we first think of good people (the wheat) and bad people (the weeds) coexisting in an imperfect world until the coming of God’s kingdom.  But every individual possesses something of both the “good” wheat and “evil” weed.  Every one of us possesses the ability to do compassionate and just things out of love — but there exists within us the same ability to do destructive things out of selfishness and greed.  Discipleship recognizes that struggle existing within each one of us but also embraces the hope that, in seeking to imitate Christ’s spirit of loving servanthood, we may be “wheat” for a world that is often choking in “weeds.”  

“Mustard seed”:  All of us, at some time, are called to be “mustard seeds,” to do the small, thankless things that are necessary to bring a sense of wholeness and fulfillment to our homes and communities.  From such “mustard seeds” is yielded a great harvest of peace and reconciliation.

“Yeast”:  In baptism, we accept God's call to be “yeast,” to be the bread of compassion, justice and forgiveness to a world which is desperately hungry in its despair and hopelessness. 

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July 30 – 17th Sunday of the Year / Ninth Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 12A]

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells what he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.  When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells what he has and buys it.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.  When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down and put what is good into buckets . . . ”
 Matthew 13: 44-52


The first two parables in today’s Gospel – the parables of the buried treasure and the pearl – are lessons in the total attachmentto Christ and detachment from the things of the world demanded of the disciple in order to make the reign of God a reality. 

The parable of the dragnet is similar in theme to last week’s parable of the wheat and weeds.  Again, Matthew makes the point that the kingdom of God is neither an instant happening nor a static event, but a dynamic movement toward completion and fulfillment which Jesus set into motion.


The “treasures” and “pearls” of lasting value are the things of God: the love of family and friends, the support of community, the sense of fulfillment from serving and giving for the sake of others.  In order to attain such treasure, we must take the risk of the speculator and “sell off” our own interests, ambitions and agendas in order to free ourselves to embrace the lasting values of the compassion, love and reconciliation of God.

The Gospel “pearl” of great price transcends logic, efficiency, and self-interest; and the Gospel “treasure” is the joy and wholeness one experiences in imitating the humble compassion and forgiveness of Christ.  

In the parable of the dragnet, Jesus calls us to embrace the vision of God that seeks out the good and nurturing, the right and just in all things amid the “junk” of life.

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