By Bishop David McGough
Seventeenth Sunday of the Year 1 Kings 3: 5 & 7-12; Rm 8: 28-30; Mt 13: 44-52
4 We know that by turning
everything to their good God cooperates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose."
The words of St Paul are an enduring witness to the ultimate triumph of God's saving will. His faith reinforces the hope so easily displaced by life's disappointments. Paul himself had been frequently downcast at the response of those to whom he had preached the Good News. He had known what it was to be isolated and betrayed. Despite failing strength and the repeated reverses of his ministry, he had refused to abandon hope. Experience and faith had taught him that beneath the seeming chaos of our lives God is working out his purpose. From all eternity the Father has chosen us that we might be formed in the image of his Son. This same Father leads every circumstance in our lives, joyful and painful, to this end. It was for this reason that Paul was so confident in proclaiming that the Father turns everything to the good of those who love him, those he has called according to his purpose. Such discernment is hidden from the wisdom of this world.
Long ago Solomon had prayed for the wisdom to discern God's purpose. In response God had granted Solomon a heart wise and shrewd as none before and none after. The greatest gift of the Spirit to every believer is the wisdom to discern what truly leads us to God. The parables describe such wisdom as treasure hidden in a field or a pearl of great price. The hidden treasure and pearl of great price call to mind the restless searching of the human heart. We are never satisfied. There is always something that lies beyond us, something to satisfy our empty hearts, to bring rest to our searching. God himself, revealed in the love of his Son, is the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price. We should never forget that this treasure has already been entrusted to us. We are not like the merchant who searched far and wide. We can choose to live our lives in the presence of God, secure in the knowledge that the pearl of great price is already ours.
Attractive though this proposition sounds, that God's treasure lies hidden within us, its realisation demands humility and detachment from the many enthusiasms that crowd our lives. It was for this reason that Jesus likened us to the dragnet. Our lives, like a fisherman's net, tend to collect everything. It seems to be a law of our fallen nature that we attract everything to ourselves: the good and the bad, the selfless and the selfish. Only when the fisherman has drawn in his nets is he able to discern what is good and what is to be discarded. Like the fisherman sorting his catch, we must have the humility to review our lives. It is only in prayer, through the discernment of the Spirit, that we can truly understand what leads us to life with God and what must be discarded. With Solomon, let us pray for a heart to understand good and evil. With Paul, let us understand that in such a process. the honest discernment of our lives, the Father turns everything to our good.